The C-WAR Hall of Fame Project

 

1937 American League All-Stars
By Harris & Ewing (Library of Congress Harris & Ewing collection) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

C-WAR is a Hall of Fame monitoring system using career and peak WAR. C-WAR is the career WAR(P) totals from Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, and Baseball Prospectus added up and averaged out, plus an eight year peak (five best years in a row, plus 3 best additional years) from Baseball-Reference. Click herefor an example of a full C-WAR chart.

I created the C-WAR Hall of Fame project because I noticed some substantial  discrepancies between the three major WAR(P) providers while doing Hall of Fame research. The career WAR values on Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and Baseball Prospectus can vary dramatically. Take Mike Piazza for example. His career WAR on Baseball Reference: 56.1, FanGraphs: 66.7, and Baseball Prospectus 75.8. Instead of favoring one calculation over the other, why not look at all three? So that’s what I started charting.

Career WAR is a valuable number to look at when considering a Hall of Fame candidate’s credentials, but it’s like any other statistic that accumulates. A player who is fortunate enough to play for a long time and is productive while playing will end up with a lot hits, RBI, wins, etc.. but that doesn’t establish any real greatness. So, looking at career WAR totals to measure Hall of Fame standards isn’t enough. I needed to establish a peak. I played around with a few different peak calculations but eventually settled on five best years in a row, plus a player’s three best additional years. That’s a total peak of eight seasons. So, with the peak established I did the following:  I averaged out all three of the career WAR totals. For Piazza that number is 66.2.  Then I added the peak value to his average. Piazza’s five best years in a row (according to Baseball Reference) were 1993-1997.  His WAR during that stretch was 29.8.  His three best additional years were, 98, 00, 01. For those three years, his WAR was 15.0, that gives him a peak value of 44.8. That’s substantial, as during his peak he averaged 5.6 wins a year.  To get the C-WAR number, I add a player’s peak to his averaged total. So for Piazza, you’re looking at  66.2+44.8. That gives him a C-WAR of 111, which to no surprise has him well above Hall of Fame standards at catcher.

Since I’m using career totals from all three sites, I initially wanted to do the same with peak, but that became impossible. Baseball Prospectus doesn’t publish historical WAR data past 1950, and FanGraphs doesn’t publish WAR data for pitchers past 1975 (it does now). Baseball Reference is the only site of the three that currently publishes data for every player past and present. Baseball Reference’s WAR is also the most commonly used, and tends to represent the middle ground of value across all three sites. I also didn’t want this project to become my Chinese Democracy, using one site for peak certainly made my life a bit easier. So, C-WAR is the career WAR totals from all three sites (when available) added up and averaged out , plus and eight year peak using Baseball Reference. It works pretty well.

Some interesting notes about WAR. FanGraphs consistently produces the highest WAR for a typical player. It’s not always the case, but more often than not, you will see FanGraphs with the highest career value. For example, Only four Hall of Fame position players have a greater rWAR (Baseball-Reference) than fWAR (FanGraphs). Those players are Cap Anson (91.1-86.9), Ozzie Smith (73.0-70.1), Ryne Sandberg (64.9-62.6), and Sam Thompson (42.1-40.6). Baseball Prospectus updates and tweaks their WAR calculations constantly. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if their career data for Piazza has already changed. Some of these tweaks produce minor changes, but some are quite substantial. For example over the past two weeks I’ve seen Pete Rose go from 89.4 to 75.5. Rickey Henderson went from 121.4 to 107.8, and Carl Yastrzemski wemt from 102.3 to 89.6  Good for BP for tweaking their data constantly to try and provide more accurate results, but those frequent tweaks can wreak havoc on a project like C-WAR. Using them as the base for peak would never work with such frequent changes.

Baseball Prospectus tends to calculate the lowest WAR estimates of the three sites, this is especially true with pitchers. Some examples: Kevin Brown fWAR- 77.2- rWAR-64.5 and WARP (Baseball Prospectus) 35.8. Roy Halladay fWAR- 72.2 rWAR- 63.1- WARP- 39.0, and Greg Maddux fWAR 120.6-rWAR 99.4- WARP-78.7. These discrepancies are not only substantial they also put modern players (1950-present), especially pitchers, at an unfair disadvantage. The discrepancies are not as large with positional players but it’s another reason why just using one site for peak works quite well.

More info about WAR variants can be found in this fantastic piece on Beyond the Box Score by Bryan Grosnick. You can also listen to this interview with Baseball-Reference founder, Sean Forman. He went into great detail about how rWAR is calculated.

So that’s C-WAR. Over the next several weeks I’ll publish the data that I have for each position. Hall of Fame standards vary by position, but a C-WAR score of 100 is usually the minimum of being Hall worthy. Ideally a player’s peak is 40+ (averaging 5 wins a year during his peak) and his career average is 60+.

I’d like to note that I think Hall of Fame voters should look at as many numbers as possible, both conventional and advanced when voting. WAR is not the only stat matters, I know this. I’m happy with the results I’ve seen so far in the early stages of C-WAR but I don’t think it’s a definitive answer to who should or should not be in the Hall of Fame. There are players that meet standards by C-WAR that I would argue should not be in, and there are players who fall short that I would argue should. It’s a fun tool that works, but by no means is this meant to provide an absolute answer to a  player’s Hall of Fame candidacy. I also know that there are similar WAR based Hall of Fame monitoring systems out there. Jay Jaffe has a very solid and deep system with JAWS. It works well, and he’s been doing HOF analysis for a long time. Adam Darowski created the awesome Hall of wWAR, and I’m sure there are several more that I’m simply not aware of. I’m not trying to impede on them, or imply that any system works better than the other. I’m sure there will be tweaks to C-WAR along the way. Including a possible name change, as the name currently resembles something that the Kang & Kodos would say on The Simpsons.

In the meantime, while I try to figure out the formatting on WordPress to actually publish C-WAR the way it’s intended to be seen, enjoy the podcasts.  The first episode features long time Hall of Fame voter, Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan. You can listen to that on this site, or download it for free on iTunes

One other note, because C-WAR focuses only on WAR, it makes it impossible for me to include Negro League players who have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Nothing has diluted stats and the history of the game like the exclusion of black players for over fifty years. While I can’t include them in C-WAR, I encourage you to visit the websites for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and the National Baseball Hall of Fame to find out more about them. Who knows how great these players could have been, or how different the record books would look if they were simply allowed to play in the majors.

Many thanks to the incredibly smart people who work at Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, and Baseball Prospectus. Without their tireless efforts to improve and maintain their sites and information none of this research would be possible.

Any questions or comments about the Hall, or a player listed or not listed above, send them to contact@replacementlevelpodcast.com or find me on Twitter @Rosscarey

Originally posted 6/28/12

Updated 10/19/12

Trackbacks

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  2. [...] C-WAR is the cumulative career WAR(P) totals from Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and Baseball Prospectus, plus an eight year peak (five best years in a row, plus 3 best additional years) from Baseball Reference. Click here for more information on C-WAR. [...]

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