Spring is officially here, and with spring comes baseball. Finally, the sounds of spring can be heard starting March 28: the snap of a ball into the first baseman’s glove as a 6-4-3 double play is turned, the crack of a bat as Mitch Haniger crushes a home run or the crunch of Aaron Rowand sacrificing his perfect face as he breaks his nose making a catch in center field. There’s simply nothing like a game on a summer night.
“But baseball is boring,” you’re probably saying. “The games last forever!” That’s the beauty of it. Games typically last around three hours because there is just so much strategy that goes into those nine — and extra — innings. Which pitcher is best against right-handed batters, where to position the shortstop when a left-handed power bat is at the plate or where to put which hitter in the lineup. These decisions aren’t all just off the cuff, there’s a whole universe worth of numbers to back this stuff up. WAR, wRC+ and FIP are just three, for example, of the incredibly numerous baseball stats (sabermetrics) you never knew you needed. WAR is my favorite, which would expose me as somewhat of a novice to serious baseball fans. It’s mainly used to compare players and determine their worth to the club. WAR is a little confusing, but very useful.
WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement. Put simply, it means, “How many more wins does one player give their team than their replacement?” For example, the best player in baseball right now, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim center fielder Mike Trout, has a WAR of 10.2, meaning the Angels should get around 10 more wins a season with Trout than without him. With this new way of calculating a player’s worth, it is much easier to determine who the best player of all time is, regardless of position or era. Of course, any statistic is improved by observing it with others, but for brevity’s sake WAR will suffice. To probably no one’s surprise, Babe Ruth is the all-time leader in WAR, with 182.5 wins. Objective numbers say the GOAT is The Great Bambino, so all the Barry Bonds fans can let it go — we all know he isn’t truly deserving.
The world of sabremetrics is vast and comprehensive. There’s a statistic for just about everything, and if there isn’t then someone is working on making sure there is. So next time the manager takes a pitcher out after two batters or the third baseman is suddenly a fourth outfielder, check out the numbers and maybe they’ll give you a new perspective on a sport that is falsely labeled as “boring.”