What is WAR in Baseball Statistics?

You often hear the term “WAR,” or Wins Above Replacement, in baseball statistics. Modern baseball analytics hold this advanced metric in high regard, using it to quantify a player’s total contributions to their team.

WAR calculates how many more wins a player brings to a team compared to a “replacement level” player. This replacement level player is usually a minor leaguer, on standby, earning the minimum salary.

Imagine a player with a WAR of 5.0 for a season. This player has brought five more wins to the team than a replacement-level player would have. If the team had settled for an average backup instead of this player, they would have lost five more games. So, a player with a higher WAR is more valuable to the team.

In the calculation of WAR, baseball analytics factors in various aspects. For position players, it evaluates their batting, baserunning, and fielding. For pitchers, the calculation includes the number of runs they’ve allowed and the innings they’ve pitched.

Take Mike Trout, for example. An outfielder who often tops the WAR leaderboard, Trout had an 8.3 in his 2019 MVP season according to Baseball-Reference. This means Trout, with his excellent hitting, fielding, and baserunning, added about 8 more wins to the Los Angeles Angels than a backup player would have.

Jacob deGrom’s 2018 season is also worth mentioning. He had a WAR of 9.6, according to FanGraphs. His exceptional pitching skills added nearly 10 more wins to the New York Mets than a replacement level pitcher would have.

Bear in mind that different sources may calculate it slightly differently, resulting in small variations in the final numbers. The two most common versions come from Baseball-Reference (bWAR) and FanGraphs (fWAR). Despite these minor differences, baseball metrics still recognize WAR as a potent tool in baseball analytics.

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