The 2011 movie Money Ball about Billie Beane’s use of sabermetrics to build the Oakland Athletics brought forth a true knuckleball of a pitch to the best bat flipping game in the world. That knuckleball came in the form of analytics (yawn) and the importance of the OBP statistic (On Base Percentage). But does baseball have to be this complicated? Do baseball writers have to constantly toss these numbers into your face like a Rougned ‘trash’ Odor punch? I sometimes find myself reading a great article and then the analytics come in like a garbage song on satellite radio and it stirs an emotion in me that is very similar to that feeling I get when Gibbers signals for Aaron Loup in the bullpen.
Anyone who has seen the film Bull Durham knows that baseball is the most simple game in the world -- to quote the great Skip, ‘You hit the ball, you throw the ball, you catch the ball. You got it?!’ But there is a whole other layer of complex numbers behind this simple game. But this juxtaposition is a ‘Screech Powers’ dream (Dustin Diamond from Saved By the Bell – just in case you’re too young to know this pop culture reference). It is also what makes baseball a sport for the wise, the thinker and, yes, smart people -- sort of.
So what is this WAR that keeps showing up in all these baseball articles anyway? Well, it’s wins above replacement. And what’s that? That’s a coffee spoon measurement of a player’s value. And shouldn’t we ask who’s replacing who (especially since what’s on second -- heyo) as my colleague ‘Cynical J’ always says. Because according to FANGRAPHS if you replace a 2K15 David Price 6.4 WAR with a 2K15 J Hip (I mean Happ) 3.4 WAR shit looks bleak for Blue Bird fans heading into 2K16 (and we all remember the trash tears spilled by many baby Jays about not bringing back Price). But the forecast couldn’t predict David Price’s 2K16 4.5 WAR compared to J Hip’s (I mean Happ’s) 3.2 WAR, which is a much closer measurement than the 2K15 WAR comparison between the two lefties -- which cost Boston roughly 6.7 million per WAR for Price and the Blue Jays roughly 4 million per WAR for J Hip (I mean Happ).
So back to the creation of WAR -- it’s a professor Gerald Lambeau (Good Will Hunting) kind of number crunching, which is designed by an elite baseball tribe to show a player’s value and then forecast the potential of each player for the upcoming season. Now, who benefits from WAR? A player, of course, especially during free agency as Dave Cameron wrote an article for FANGRAPHS outlining the cost of a win (WAR + 1) at 6 million dollars during the 2K14 free agency, and this WAR value still holds high like Nick Nolte on a Friday night.
Sabermetrics for Dummies (Don’t worry I’m one too)
Who is the main offender in all of this? Dan ‘the scam’ Szymborski, he is a member of ‘Society for American Baseball Research’ (SABR) and ranks both pitchers and hitters by projected zWar, which according to FANGRAPHS are, ‘WAR values calculated by the Great Dan Z 4 WAR Ski. Apparently, Sir ZiPS Szymborski says that you should analyze and use more than one of these metrics at a time to evaluate the overall value for the Mike Trouts of todays MLB, but for the everyday fan -- WAR is a nice overall statistic to see a players value, and, which, seems to (during free agency) get a ball playing dirt rat ‘the Jerry Maguire -- Show Me The Money!’ kind of $BLING$.
So Let’s Make Sense of this in Real English for Dummies
(Don’t worry I’m one too)
This is my attempt to quickly explain what this giant ‘Dan Z Ski’ yawn means. Think of these baseball metrics like a teacher’s rubric. The teacher has expectations for the assignment and designs a rubric (baseball metrics) for the student to follow and achieve high grades for each category. Once the assignment (baseball season) is complete, the teacher adds up the weighted categories to determine the overall grade (WAR). Does that help?
So let’s have some good ol’ Danny Z fun and WAR these 2K17 Blue Jays and compare the loss/gain from the 2K16 roster. And I will even take it a step further and put forth some of FANGRAPHS 2K17 Blue Jay player predictions -- even though predictions are spit in the can (remember Nate Silver’s US election predictions, complete trash).
WARing the 2k17 Blue Jays
According to FANGRAPHS the Jays lost the 2K16 EE Wings 3.9 WAR but in his replacement added the 2K16 Kendrys ‘the Royal’ Morales’s .7 WAR and Steve ‘I look scared in my Dunedin Blue Jays photo shoot day pictures’ Pearce’s 2 WAR for a combined total of 2.7 WAR -- just a loss of 1.2 WAR. But also according to FANGRAPHS they project a 2 WAR for Morales, which makes the loss of EE and the additions of Pearce and Morales a fair WAR trade. Also, the Jays have exchanged RA ‘Ninja’ Dickey’s .4 WAR and Josh Thole’s -.5 WAR for Francisco Liriano’s .4 WAR and Jarod Salty’s .1 WAR for a gain of .6 WAR -- if my math is correct, so there’s a saber gain. And also according to FANGRAPGHS the Jays starting rotation in 2K16 sabered there metric way to the top of the American League with a collective 15 wins, so in the WAR world the Jays starting rotation is looking mighty Danny Szymborski good. And let’s not forget (not that you would know or should know) Jose Bautista’s 2K16 1.4 WAR, he should surely bounce back (if healthy) to a 2K17 3.4ish WAR, right? Regardless it’s moot saber trash full of first conditional clauses. This is enough WAR for one article and I believe a lot of this to be spit in the can anyway. But if WAR is wins above replacement, does it not make sense to look at whom a team is replacing the wins with?
The Analytics Conclusion
I don’t care too much for all these analytics because they take the good old fashion fun out of the sport and all sports as far as I’m concerned.
Baseball has been a part of my life since 1987 when I discovered the Labatt’s Blue Jays on my mum’s beat up 1980 Magnavox TV while flipping through the archaic channels -- I’ve been a Jays Zealot since. So Let’s take time to remember how lame analytics are as adults and why we love baseball in its simplest way.
I remember when I was a little sandlot squirt back in the 1980’s, my cousin and I used to go watch the old Baby Jays (Single A) games in Merritton (a part of St. Catharines) and try to catch foul balls. Getting your hands on one of these balls made or broke your night – he chased more of them down than me. Now, that’s baseball.
Because baseball for me is about creating memories, it’s about telling stories, it’s about spring, summer, and fall. It’s about driving down to Cleveland in 1992 and watching the Jays play in Municipal Stadium with my mum and step-dad. It’s about Joe Carter standing in the batters box waving to me in the stands during that same summer trip to Tribe land. It’s about still remembering like it was yesterday the old Cleveland man walking up and down the Municipal Stadium aisles with his deep voice bellowing ‘BEER, HERE!’ It’s about staying up late when you’re a kid to watch the Jays play the Braves in the World Series while the Atlanta crowd tomahawk chopped their ‘Ohhhh! Oh! Ohhohoh!’ chant. It’s about Alomar’s homer off the Eck, it’s about ‘Touch em’ all Joe’ and all the pain in between to the epic Joey Bats bat flip.
That’s baseball -- the rest is just spit in the can. You hit the ball, you throw the ball, you catch the ball. You got it, Szymborski?! Period.