Let's corral the WAR horse
Useful? Yes. But the be-all of stats? A critical look at Wins Above Replacement.
Originally Published: February 1, 2013
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com
I was tempted to begin this column with the almost-obligatory lyrics from "War," a No. 1 hit song in 1970. But when Edwin Starr sang that war was good for "absolutely nothing'' (say it, say it again), he was recording a protest against actual warfare. My protest, on the other hand, is about something much more widespread, threatening and serious.
I'm talking about the proliferation of WAR: Wins Above Replacement.
Wait! I'm not just some old curmudgeon sportswriter reflexively ranting against the latest technical advance. Well, yes, I am an old curmudgeon sportswriter who routinely rants about new technology -- in fact, my friends joke I would have complained about the introduction of electric light bulbs ("For crying out loud, what's wrong with a simple candle!?!") -- but hear me out on this WAR thing.
First, let me stress there are things I like about WAR.
1. Unlike most stats revered by curmudgeons (who tend to view RBIs as the most reliable and masculine of statistics), WAR not only acknowledges a player's defense, it embraces his fielding as a vital part of his performance. Other stats focus on offense; WAR makes defensive statistics a key part of its calculations.