WARPed on WAR: How each site’s WAR views the Colorado Rockies
By Kevin Larson
In an age where advanced stats and analytics are furthering the game, it’s becoming increasingly important to understand more of the ins and outs of sabermetrics and how exactly to use each stat that’s been created. Casual baseball fans probably don’t know much about things like wRC+, wOBA, DRS, or UZR. It can be too complicated and different, so they’d rather just brush over them. The one stat they probably are somewhat familiar with, though? WAR.
WAR (Wins Above Replacement) has become the golden child of advanced stats, doing its best to estimate how valuable a player is above a league average replacement level player. It essentially takes how effectively a player is hitting, how effectively they’re fielding based off which position they play, then combines that with how often they’re doing it and boom, you’ve got WAR.
That’s the basics of it, but how exactly is it calculated and which stats are used? This is where things start to get tricky. There are three sites that champion their own formula of WAR: Fangraphs (fWAR), Baseball Reference (bWAR or rWAR) and Baseball Prospectus (WARP). Each site takes the basic ideas of assessing how effective each player hits and fields, but each site has different calculations for it. Much of it can be attributed to which defensive stat they’re using (DRS or UZR) or sometimes it can depend on things like park factors (hello, WARP).
Ideally, each type of WAR should give us a similar value for each player. That’s not always the case, though, and how you view a player (or a team) can vary greatly dependent on which site you’re using. For instance, if you’re looking at NL MVP candidate Christian Yelich then you could say his WAR is either 7.8, 7.1 or 6.5. Each is technically right, but that’s a pretty drastic difference going from 7.8 with Fangraphs to 6.5 with Baseball Prospectus.
Given that the changes within the formulas can affect how a player’s viewed to somewhat drastic levels, I wanted to take a look at how each site views the Rockies as a team to see if we would see something similar. I pulled the last 5 years of data for WAR from Fangraphs, Baseball Reference and Baseball Prospectus to see how each views not only the Rockies, but three other teams I had you all randomly select via Twitter (The Indians, Rays and Tigers).