Evaluating WAAS, WAR As HOF Measuring Sticks

Evaluating WAAS, WAR As HOF Measuring Sticks

Evaluating WAAS, WAR As HOF Measuring Sticks

The results of this year’s Hall of Fame voting and with them a renewed debate about what actually makes a worthy candidate. This debate has been around for decades, before the question of steroids arose, and has more to do with voting on “very good players,” you know, the guys who are at the top of the league but not necessarily among the best ever. A wide range of opinions exists as to who should be enshrined in the hall. I personally am in the camp that says that only the best of the best of the best should be in Cooperstown. I feel that if someone is a “borderline candidate” then they fairly certainly don’t belong. I think there are too many members of the Hall and that guys like Andre Dawsins, Jim Rice and Bruce Sutter were very good but not worthy of the company of Babe Ruth, Willie Mays etc. In an effort to really hash out who is deserving and who isn’t, new age stats like WAR (Wins Above Replacement) are often used. WAR has some problems however and in an effort to address them, ESPN’s Peter Keating devised WAAS (Wins Above All Star Level). Let’s take a brief look at how they do:

WAR gives players credit for wins above a replacement level player. It’s a very useful stat and maybe the best of the sabermetric era. The problem with using it in a HOF context is that it rewards compilers. The longer a guy’s career, the higher his career WAR (presumably if he’s a HOF candidate) simply by virtue of throwing together more and more positive WAR seasons. To fix this problem, WAAS takes into account the 2.5 WAR average of your typical All Star and gives credit for particularly great seasons (somehow).

The problem? WAAS doesn’t really accomplish its goal. Sure, by subtracting 2.5 from everyone’s WAR total we narrow the field to better players but guys can still cobble together impressive WAAS totals without doing anything special. For instance, look at Brian Jordan. He has a career WAAS of 13.5 which is nice but really Brian Jordan shouldn’t even register on any HOF evaluation stat. According to Keating, a WAAS of about 25 is a pretty good indication of HOF entry. By that measure, though,  Jeff Bagwell is almost qualified two times over (45.2 WAAS) and Dale Murphy (24.1 WAAS) should probably get in even though he only received about 12% of the vote this year.

Maybe the issue is just the level Keating set, maybe it should be higher. But I don’t think that’s the major problem. Perhaps, there is no stat to identify who is a potential HOFer and who isn’t. Maybe the value of WAR and WAAS is in comparing potential candidates to one another. WAAS can be extremely important for pitting people we’ve anecdotally identified as possible HOF members against one another but that’s the catch, we have to figure out who the guys are on our own.

-Max Frankel

By Off The Bench
Monday, 16 Jan 2012

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