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Tigers broadcasters also have no use for WAR

Nov 19, 2012, 9:01 PM EDT

Drew Smyly Getty Images

The Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association has been handing out a Tigers Rookie of the Year award since 1969, counting Mark Fidrych, Lou Whitaker, Curtis Granderson and Justin Verlander among the previous winners. On Monday, they announced the 2012 award, giving it to outfielder Quintin Berry over left-hander Drew Smyly.

Berry hit .258/.330/.354 with two homers, 29 RBI and 21 steals in 291 at-bats for the Tigers last season. He did have a nice run when he first came up, but he hit just .218/.270/.293 in 147 at-bats after the All-Star break.

Baseball-reference puts him at 0.2 WAR for his performance.

Smyly likewise started off better than he finished, but in his case, it was a couple of midseason DL stints that really held him back. He went 4-3 with a 3.99 ERA and a 94/33 K/BB ratio in 99 1/3 innings overall.

That was good for 1.5 WAR at Baseball-reference

Fangraphs WAR does have the two players closer, as it gives Berry a bit more credit for his baserunning and defense. Still, Smyly has a 1.7 to 1.0 lead there.

And I think that’s about right. Berry was a liability after his fast start and struggled in the postseason as well, if the DSBA is taking that into account. Smyly also made most of his impact early, but that impact was more valuable than Berry’s. Also, he pitched well in a couple of late spot starts while the Tigers were putting away the White Sox, allowing just an unearned run over 9 2/3 innings in the team’s 152nd and 157th games of the season. Not that it should matter to anyone outside of Detroit, but Smyly deserved this award.

  1. historiophiliac - Nov 19, 2012 at 9:07 PM

    Agreed, would’ve preferred Smyly get it. When Berry doesn’t get much playing time next year, this will be an odd consolation.

  2. uyf1950 - Nov 19, 2012 at 9:17 PM

    To quote the lyrics from an Edwin Starr song “War huh, yeah, What is it good for, Absolutely nothing”.

    • 18thstreet - Nov 20, 2012 at 10:13 AM

      Can we hold a retirement ceremony for this joke?

    • scatterbrian - Nov 20, 2012 at 12:09 PM

      Why don’t they make the entire plane out of the black box?

  3. proudlycanadian - Nov 19, 2012 at 9:18 PM

    Not surprised at all that Detroit does not believe in WAR. After all, it was Motown singer Edwin Starr who had a hit song in 1970 in which he said that WAR was good for absolutely nothing.

    • seeinred87 - Nov 19, 2012 at 10:56 PM

      Oooh, uyf beat ya by a minute!

      • southofheaven81 - Nov 20, 2012 at 7:09 AM

        Yeah, but he left out the Detroit part.

      • proudlycanadian - Nov 20, 2012 at 7:31 AM

        I know, but I have used the Edwin Starr reference many times and could not resist the added reference to Motown..

      • 18thstreet - Nov 20, 2012 at 10:15 AM

        Yes, but you can never make the same joke too many times! It’s a classic! Get it? WAR/ war? HAHAHHAHA.

        Oh, man. I hope someone can come up with a pun for A-Rod and steroids somehow. Because THAT would be clever.

        Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go catch up on these episodes of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. That guy cracks me up.

  4. kathy - Nov 19, 2012 at 9:22 PM

    He got it cause he’s got those intangibles. Love ya, Q!

  5. joerymi - Nov 19, 2012 at 9:29 PM

    Only two rookies for the bulk of the season. This is a story?

    • historiophiliac - Nov 19, 2012 at 9:41 PM

      Dude, 4 1/2 months til season start. Yes, for now, this is a story.

  6. mtheparrothead - Nov 19, 2012 at 9:41 PM

    @joerymi,

    Yes this was a story. I believe it’s what you just commented on

  7. johnnyb1976 - Nov 19, 2012 at 10:29 PM

    Slow news day today Matthew?

    • historiophiliac - Nov 19, 2012 at 10:46 PM

      If you don’t care about the Tigers go join the others bitching about Loria and Selig. Damn.

  8. humanexcrement - Nov 19, 2012 at 11:00 PM

    Just wait a year or two, when Austin Jackson has a big year and either closely wins or closely loses the vote for some award, Mitch Albom and the rest of the Detroit fanboys will suddenly become huge fans of WAR and UZR and begin vomiting drivel on why AJax should have won MVP or an All-Star roster spot or a Gold Glove or whatever but someone else got it instead. I have faith that Craig and the other HBT writers will be quick to call them out for it. Don’t let us down, guys!

  9. Mark - Nov 19, 2012 at 11:43 PM

    I wouldn’t have a use for WAR either if it showed that all of my arguments were wrong.

    I feel like the Detroit broadcasters are supporters of Truthiness. They feel in their gut that Berry was better, so that’s why they gave him the award as opposed to Smyly. He just didn’t feel like a winner. And like the stalwarts of Truthiness, they shall not let silly things like facts get in the way of their opinions.

  10. kappy32 - Nov 20, 2012 at 12:19 AM

    I have said this many times & I’ll say it again… I am a younger fan, 29 years old, and I place more value on traditional stats than I do sabermetrics. I do, however, believe OPS is a very important stat & it one of the best gauges of overall hitting success. With regards to WAR, I believe it has a place, but I do not believe it is a good barometer or arguing point for the best player in baseball. My main issue with WAR is that it is a positionally determined stat that can be affected based upon the depth of a specific position. For example, Trout MVP proponents used his WAR as evidence he should win the award over Cabrera. That argument is fatally flawed because it is a positional statistic. The average, replacement AAA player at 3B is going to provide more wins than would the average, replacement AAA CF because the talent at the position is significantly better. Given the talent at each position, it was impossible for Cabrera to have a higher WAR than Trout this year. Had WAR been used to determine the MVP, Robinson Cano would’ve finished higher than Cabrera this year, and last year’s MVP would’ve been Ben Zobrist. CF & 2B tend to have a WAR headstart due to the lesser talent found at those positions, thus making the average, replacement AAA player worse at 2B & CF than, say, 3B & 1B.

    With that being said, WAR certainly has it’s place in the game. WAR is a great statistic to determine the best player at a given position. Furthermore, it is an important tool for front offices building teams to use in order to pick out a specific position to build around. For example, WAR tells a GM that his team would have more wins should he sign a top caliber catcher & an average 3B than the team would have should they sign an all-star 3B & an average catcher. Nevertheless, WAR should not be used when determining the best player in baseball & should not be used when giving cross-positional awards.

    • phillyphreak - Nov 20, 2012 at 6:48 AM

      But WAR isn’t really a positional stat. It has a position adjustment based on positional difficulty but that doesn’t make it a positional stat.

      The argument for Trout wasn’t WAR. It was that he was equally valuable offensively and wayyyyyy more valuable on the bases and defensivley. But this has been hashed out a ton around here already.

    • paperlions - Nov 20, 2012 at 7:48 AM

      OPS is a HORRIBLE stat. It adds OBP and SLG, which are each far better on their own because:

      1) OBP is more important than slugging and should be weighted heavier

      and

      2) They are on different scales as OBP is from 0-1 and SLG is from 0-4. 100 pts of OBP is not the same as 100 pts of slugging on their own scales,

      Therefore, adding them is both bad math and bad baseball understanding, resulting in a stat that is misleading and less valuable than its components.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 20, 2012 at 11:48 AM

      That argument is fatally flawed because it is a positional statistic. The average, replacement AAA player at 3B is going to provide more wins than would the average, replacement AAA CF because the talent at the position is significantly better

      Except you’re wrong, and thus the entire reason for you being against (r/f)WAR is wrong. Both of those metrics use a hypothetical “replacement player” and then build from there. The positional adjustment is added at the end of the formula, not the beginning. So it doesn’t matter if there are better AAA CFs than AAA 3b, as it has no factor in the calculation.

      Here’s an entirely too simplistic breakdown of how it works. Take a typical AAA player that anyone has on the roster, this player would put up a line of say, .250/.325/.425 (hypothetical). (f/r)WAR then takes the actual production from our MLB player and calculates his wRAA(1). This is his “offensive” production in the calculation. Next step is baserunning, or UBR(2). After that, we add in the [fWAR] UZR(3) calculation, or “defensive” component. Add to the defensive component a positional adjustment, because playing SS is obviously harder than LF along with an adjustment for time played (more innings in the field = more credit*).

      Add those all up, divide by 10, and you have your fWAR**.

      1 – http://www.fangraphs.com/library/index.php/offense/wraa/
      2 – http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/ultimate-base-running-primer/
      3 – http://www.fangraphs.com/library/index.php/defense/uzr/

      *This was actually a strong point in Trout’s favor that many didn’t mention. Cabrera got more credit for his games played than Trout, as he should. However, even with that credit, Trout still trounced him in f/rWAR because of how much better Trout was in all aspects of the game.

      **rWAR (baseball-reference.com) uses slightly difference calculations. I’m not sure if there’s a primer for it like there is for fangraphs/fWAR, but you might find one on their site. While they use different metrics for the components, it’s calculated in the same manner.

      • grumpyoleman - Nov 20, 2012 at 3:52 PM

        “Obviously” everything stated above is subjective. How about we add all the numbers up and divide by 69. That is something I think we could mostly agree on.

  11. blacksables - Nov 20, 2012 at 2:21 AM

    Let it go. Who cares?

    Whether the Tigers broadcasters do or don’t use sabermetric stats doesn’t matter. It has no impact on the game as its played on the field. This award, or lack of, is not going to make any player any more or any less money.

    They’ve been given the opportunity to vote for whom they want to. That’s what they did. Its called democracy. What you have the right to condemn, they have the right to uphold.

    How does this affect the world in any way outside of you proven ability to piss and moan about any subject you don’t agree with, and your desire to make the world see everything through your eyes?

  12. weaselpuppy - Nov 20, 2012 at 2:52 AM

    Happy that Q got some recognition….21 for 21 (most steals in a season w/o being caught BTW..unmentioned by the author who crowed about Trout’s 45-49 in another debate some of you may have read something about in the last 2 months)….Smyly looks like he’ll be a very nice #4 minimum…Q will struggle to stay on a roster long term…he has a lot of holes in his game but one elite level skill. Smyly just has a lot of above average skills….

    • paperlions - Nov 20, 2012 at 7:53 AM

      A #4/5 starter >>>>>> corner OF with no power, average OB skills, poor defense, but excellent base running.

  13. stercuilus65 - Nov 20, 2012 at 3:17 AM

    Cy Young voters don’t believe in WAR either.

  14. darthicarus - Nov 20, 2012 at 7:08 AM

    Berry won because he dominated the voting in the DSBA special category of Clapping, Rallying, And Pep. Oddly enough this metric was referenced by fans quite a bit near the end of the season & the playoffs. Usually in the context of, “Why is Berry playing? He’s a load of CRAP.”

    • historiophiliac - Nov 20, 2012 at 7:29 AM

      I’m not gonna lie. I did enjoy the clapping.

    • weaselpuppy - Nov 20, 2012 at 5:19 PM

      Nate Robertson gives him a 5 out of 10 on the gum scale…

  15. legacybroken - Nov 20, 2012 at 7:17 AM

    It could be worse it could be one of Jon Heyman’s patented Scott Boras advertisements masquarading as a “news story”.

  16. Detroit Michael - Nov 20, 2012 at 7:33 AM

    Who knows what the voters were thinking, but I doubt the balloting has anything to do with WAR or Wins Above Replacement. Writers and broadcasters simply show strong preferences for position players when both position players and pitchers are eligible for an award.

    • paperlions - Nov 20, 2012 at 7:57 AM

      Yes, the point, I think, is that one of the better ways to compare them is by use of a normalizing statistic that attempts to put player contributions on the same scale.

      The Tigers probably had at least 2 other guys in the minors that could have given them as much or more than Berry, but Berry is 28 and his development won’t suffer from irregular playing time….so he’s the guy they kept on the MLB roster.

      I doubt he makes the roster next year.

      • historiophiliac - Nov 20, 2012 at 1:45 PM

        I doubt he does too. They’ve released Kelly & Raburn now. They want to use Garcia & Castellanos & Dirks — and maybe pick up another lefty. They have Torii now too. I don’t think Q will be around next season.

  17. darthicarus - Nov 20, 2012 at 9:37 AM

    Also, the title for this is misleading as “Tigers Broadcasters” makes me think you are specifically referring to either the TV analysts from Fox Sports (Mario Impemba & Rod Allen) or the radio guys (Dan Dickerson & Jim Price). This voting is from all “Detroit area” reporters…which isn’t exactly the same thing.

  18. pappageorgio - Nov 20, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    Put me in the crowd that thinks the new-school stat guys put far too much weight on the WAR metric.

    First, I think “metric” is a better term for it that “statistic”. Statistics as a part of my daily life in my job and I took several statistics classes in college. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it a “positional” metric, but that is an issue. To me a “statistic” implies that everyone starts on equal footing…..whichdoes not happen with WAR.

    I really like many of the new-school statistics, they really provide a ton of information for us stat people, but I really like a lot of the old-school stats too.

    People really need to take all the stats we have and look at each one and draw conclusions on all of them. place importance on whatever stats you want and make and argument…….but you can’t just come up with this one number with a big red bow around it. Trying to smoosh all of those stats into one pretty number doesn’t work, that’s before we mention that it’s not an objective measure in any way/shape/form and that you’re comparing it to this idea of a fictional replacement player which can also be very difficult to quantify. No player, replacement or everyday, is created equal…..how is it that we can just make up a hard line of what that player would be like?

    Many of the stats used to make up the WAR are great…..but WAR is flawed. Que the new-schoolers telling me I just don’t understand.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 20, 2012 at 11:53 AM

      You don’t understand it, as shown in your second paragraph. See my note above about how it’s calculated.

      Also, if people want to remove the “hypothetical AAA player, r/fWAR can be adjusted against the “average” MLB player. A couple of problems with this are: all calcs have to be adjusted downward, as the average player would put up a 0 f/rWAR as opposed to the 2f/rWAR they usually put up. Also, a lot more players would put up negative numbers, which tends to just look bad.

      Would using average MLB player really make that much of a difference?

      • pappageorgio - Nov 20, 2012 at 1:00 PM

        A true “statistic” would never be adjusted, it is what it is. A true statistic is objective.

        WAR is adjusted and WAR is subjective. WAR is subjective not only because different positions are weghted unequally but because different stats are weighted differently (and no one place can agree on what that formula is).

        No one can simply put in a bunch of stats that measure different abilities/strengths and come out with a number that tells you who is better. WAR is more relivant as a tool for GMs that want to measure the traits they like more in a baseball player, as they would weight each area specifically for the team they wanted to build. In theory, WAR would be calculated differently for each team/GM/manager.

        You can’t make a statistic that tells you a pear is better than an apple based on an equation that assigns numbers for sugar content, texture, ect. WAR doesn’t work because a baseball player can not be broken down into the sum of his parts. Each part is more or less valuable and baseball players are valuable for different reasons. There is, and will never will be, one stat that tells you who’s better.

      • paperlions - Nov 20, 2012 at 2:37 PM

        That is crap. Statistics in general are all adjusted. Data are a record of what happened….statistics are all estimates of parameters intended to measure something in particular and are based on the data. RBI is no more objective than WAR…as all runs that score are not counted…there is an adjustment. RBI are not data, they are a summed statistic….just like BA is an adjustment to the data intended to measure something, and any other statistic….traditional or otherwise.

        Some statistics measure things that are more relevant to winning and production than others.

        WAR works just fine because a players CONTRIBUTIONS can be measured, scaled, and combined….and this can be done effectively because there are many decades and tens of thousands of baseball games of data that tell us how particular contributions lead to runs scored or runs prevented….and runs are the currency of baseball.

        WAR would not be calculated in a unique fashion for every team, because it is not a team-specific stat.

        WAR is not subjective. WAR doesn’t changed based on perception or desire or personal bias. WAR is based 100% on what happened. As an estimate of value, it could be improved….but the fact that it isn’t perfect doesn’t invalidate it’s value.

        There are so many dumb things stated in that post….I can’t even cover them all. Suffice it to say that it is clear you don’t work with data, do analyses, or interpret data/results of analyses.

      • wlschneider09 - Nov 20, 2012 at 6:17 PM

        Not exactly paper. Player contributions on the offensive side can be estimated pretty well ( although WAR overestimates the contributions of base running, much like fantasy baseball does). The defensive side is a crude approximation. Pitching WAR, like most saber stats, relies too strongly on the assumption that pitchers have no control over BABIP. Comparing hitters to pitchers using WAR is the best we can do in terms of making an objective comparison, but it’s still apples and oranges stuff. Add that to the fact that there is no understanding of significance levels for WAR values (I.e. what is a significant difference? 0.5? 1.0?). Maybe we shouldn’t take the WAR is infallible approach to denigrating other posters.

      • wlschneider09 - Nov 20, 2012 at 6:20 PM

        That said, paper is right in that statistics do use weighting and adjustments.

    • grumpyoleman - Nov 20, 2012 at 3:59 PM

      Any comparisons of two people that starts with taking two other people who are not as qualified or refined and may never reach the majors is flawed, subjective, stupid, and several other non-politically correct things to say.

  19. pappageorgio - Nov 20, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    It is subjective the minute you decide the value of a position is greater (or the replacement is less valuable…whatever) or the minute you decide how to value a given skills (fielding vs. batting vs baserunning) against each other.

    Calculating an RBI or a BA is objective…..there is a hard set of rules as to what’s counted and we’re only comparing an RBI vs another RBI, not getting a group of computer nerds in a room to decide that getting a single and stealing a base has more value than getting a double.

    And I work with data every. I work with it in a research setting.

    what you’re saying about WAR isn’t true….it “doesn’t changed based on perception or desire or personal bias”? What are you talking about? Of the major stat site that calculate WAR, they can’t even agree on how it’s calculated? Do you even understand the nature of “objective” and “subjective”? The minute you assign relative values to 2 different skills and plug them in to the same formula you have to have subjectivity, perception, and personal bias……because you are comparing 2 things that are not the same and giving them value in the formula.

    Again……the WAR people’s favorite battle cry is that non-believers just don’t “understand”. The true-believers just choose not to see what they don’t want to (which IS something that is very common when doing statstical reseach/anaylsis).

  20. weaselpuppy - Nov 20, 2012 at 5:22 PM

    I think Q has a good shot at the roster if they add a RH guy that can platoon LF and backup one or two IF spots…Q>>>>>>>>>Worth

    Ryan Roberts, Hairston, etc

  21. riterboy - Nov 21, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    Smyly definitely seems to be more valuable in the long term, but Berry was simply a better “story” for the DSBA:
    – The guy who pretty much everyone gave up on making good
    – Hot start when called up
    – Excellent speed (especially on a generally slow team)

    In comparison, Smyly was merely solid on a consistent basis…yawn ;)

    I don’t disagree that Berry will probably disappear (think Nook Logan), but it seemed that his offense faded as Leyland used him more as a late inning defensive replacement instead of giving him consistent at bats.

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