A WAR Accord
The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. – Robert Burns
Back in late January, as we planned out the feature articles that would appear in Issue 1 of Nationals Magazine (pick up a copy at the ballpark today!) this season, we decided to tackle a baseball statistic that had become one of the game’s biggest contentions: Wins Above Replacement, or WAR. No sooner did we pen the article than outlets across the sport posted similar pieces, outlining many of the same arguments as us. Still, we included a unique angle in our analysis, comparing the net change in WAR of the Nationals and Braves entering 2013, taking into account the three most high-profile replacements on each team during the offseason.
But then two more developments hit us over the past week.
First, our computations for the third and final section of the article, the one that compared the NL East rivals’ offseason moves, included only offensive totals for each team. As a result, our team totals were off. The second revelation, however, rendered that first one obsolete. FanGraphs and Baseball Reference, the two sites who kept different versions of the WAR statistic, joined together to come to terms on a redefined level of “replacement player,” thereby ripping up all of our hard-worked math and throwing it out the window anyway.
But hey, that’s just another reason why we’ve gone digital with our publications this year. Now we have a chance to update you with the new, correct numbers, which are an improved way of measuring the players anyway, now that there is a consistent baseline from which to project. And in spite of the change, the numbers still illustrate the underlying point of our article – according to WAR, the Nationals got better through their offseason acquisitions. The Braves? Well, not so much.
So here are the new numbers, as simple as we can give them to you. The Nationals combined for a total WAR of 44.2 in 2012, while the Braves notched a slightly lower 42.4, numbers which played out closely on the field as Washington won the division by four games. Heading into 2013, both teams essentially swapped three major players out and three players in. The newly tabulated 2012 WAR values of those players is ascribed as follows:
Michael Morse (0.0) Michael Bourn (6.1)
Edwin Jackson (2.2) Martin Prado (5.6)
Sean Burnett (0.9) Chipper Jones (2.6)
Total = 3.1 WAR Total = 14.3 WAR
Denard Span (3.6) B.J. Upton (3.1)
Dan Haren (1.8) Justin Upton (2.0)
Rafael Soriano (1.2) Chris Johnson (1.3)
Total = 6.6 WAR Total = 6.4 WAR
Net = +3.5 WAR Net = -7.9 WAR
Essentially, while the Nationals added an expected 3.5 wins (not to mention the fact that Dan Haren averaged 5.5 WAR per season in his previous four years, a good sign that he can improve on his 1.8 total of last season) the Braves actually LOST 7.9 expected wins. That’s a swing of 11.4 WAR between the two clubs, even higher than our original article’s combined total of 10.6.
So for all our troubles, the news turned out to be even better than we’d originally reported after all.