WAR. What is it good for? Absolutely something if you think Angels rookie Mike Trout should win the American League most valuable player award over Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera based solely on this advanced metric, which stands for Wins Above Replacement.
But what is WAR, exactly? It attempts to quantify a player’s overall contribution — hitting, baserunning and defense, for position players — and is expressed as the number of wins a player adds to his team by comparing his performance with that of a fictitious “replacement player,” assumed to be an average triple-A call-up.
A WAR of 3.0 is good. A 5.0 would be All-Star caliber.
Trout entered the weekend with a major league-leading 10.5 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference.com’s formula. (There are other formulas used by other statisticians.) That’s more than three wins better than Robinson Cano, who ranks second in the AL with a 6.9 WAR, and Cabrera, who is third with a 6.6.
But WAR is not the end-all to determine value. It should be noted that Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist led baseball with an 8.5 WAR last season. The utility player hit .269 with 20 homers and 91 runs batted in and finished 16th in the AL MVP vote.
Baseball’s WAR leaders for past five seasons.
1.Mike Trout (Angels) 10.5
2.Robinson Cano (Yankees) 7.0
3.Andrew McCutchen (Pirates) 6.9
4.Ryan Braun (Brewers) 6.9
5. Yadier Molina (Cardinals) 6.9
1.Ben Zobrist (Rays) 8.5
2.Jacoby Ellsbury (Red Sox) 8.0
3.Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox) 7.8
4.Matt Kemp (Dodgers) 7.8
5.Jose Bautista (Blue Jays)/Ryan Braun (Brewers) 7.7
1.Josh Hamilton (Rangers) 8.4
2.Robinson Cano (Yankees) 7.8
3.Evan Longoria (Rays) 7.8
4.Adrian Beltre (Red Sox) 7.4
5.Albert Pujols (Cardinals) 7.3
1.Albert Pujols (Cardinals) 9.4
2.Ben Zobrist (Rays) 8.3
3.Chase Utley (Phillies) 8.0
4.Joe Mauer (Twins) 7.6
5.Chone Figgins (Angels) 7.5
1.Albert Pujols (Cardinals) 9.0
2.Chase Utley (Phillies) 8.8
3.Mark Teixeira (Braves/Angels) 7.5
4.Chipper Jones (Braves) 7.1
5.Nick Markakis (Orioles) 7.1