I don't want this blog to become solely an anti-Sabrmetrics blog. Nor do I want to start every post with a Player A vs. Player B comparison. But Sabermetricians must be the biggest trolls ever... Try as I might to not pay attention to them, it's kind of like trying to not pay attention to a train wreck that's happening right in front of your eyes. You just can't believe it.
So, after using one tired cliche about train wrecks, let me fall back on another lazy writing device... Let's look at Player A and Player B.
Player A: .298 BA, .399 OBP, 27 HR, 102 RBI, 37 2B, 20 SB
Player B: .300 BA, .388 OBP, 39 HR, 139 RBI, 28 2B, 11 SB
Any sane baseball fan would like both of these players on their team. And, in fact, both of these players played for the same team in 1995. One was MVP, and the other was not.
Question: Which one was MVP, and which win had a higher WAR?
Player B was MVP, but Player A has a higher WAR -- by 4 points. Player A's WAR is 8.1, and the MVP had a WAR of 4.1. Why is there a difference of 4 between the WAR ratings of these two players, with the 4+ favorable rating going to the player with less homers and RBIs? Does defense account for this?
Yes and no. Player A was a shortshop, but his oWAR rating is 5.9. Player B's oWAR is 3.5. So, despite hitting 12 more homers with 37 more RBI, and 9 less stolen bases, Player B had -2.4 WAR rating less than Player A.
Despite Player B hitting behind Player A.
Player B is Mo Vaughn, and Player A is John Valentine. Both had spectacular seasons for the Red Sox in 1995. And, as a shortstop, John Valentine was great on the defensive side of the ball while Mo Vaughn stood at first base and caught balls thrown to him. I suppose the larger, slower Vaughn wasn't as flexible on defense, but if John Valentine was such a threat on offense -- as the oWAR between both of these players says he was -- why did the Sox manager in 1995 slot Valentine above Mo Vaughn in the batting order?
Was it because Valentine would see more fastballs to hit, given that a power hitting slugger was due up a couple batters behind him and pitchers didn't want to have runners on base if Vaughn homered so they would challenge the hitters ahead of Vaughn?
Does oWAR take baseball strategy like this into account? Does it account for the presence of a hitter like Mo Vaughn in a lineup helping to give hitters above him, like John Valentine, more strikes to swing at? Or does WAR just look at statistics in a vacuum? I'd like to say that is a rhetorical question, but looking at Vaughn's obviously superior offensive numbers to Valentine, I can't even see how it's supposed to be a question. The only question is why oWAR seemingly values doubles and walks over homers and RBIs.
John Valentine had a great year in 1995. But if a 1995 batting order was full of Valentine-like hitters from 1 through 9, then Valentine wouldn't have had the same stats than when a player like Mo Vaughn is ahead of him, making sure he gets good pitches to hammer. That's the value of a slugger in a lineup -- to improve the hitters before him. That's why big, strong, slow footed sluggers get paid the big bucks to stand at first and catch balls from infielders.
Looking at the oWAR ratings of Valentine and Vaughn from 1995, though, it's apparent that Sabermetricians do not take the slugger dynamic in ballgames into account when coding programs with certain variables to calculate WAR.
Sabermatricians are stupid, and WAR is worthless.