The Washington Nationals sabermetric train rolls on for District on Deck as Scott Eastment takes a different look at arguably the most commonly discussed and recognized sabermetric measurement in the game today, Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Now, the term replacement player is an extremely abstract concept, but one way of looking at it is that if a team is completely made up of these players they would win roughly 50 games. Yes, this means a replacement player is barely able to be considered ‘major league-caliber’; however the use of them makes it easier to recognize a player’s true worth to his team.
As I mentioned, WAR is a somewhat hypothetical measurement in the sense that there are hundreds of calculations that go into the process of spitting out a number, with no one clearly defined set of steps to determine it. As we have discussed with ERA+ and FIP, there are many outside factors that must be taken into account in order to properly calculate just how much better a player is than his potential replacement.
Opponents and ballparks (outside of team defense), are the two biggest external influences on pWAR for the Washington Nationals and every other pitching staff in the league. This is taken into account by applying neutralizing park factors to the equation and then figuring out the average runs allowed against each specific opponent.
Team defense is accounted for by figuring out the team’s defensive runs saved and then computing the number of balls in play the team allowed on top of the number of balls in play allowed by the pitcher. Finally, the number from the equation below has its sign reversed and is thrown into the overall pWAR equation:
(Balls in Play by Pitcher / Balls in Play by Team) * Team Defensive Runs Saved
So, did you get all that? It is a tricky nut to crack but the easiest way to describe pWAR is to say that it tells you how much better a member of the Washington Nationals pitching staff is then the average person that would replace him from around the league. From a pitcher’s perspective, pWAR is used as a means of determining just how many more wins a year he is worth than the now infamous replacement player.
This sabermetric looks at the pitcher’s role, his innings pitched, and the quality of his outings when calculating how many wins (or sometimes even losses) he contributed to the team’s final numbers. For the average baseball fan, all you really need to know is that pWAR can range from roughly -2.0 all the way up to +7.0, with anything above 2.0 being considered well above average. Here is a breakdown of the 2014 Washington Nationals pWAR sabermetrics from last season:
Jordan Zimmerman: 3.7
Stephen Strasburg: 3.1
Gio Gonzalez: 3.0
Doug Fister: 4.1
Ross Detwiler: 0.1 (shortened season)
Rafael Soriano: 0.9
Craig Stammen: 1.0
Tyler Clippard: 1.8
Drew Storen: -0.7
Ryan Mattheus: -0.8
Christian Garcia: 0.3 (2012 numbers)
Taylor Jordan: 0.0
Jerry Blevins: 0.8
Ross Ohlendorf: 0.9
Tanner Roark: 2.0
As with every other Washington Nationals pitching sabermetric, this group’s pWAR numbers reflect the power of their starting rotation and the potential question marks that linger in the bullpen. Tanner Roark will come back to Earth and Drew Storen is likely to put up a positive pWAR in 2014, however the numbers for a Ryan Mattheus and Rafael Soriano may be a sign of negative things to come in the future. As always, only time will tell!!