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Why do people value WAR/Arbitrary formulas.


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Look I'm all for critical thinking and interpretation of stats. Something that bugs me is this stupid WAR stat. I absolutely hate it. I see it tossed around sites and blogs everywhere. It's even breaking into the mainstream. ESPN is using it. Sportswriters are using it. It's driving me crazy.

I posted in the MLB forum about Mike Trout's season when the subject of his WAR came up. This is what I wrote,

"To me WAR is an absolutely horrible statistic. I don't mind us trying to assign a value to estimate the amount of wins a player contributes. This number should be subjective though. WAR is a made up, arbitrary formula. It's the opposite of what stats should be, which is objective and concrete. Take for instance batting average. You divide the hits by the AB's. There is no ifs and or buts. Just this season baseball reference completely altered their WAR. Their old one had Matt Kemp as the best player in the MLB by a huge margin last year. Now he's back down to Earth. They are just taking made up formulas to assign a bogus value on a player. How about this one? The Dodgers are 4 games under .500 without Matt Kemp and about 15 games over .500 with him. I don't need a made up number to tell me he is the best player in the league. I already know when he's healthy that he is."

I can't understand why people would value WAR when it's a completely arbitrary formula.

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I think your post could be expressed a little bit more eloquently, and considering it's late at night I'm not going to attempt to do that either so I certainly won't hold it against you. In other words, I get what you're saying, and I agree with it, though I know where people will try to poke holes into your thoughts/argument. So, yeah, I'm glad you brought this issue up (fWAR is an especially absurd stat--or, it's not an absurd stat in-and-of-itself, but the way people flagrantly misuse it is absurd), and I'm looking forward on checking back in on this thread tomorrow... (smiley face/emoticon)

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Either you know how to use a statistic or you don't. There are people of both kinds who embrace and/or reject WAR, for largely relevant reasons. Absent some evidence that you're in the former camp, this thread should probably just die. Aneurism-like. Not slowly.

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Either you know how to use a statistic or you don't. There are people of both kinds who embrace and/or reject WAR, for largely relevant reasons. Absent some evidence that you're in the former camp, this thread should probably just die. Aneurism-like. Not slowly.

How exactly should you use a flawed, subjective statistic? What's the best way to do that?

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Let's be clear--WAR isn't a statistic. It's not a factual piece of data.

It's a subjective rating that's deeply flawed. It can be useful in the context of actual statistics, and the good ole' eye test. But it's certainly not the be all, end all, that many think it is.

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How exactly should you use a flawed, subjective statistic? What's the best way to do that?

That is exactly my train of thought. It's arbitrary. I could make up my own arbitrary formula. Granted, I'm not as credible as baseball reference, but the point still remains. WAR is subjective.

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Fack! I meant to edit my post but somehow managed to delete it...

http://www.wikihow.com/Calculate-Baseball-WAR

It's a statistic. It follows a formula. It can't be flawed in-and-of-itself. Philosophically speaking, it's basically necessarily true that the way people use it is flawed, not the statistic itself.

EDIT: In the post I deleted I went on a bit of a rant about how the name itself, Wins Above Replacement is problematic, not necessarily for logical reasons but more for psychological ones; one of my biggest pet peeves is how people use WAR in such an absolutist fashion as if presenting a WAR statistic was a trump card in a zero-sum game...if it were simply called Runs Above Replacement or Value Points Above Replacement this effect might be mitigated a bit. It just doesn't really translate to reality when we do things like compare Chase Headley and Wilson Betemit and their respective WARs and say, oh okay, we'd have 4.5 more wins over the course of a full season with Betemit, or, you know, Chase's WAR pro-rated over the final 2 months will be worth this many wins..only 1.5? That's not going to change us from fringe-WC contender to contender!

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How is it not? Are there not multiple WAR numbers? Do the individual systems not change frequently?

Seriously? It's the definition of subjective.

Just because there are different ways to model something doesn't make them subjective, let alone arbitrary.

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