WAR isn’t perfect. WAR is fun and quick and easy. It has weaknesses and it has strengths. Due to its “all in one” nature and growing influence among baseball fans and writers, WAR faces attacks from those seeking to poke holes in this magic stat.

It is important that the keepers and developers of WAR continue improving and moulding it, making better use of the available information. The internal composition of WAR might change but the basic idea — the core fundamental — show the versatility and value of WAR. The ability to compare against eras and competition is one thing.

There is more than one way to skin a cat and WAR is on it. This trait alone makes it a valuable tool.

Consider two very different baseball players: Pedro Alvarez and Brett Lawrie. In 2012, these third basemen were virtual opposites. In the American League, Brett Lawrie struggled offensively as his patient approach all but went out the window (on the bases, as well.) Lawrie redeems his value as a player by playing terrific defense at the hot corner, just two years after the Blue Jays moved him to the role.

Pedro Alvarez looks like a designated hitter. He strikes out a ton and hits for power and that’s about it. His defense at third is slightly below “passable” and he runs the bases about as well as you expect.

Using Fangraphs flavor of WAR, Brett Lawrie and Pedro Alvarez were equals in 2012. 2.9 fWAR apiece. But how?!

An overlooked component of WAR is it is a counting stat – it rewards playing time. It is in this department which Brett Lawrie stands to always struggle. Lawrie’s playing style costs him games as he nurses wounds from crashing headlong into just about everything.

It is also important to remember Pedro Alvarez hit 30 home runs in 2012. Thirty!

More playing time and much better offense (both in volume and rate) overcomes the difference between Lawrie’s defense and Alvarez’s statue impression. Does that mean we can expect these players to perform similarly in 2013?

In a word: no. There is nothing to suggest that Brett Lawrie will be as bad at the plate as he was in 2012. He is also three years younger and still without 1000 big league plate appearances. 2012 might represent the high water mark for Alvarez’s career before he brings his Three True Outcome skill set to its rightful home at first base. For posterity, ZiPS projects Alvarez at 2.7 fWAR versus 4.3 for Lawrie.

Two very different players with many possible outcomes in the future. When reflecting on the past season, WAR is a terrific tool for comparing two very different players and their respective contributions.

Comments (14)

  1. I couldn’t believe Alvarez hit 30 home runs either. #themoreyouknow

  2. Brett Lawrie is an exceptionally great baseball player for “three years young”.

  3. Lawrie has missed about 2 days directly related to diving into things. As a Jays fan I’m certainly concerned about his playing style costing him time on the DL, but “costs him games as he nurses wounds from crashing headlong into just about everything.” is a bit much.

    Lawrie wasn’t as good as the hype but he had one great month at the plate and an overall league average year. I wouldn’t call that a bad year at all.

    His lack of patience at the plate is overblown as well. Dig a little deeper into the plate numbers and you will see. He certainly needs to be a more patient but again “his patient approach all but went out the window” is a bit much

    • Wow, that’s an obtuse reading of obvious hyperbole.

      • Didn’t notice you wrote this. I’ll know not to try and have a serious conversation next time.

        • The basic points on War were good, even if you didn’t like the “style”

        • Lol what was obtuse about what he just said? Seemed like a well thought-out comment to me. He didn’t attack you personally or anything.

          • Taking issue with the “crashing headlong” line is pretty obtuse, as it was clearly written for effect.

            The rest of it was fair points well taken

            • I speak english…stop using words like obtuse, hyperbole, and reading. Never heard of those words…

              • I’m not overly worried about Lawrie running the bases next year like a game of pickle. I’m aware Brett says things like, “I play full throttle bro, I don’t know how to play the game any different”. But with meaningful games hopefully all the way through the schedule, he’s going to get an earful from his coaches and teammates if he is causing the Jays games due to red bull induced high-risk base running. Purely speculating, but I think Gibby will be able to connect better to Lawrie than President Farrell. Also, if Bautista gives him another glare like he did when Brett attempted to steal home while he was up to bat, I think that will speak louder than words. Ok, I’m going to shut up and stop speculating on clubhouse culture.

                On a side note, I’m glad you posted a well-balanced (yet brief) analysis on WAR. It would be awesome if you or Dustin wrote a long-ass article on it sometime in the future. As you know, it is probably the most contested stat, and would make for a fun read.

  4. People don’t like WAR because it is science. Like science it is continually refined with the latest available knowledge, and like science it ruins fairy tales.

  5. Drew, you nailed it in the part about Lawrie’s offense declining as his patient approach went right out the window. I get that after Brett’s hot start in 2011, pitchers would want to start not throwing him fastballs middle-in and that they’d test him with every pitch that got him out last year. But what I don’t get is why as the year went on, Brett got progressively worse at swinging at terrible pitches.

    I.E. was it that Farrell put a leash on his coaches so they’d just “let Brett be Brett,” or was it that he just wasn’t responding? His groin injury notwithstanding, he was swinging almost exclusively at terrible pitches down the stretch. Ugh.

    If he could stay healthy and be a tad more selective, I’d say the 4.3 WAR might even be conservative.

    • His skills are obvious. I think his biggest problem, without looking it up or verifying, was falling behind in the count. Me thinks there be follow up in my future.

      • I would love to read that. I’ve told Andrew before that DJF desperately needs to do a “who is the real Brett Lawrie” article before the season starts. i.e. is he the patient, powerful hitter of 2011, or the overly aggressive hack from 2012?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *