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  1. #1
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    Positional Adjustments Wrong?

    When looking at the statistic of WAR on Fangraphs, it is clear that the positional adjustments they make are pretty arbitrary.

    Since the offensive and defensive inputs into WAR don’t account for position played in any way, adding together wRAA and UZR without any sort of adjustment will severely underrate players at difficult defensive positions (think short stop, center field, catcher). It’s not that difficult to be a +5 defender at a position like first base, but it takes considerable talent to be a +5 defensive center fielder.

    Here are the full FanGraphs positional adjustments used in WAR:

    Catcher: +12.5 runs (all are per 162 defensive games)
    First Base: -12.5 runs
    Second Base: +2.5 runs
    Third Base: +2.5 runs
    Shortstop: +7.5 runs
    Left Field: -7.5 runs
    Center Field: +2.5 runs
    Right Field: -7.5 runs
    Designated Hitter: -17.5 runs
    Since most players do not play all 162 games, it commonly occurs that they gain around 90-95% of these runs. For example, Pedroia would gain around .23 WAR if he played 150 games in a season at 2B, from the positional adjustment only.

    Based on this, a 2nd baseman having the same season as a 1st baseman (say, 3.0 WAR) will be 2.77 WAR to 1.84 WAR. Almost a full win (.93) difference.

    Based on offensive values only, their positional adjustments are completely off. Take a look at this quick spreadsheet I made:



    5 year Q - the number of qualified players at that position.
    To reach average - The average was right around .330.

    Based on OFFENSIVE only, it is clear that these adjustments are off. Third basemen do not deserve the same adjustment that second basemen receive, for one. In a purely offensive world, it would look something like this:

    SS +20 runs
    2B +12 runs
    C +9 runs
    CF +5 runs
    3B +3 runs
    LF -4 runs
    RF -10 runs
    DH -16 runs
    1B -17 runs

    I just multiplied by 10 to make the numbers look easier. What's important is the relationship between these numbers (proportionally), not the actual run amounts.

    Obviously my results are very primitive and don't take many things into account. But the point I am making is clear. I don't understand how Fangraphs can just decide that one position is harder than another. Is this based on any fact? The amount of leaders in WAR from each position is pretty spread out, so my guess is no. Edit: what I mean by this is that UZR does not really favor a certain position, which would make that position "easier". For example, if 10 first basemen occupied the top 20 defenders, it would make sense to deduct them runs. However, this is certainly not the case, as only 2 are in the top 25 (Gonzalez and Teixeira).

    So basically there could be three reasons that positional adjustments exist.

    1) The simple fact that a replacement 1B is a better hitter than a replacement 2B. However, if this is the case, then it should be based on actual results, not just an arbitrary guess. It is obvious that a replacement 3B is not the same as a replacement 2B, yet they are given the same positional adjustment (+2.5).

    2) To counteract biases in UZR. If corner infielders/outfielders all benefitted from playing an "easy" position (despite the fact that this is purely opinion). Like I mentioned before, this is simply not the case, so this cannot be a logical reason.

    3. A purely opinionated judgment of how hard a certain position is. For example, saying that a CF with a positive UZR is worth x amount of runs more than a LF with the same UZR. Which I doubt is what they intended, because it would be pretty illogical for many reasons, and would not be based on data.

    What do you guys think?
    Last edited by Kenny Krew; 11-08-2012 at 10:29 PM.


  2. #2
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    Interesting. I'll wait for the people more knowledgable on sabermetrics to comment on this.

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    You are right in the 3B value, it's not equal of 2B. It is similar to CF, but 2B is above both and closer to SS. However C is the same as SS or a bit higher IMO. Also RF is tougher then LF, not easier. Most systems make them even however.

    I think it might be easier to see the positional value at work on BR or Prospectus than FG, but I haven't looked for a long time.


    6/27/09: “We expect [Rondo] to play by the rules and be a leader as a point guard. We need him to be more of a leader,” Ainge said. “There were just a couple situations where he was late this year, I don’t know if he was sitting in his car, but showed up late and the rest of the team was there. We have team rules and you have to be on time. He was fined for being late, he said he was stuck in traffic, and it’s just unacceptable.”

    Some jerks never learn.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by bagwell368 View Post
    You are right in the 3B value, it's not equal of 2B. It is similar to CF, but 2B is above both and closer to SS. However C is the same as SS or a bit higher IMO. Also RF is tougher then LF, not easier. Most systems make them even however.

    I think it might be easier to see the positional value at work on BR or Prospectus than FG, but I haven't looked for a long time.
    What are you basing this on?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Kenny Krew View Post
    What are you basing this on?
    Its hard say its a fact those are harder, but by watching them I think its pretty easy to see. 3B and C seem to be harder on the body then other positions. How often do 1B have to go after a ball like a ss or 2B? They also cover more ground. 3B isnt called the hot corner for no reason, very little time to react to line drives and such. I would say cf also has more ground to cover then and have more plays to make

    Go to fangraphs, leaders, fielding and then sort by plays. Out of the top 60 only one position outside of ss, cf, 2b and rf appears. Alex gordon at lf, and he was 52nd.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bosox3431 View Post
    Its hard say its a fact those are harder, but by watching them I think its pretty easy to see. 3B and C seem to be harder on the body then other positions. How often do 1B have to go after a ball like a ss or 2B? They also cover more ground. 3B isnt called the hot corner for no reason, very little time to react to line drives and such. I would say cf also has more ground to cover then and have more plays to make

    Go to fangraphs, leaders, fielding and then sort by plays. Out of the top 60 only one position outside of ss, cf, 2b and rf appears. Alex gordon at lf, and he was 52nd.
    I understand that some positions are harder than others. That is obvious, yet there is no way to compare the difficulty of catcher to CF and quantity it. That is literally impossible for a multitude of reasons. What I am saying is that why make it up? Since when is sabermetrics based on opinion?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Kenny Krew View Post
    What are you basing this on?
    Metrics I've seen back about 3-6 years ago with basically the batting and fielding history since 1920 behind them.


    6/27/09: “We expect [Rondo] to play by the rules and be a leader as a point guard. We need him to be more of a leader,” Ainge said. “There were just a couple situations where he was late this year, I don’t know if he was sitting in his car, but showed up late and the rest of the team was there. We have team rules and you have to be on time. He was fined for being late, he said he was stuck in traffic, and it’s just unacceptable.”

    Some jerks never learn.....

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kenny Krew View Post
    I understand that some positions are harder than others. That is obvious, yet there is no way to compare the difficulty of catcher to CF and quantity it. That is literally impossible for a multitude of reasons. What I am saying is that why make it up? Since when is sabermetrics based on opinion?
    Difficulty?

    There is the frequency of plays made by position.

    There are the body types/athletes that qualify for a given position.

    There are the numbers of games played - say top 50 all time at each position. 3B has less then 2B, SS, 3B. Harder to play? No. Harder on body? Yes.

    Catching is tough subjectively. Lots of guys don't want to play it. Coaches don't want potential pitchers to play it. It's usually thickly built guys 5' 9" to 6' 3". RHT only that have a straight fastball but no other pitchers. Usually fairly slow foot speed.

    The wear and tear are bar none the worse. There are ways to quantify it, but IMO the complete set of understanding of what makes catching what it is MUST contain some subjectives. But that's in an overall opinion. On the field you can compare them to each other.

    BTW FG is absolutely lame in its numbers on C and 1B. BR is better, and it still leaves a lot to be desired. Pitching and hitting are both much easier to quantify.
    Last edited by bagwell368; 11-11-2012 at 09:33 AM.


    6/27/09: “We expect [Rondo] to play by the rules and be a leader as a point guard. We need him to be more of a leader,” Ainge said. “There were just a couple situations where he was late this year, I don’t know if he was sitting in his car, but showed up late and the rest of the team was there. We have team rules and you have to be on time. He was fined for being late, he said he was stuck in traffic, and it’s just unacceptable.”

    Some jerks never learn.....

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by bagwell368 View Post
    Difficulty?

    There is the frequency of plays made by position.

    There are the body types/athletes that qualify for a given position.

    There are the numbers of games played - say top 50 all time at each position. 3B has less then 2B, SS, 3B. Harder to play? No. Harder on body? Yes.

    Catching is tough subjectively. Lots of guys don't want to play it. Coaches don't want potential pitchers to play it. It's usually thickly built guys 5' 9" to 6' 3". RHT only that have a straight fastball but no other pitchers. Usually fairly slow foot speed.

    The wear and tear are bar none the worse. There are ways to quantify it, but IMO the complete set of understanding of what makes catching what it is MUST contain some subjectives. But that's in an overall opinion. On the field you can compare them to each other.

    BTW FG is absolutely lame in its numbers on C and 1B. BR is better, and it still leaves a lot to be desired. Pitching and hitting are both much easier to quantify.
    I'm not sure what you're saying about the games played. 3B is hard on the body, but it isn't as hard to play. So what is it? Harder or not?

    There are positions that are obviously harder than others. C, SS, CF. All the best defenders play at those positions. I completely agree with you on that.

    With that being said, the gripe I have with the positional adjustments is that they are based off a lot of opinion. Someone decided that despite 3B being hard on the body, it deserves equal adjustment as 2B. So basically, they are trying to compare what you said - range vs. toughness, all while factoring hitting.

    Who decided that SS deserves 5 more runs than a CF? This is very opinionated. That's all I'm saying. If there is a metric that shows why a SS deserves 5 more runs than a CF, I would love to see it.

    If you asked 25 different experts, they'd have 25 different opinions on the adjustment. I personally disagree with the opinion that a third baseman is equal to a second baseman. I am sure that other people would share this opinion. And yet, people are still comparing people religiously by WAR across positions.

    I will check out the BR numbers.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Kenny Krew View Post
    I'm not sure what you're saying about the games played. 3B is hard on the body, but it isn't as hard to play. So what is it? Harder or not?
    I'm a lefty, so 3B is murder for me....

    3B requires less range than 2B, SS, and CF. So you don't need a long distance runner over there. You need a guy with fast reflexes that can move real fast over 2-3-4 steps, that can throw from a variety of positions, and can dive on the ground. So it's quite different from other positions IMO. C and 1B are the closest but not that close. It is after catcher the hardest position on the body - in particular because most 3B are now sluggers or built like them, and they tend to weigh more and the diving kills knees, backs, and hips.

    With that being said, the gripe I have with the positional adjustments is that they are based off a lot of opinion.
    That's not strictly speaking true. I have a football party to host, so won't have time until tomorrow to get you the data, but the numbers they have are not seat of the pants numbers. But I have found data + interpretations that seem more correct than what FG uses.

    Who decided that SS deserves 5 more runs than a CF? This is very opinionated. That's all I'm saying. If there is a metric that shows why a SS deserves 5 more runs than a CF, I would love to see it.
    From memory I think it's:

    C/SS: ~36 and ~34 range
    2B: ~32
    3B/CF: ~26
    RF/LF: 15
    1B: 10

    The units are runs, but I forget if it's over replacement (seems likely) or average.

    If you asked 25 different experts, they'd have 25 different opinions on the adjustment. I personally disagree with the opinion that a third baseman is equal to a second baseman. I am sure that other people would share this opinion. And yet, people are still comparing people religiously by WAR across positions.

    I will check out the BR numbers.
    The group is quiet, there are at least 6-7 folks around here that can give you the answer. I'm more of a poor mans sabr guy that keeps trying to square it with what I know of the game. Some SABR folks including me about 2-3 years ago used to go around with FG UZR/150 beating on players or posters. But given the creators say you need a 3 year sample size at least I went to BR RField which is far less apt to turn cartwheels every season.

    Same with FIP+. I don't like it. Almost every other advanced system I know gives better numbers for what has happened for 2012 and going back in time then what FIP+ does.

    Hunt and peck, adopt and reject. Seems like you have a similar take on all of it.


    6/27/09: “We expect [Rondo] to play by the rules and be a leader as a point guard. We need him to be more of a leader,” Ainge said. “There were just a couple situations where he was late this year, I don’t know if he was sitting in his car, but showed up late and the rest of the team was there. We have team rules and you have to be on time. He was fined for being late, he said he was stuck in traffic, and it’s just unacceptable.”

    Some jerks never learn.....

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by bagwell368 View Post
    I'm a lefty, so 3B is murder for me....

    3B requires less range than 2B, SS, and CF. So you don't need a long distance runner over there. You need a guy with fast reflexes that can move real fast over 2-3-4 steps, that can throw from a variety of positions, and can dive on the ground. So it's quite different from other positions IMO. C and 1B are the closest but not that close. It is after catcher the hardest position on the body - in particular because most 3B are now sluggers or built like them, and they tend to weigh more and the diving kills knees, backs, and hips.



    That's not strictly speaking true. I have a football party to host, so won't have time until tomorrow to get you the data, but the numbers they have are not seat of the pants numbers. But I have found data + interpretations that seem more correct than what FG uses.



    From memory I think it's:

    C/SS: ~36 and ~34 range
    2B: ~32
    3B/CF: ~26
    RF/LF: 15
    1B: 10

    The units are runs, but I forget if it's over replacement (seems likely) or average.



    The group is quiet, there are at least 6-7 folks around here that can give you the answer. I'm more of a poor mans sabr guy that keeps trying to square it with what I know of the game. Some SABR folks including me about 2-3 years ago used to go around with FG UZR/150 beating on players or posters. But given the creators say you need a 3 year sample size at least I went to BR RField which is far less apt to turn cartwheels every season.

    Same with FIP+. I don't like it. Almost every other advanced system I know gives better numbers for what has happened for 2012 and going back in time then what FIP+ does.

    Hunt and peck, adopt and reject. Seems like you have a similar take on all of it.
    Thanks for the reply. I am also a lefty, and I play CF, so I can't judge off of experience in the infield.

    The first thing I want to say is that you seem to be focusing on the defensive side of it, which makes sense as we are talking about comparing positions. However, the main point of my original post was that there are obvious misconceptions as to which positions are the "worst-hitting". For example, the average LF the past 5 years has been a worse hitter than the average RF, yet they are given the same adjustment.

    I'm excited to see that data, because I have been having this question for a while. It is interesting to see how the data matches up with the adjustments, because having it strictly based on defensive metrics wouldn't really make any sense. What would make more sense is taking the offensive part of WAR and adjusting it based on the chart I originally posted, then doing the same for the defensive part of WAR. This way, the runs above average defensively could be mathematically compared to the offensive runs above average. Hopefully that makes sense.

    It is nice to see someone who doesn't blindly follow statistics like WAR, FIP, etc. People like that are almost as bad as people who reject sabermetrics altogether!
    Last edited by Kenny Krew; 11-11-2012 at 11:03 PM.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Kenny Krew View Post
    Thanks for the reply. I am also a lefty, and I play CF, so I can't judge off of experience in the infield.
    I haven't played a game in 41 years... but I've coached a bunch the past 15 years....

    The first thing I want to say is that you seem to be focusing on the defensive side of it, which makes sense as we are talking about comparing positions. However, the main point of my original post was that there are obvious misconceptions as to which positions are the "worst-hitting". For example, the average LF the past 5 years has been a worse hitter than the average RF, yet they are given the same adjustment.
    Yes. Without looking it up I'm quite sure that since 1945 most years LF has better hitting then RF. LF has fallen into a temporary rift since about 2007, but it will change back I'm sure. One could easily argue that instead of fixed historic values that the values in a given year/league defines what the relative relationships are.

    I'm excited to see that data, because I have been having this question for a while. It is interesting to see how the data matches up with the adjustments, because having it strictly based on defensive metrics wouldn't really make any sense.
    The values I was talking about were strictly defensive - and they don't match FG.

    What would make more sense is taking the offensive part of WAR and adjusting it based on the chart I originally posted, then doing the same for the defensive part of WAR. This way, the runs above average defensively could be mathematically compared to the offensive runs above average. Hopefully that makes sense.
    It does, and I think they use a historic value. That's not helpful when you go back before 1930 and find out SS and 2B total chances were much closer because of where they set them.

    It is nice to see someone who doesn't blindly follow statistics like WAR, FIP, etc. People like that are almost as bad as people who reject sabermetrics altogether!
    I grew up with traditional stats, but being a guy that worked with stats and projections for years IRL was ripe for SABR when they came. The first great wave of SABR has crested, and has changed a lot, but it will be another 10-20 years before the average deep fan has a tool set to use that covers it all - and is generally accepted.


    6/27/09: “We expect [Rondo] to play by the rules and be a leader as a point guard. We need him to be more of a leader,” Ainge said. “There were just a couple situations where he was late this year, I don’t know if he was sitting in his car, but showed up late and the rest of the team was there. We have team rules and you have to be on time. He was fined for being late, he said he was stuck in traffic, and it’s just unacceptable.”

    Some jerks never learn.....

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by bagwell368 View Post
    I haven't played a game in 41 years... but I've coached a bunch the past 15 years....
    At least you're still involved in the game! That's what I hope to be doing once I'm done playing.


    Yes. Without looking it up I'm quite sure that since 1945 most years LF has better hitting then RF. LF has fallen into a temporary rift since about 2007, but it will change back I'm sure. One could easily argue that instead of fixed historic values that the values in a given year/league defines what the relative relationships are.
    Really? I don't know if it will ever go back to the way it was. The new prototypical RF has a power arm/power bat. (Josh Reddick, Bautista, Giancarlo Stanton), while LF seems to be where the almost-CFers go because they are better hitters but not as good fielders. (Brett Gardner, Alex Gordon, CarGO, etc.) Maybe this is just a recent thing, though.

    The values I was talking about were strictly defensive - and they don't match FG.

    It does, and I think they use a historic value. That's not helpful when you go back before 1930 and find out SS and 2B total chances were much closer because of where they set them.

    I grew up with traditional stats, but being a guy that worked with stats and projections for years IRL was ripe for SABR when they came. The first great wave of SABR has crested, and has changed a lot, but it will be another 10-20 years before the average deep fan has a tool set to use that covers it all - and is generally accepted.
    That makes sense. No stat is perfect, and I think it's important that people don't rely on a select few. Hopefully things keep evolving. Is this forum ever more active? It seems there are some good minds working in here, but it's slow.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Kenny Krew View Post
    At least you're still involved in the game! That's what I hope to be doing once I'm done playing.
    Both my sons are really good players. Older one a two way every day player in a really good D2 league. The other a Soph with a good chance of pitching for the Varsity and playing 1B for the JV's.


    Really? I don't know if it will ever go back to the way it was. The new prototypical RF has a power arm/power bat. (Josh Reddick, Bautista, Giancarlo Stanton), while LF seems to be where the almost-CFers go because they are better hitters but not as good fielders. (Brett Gardner, Alex Gordon, CarGO, etc.) Maybe this is just a recent thing, though.
    LF has always had its share of Ricky Henderson's and Lou Brocks, but many more Yaz, Belle, Rice, Ramirez types. Now its just Holliday, Braun and a couple more. Since it's easier to play then RF, it's got a wider selection of players that can play there.



    That makes sense. No stat is perfect, and I think it's important that people don't rely on a select few. Hopefully things keep evolving. Is this forum ever more active? It seems there are some good minds working in here, but it's slow.[/QUOTE]

    Yeah it is, perhaps the regulars are in the rest cave, feet up recharging for next year....?
    Last edited by bagwell368; 11-12-2012 at 05:12 PM.


    6/27/09: “We expect [Rondo] to play by the rules and be a leader as a point guard. We need him to be more of a leader,” Ainge said. “There were just a couple situations where he was late this year, I don’t know if he was sitting in his car, but showed up late and the rest of the team was there. We have team rules and you have to be on time. He was fined for being late, he said he was stuck in traffic, and it’s just unacceptable.”

    Some jerks never learn.....

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    I've taken issue with the positional adjustments for a while.

    You've clearly got a few positions that are harder to play at a high level than others. It doesn't take a lot to be an average first baseman. Since we're talking about baseball players, it's not a stretch to say that almost any player has the hand-eye coordination to do the basics of the job well enough; catching balls thrown by other fielders and holding their foot on a base is what that amounts to. Lefties have an advantage on throws from 1B, but a lot of guys have shown (Derrek Lee, Albert Pujols, etc.) that if you're athletic enough, you can make even right handedness not be a disadvantage.

    Catcher is the hardest position on the field, just because they have so much extra work to do on every single pitch. Calling a pitch, catching it, taking the beating they do day in and day out makes it very difficult.

    Shortstop is next, but is the difference between a replacement level shortstop and a replacement level 3B and 2B so much that they should be given a whole lot more credit for it? I don't think so, personally.

    Left field is considered easier than any other position than 1B, but I think that largely has to do with the predominance of RH hitters in baseball which makes the way the ball spins off the bat a little easier to handle in LF than in RF (balls hit to RF off of a RHH tend to tail more than balls pulled to LF).
    Replacement level outfielders probably just play the corners, but a guy who can play CF will also play the other two at times, so that's another group that is hard to distinguish between.

    I'm with Tom Tango in thinking that if you're talking about a replacement level player (WAR is Wins Above Replacement, after all) you're looking at someone who is on the bubble of making a roster. Catchers usually just catch. First basemen usually just play first. Center fielders can play any of the three positions and Infielders on the bubble are usually utility men who play both 3B and 2B, and sometimes SS.

    So, I think you have to put it down to 4-5 pools rather than delineating between each position. C, 1B, IF, OF, DH. You can get a little more creative with it and do something like C, 1B/LF, 2B/3B, SS/CF, DH too, since that probably equates more with reality than anything.

    Part of the problem with this is that positional adjustments are designed to counteract selection bias in UZR. Essentially, the way UZR works is players are judged based on the performance of other players at that same position. It's baseline comes up to be runs above average rather than replacement. So, you have guys who are good defenders in LF, and their UZR scores are off the charts because their LF peers tend to be pretty bad, in comparison. Basically, you're the tallest guy in the room until someone taller walks in. On the other side, a good defensive player at SS doesn't get rewarded with as much value for their performance because the talent pool of the league at that position is generally so good. That doesn't tell us much about the difficulty of the position or what the replacement level would/should be for the position defensively.

    The guy who created UZR, Mitchell Lichtman, has stated that UZR wasn't intended to be used in WAR the way it is, and it certainly shouldn't be listed with a decimal point. Saying someone was worth 5.6 runs with the glove in a given year is pointless, because the +/- on that 5.6 is probably 5 runs or more, in and of itself. The margin for error with UZR, especially in one year samples is extremely high.


    Another way to look at it is to say players who play the positions they play are being put there to maximize the team's leverage on balls in play. You want your best defenders in positions that are more likely to get the ball (C, SS, CF). You mitigate the risk of poor defense by putting guys who are slow, uncoordinated, or just bad, at positions like LF, 1B, DH so that they don't hurt you as much.

    Positional adjustments are there to make sure that the averages of those positions comes out roughly equal for each position because teams don't just throw their DHs out at SS some days for the hell of it.

    To bring a long post to a close, I personally don't see much value in delineating between each position, individually. I think there are player pools that one could use that would be either as effective, or more effective in achieving the goal of WAR. There is a lot of math behind figuring out what those numbers should be, and I'm nowhere near qualified to undertake something like that. And again, a huge issue I have with the defensive side of WAR, anyway, is that it's set against average production/performance/whatever rather than replacement level. People tend to forget that and make claims like "Carl Crawford was worth 2 wins with his glove, alone in 2010!" The key is to figure out what the replacement level player would do in LF and then adjust according to that. Then, positional adjustments wouldn't even be necessary. Given the limitations of defensive metrics, however, any kind of accuracy in such a number would be limited.
    Last edited by Milnertime; 11-13-2012 at 06:28 AM.

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