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The WAR Problems, Missing Cease, and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

Tomorrow looks like it could be a very busy day in the baseball world, with the MLBPA deadline on a Shohei Ohtani posting decision set (we’ll see if they follow through) and also the deadline to roster players for Rule 5 Draft purposes. Stay on your toes …


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  • You may or may not have noticed that, this season, we moved a bit away from leaning as heavily on the WAR statistic as we have in the past. That wasn’t so much done as a rebuke of WAR, but instead was simply honoring the fact that we now have available so many more bits of granular data that underpin WAR, and I never wanted us to get lazy and just rely on one number. Moreover, the continued problem WAR has in accurately incorporating defensive value, and the results/peripherals problem that bWAR and fWAR have for pitchers, meant that I am increasingly less certain that this 5.5 WAR guy actually contributed more value than that 4.5 WAR guy. That’s especially true where I can dig into the numbers we have available, and do some analysis for myself.
  • That is all prelude to a couple of bits by Bill James and Joe Posnanski offering their own problems with WAR, and if you’re into sabermetric data, I strongly encourage you to read them when you have time. While I don’t necessarily agree with their primary beef (super short version: the data we use for WAR actually only gives you *RUNS* above replacement value, and then we arbitrarily say 10 runs is worth a “win”; and also we shouldn’t assume that all situational performance is more or less chance), I do think it is important to tee up the problems with WAR now that we’ve entered another era of having even more data available. There was a time not so long ago that WAR was among the best ways to evaluate a player’s performance in a year when the results might not look like what you expect. Now, I use it much, much less. Maybe the problem is me, but I’m inclined to believe the problem is that I – and many others in the saber community – have lost faith in WAR as we’ve come to see more and more under the hood.
  • I think we’re going to see a revamping of WAR in the coming years, and it’s going to improve. My small contribution would be only that the really smart number dudes have to remember the fundamental question about WAR before they decide how they want it to operate: is it supposed to tell us how much value a player ACTUALLY provided, or is it supposed to tell us how much value a player WOULD HAVE PROVIDED if his performance played out in games the way we would EXPECT performance like that to play out? It’s a nuanced question, but it really strikes at the heart of everyone’s beef.

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  • If you can stomach a read on how the White Sox view Dylan Cease, here it is at NBC. The Cubs got an excellent pitcher in Jose Quintana, and I’d like you to think about how this offseason would look right now if they hadn’t made that trade. (Yikes.) But at the same time, the White Sox go two excellent prospects, and we’ll all be witness to their rise alongside a very strong foundation that the White Sox have built. Good for them, and may they succeed. It’ll still sting a little.
  • The Mesa Solar Sox did not win yesterday’s AFL championship, and worse, the first six runs they gave up came off of Cubs pitching prospects Alec Mills and Jake Stinnett. And Charcer Burks went 0-3.
  • David Laurila’s Sunday Notes are always a good read. One random note in there that just makes you smile: “J.D. Martinez led all players with a .690 slugging percentage this season. Babe Ruth’s career slugging percentage was .690.”

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  • Come on now:

  • If you missed it later yesterday, the Orioles are also in on Alex Cobb, which starts to raise the question of what’s the reasonable place to draw the contract line.
  • I got approached about BN having a relationship with a sports memorabilia site, which we now do, and while checking out their selection to see what kind of stuff they have, I couldn’t help but get lost in the HIGH-END Cubs World Series stuff. I want it all.

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  • Today’s holiday deal at Fanatics is a good one:


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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.