What do Salvador Perez, Torii Hunter, Coco Crisp, Carlos Santatna, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Jones, Jason Kipnis, and David Ortiz all have in common?
They all received votes for the American League MVP award, despite being less valuable– by FanGraphs’ WAR– and playing more games than Colby Rasmus.
Now, WAR is hardly an argument-ender. There are far too many valid arguments to be had within it for me to be able to sit back right now, cross my arms, and marvel at the wondrous job I’ve done in arguing for Colby’s superiority over those guys. It’s a complex number that does a very, very good job– in my view– of giving the appropriate weight to the various components of performance that, added together, make up the totality of a player’s on-field value. Yet there can be elements of what a player contributes that are not quantified within its boundaries, and one can quibble with either the weightings, or what “replacement level” is, or with something like its reliance on a one-year sample of fluctuating and imperfect defensive metrics like UZR,
Still, though, more than any tool we currently have at our disposal, WAR is able to distill all of what a player did on the field and spit it out as a single number. And when you look at those numbers for American League players in 2013, Rasmus ranked 14th, despite having played fewer games than anybody ahead of him, save for the Twins’ Joe Mauer.