Finally Up to Date with Baseball-Reference’s New Replacement Level

May 28, 2013 by Adam Darowski

Things have been pretty quiet at the Hall of Stats since the beginning of the season—for many reasons. Of course, more than a few of you have asked me when I’d be updating the site to reflect Baseball-Reference’s new replacement level.

The answer is—finally—today.

In case you missed it, Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs recently announced that they were coming together on how each of their WAR implementations interprets replacement level. Let me be clear that this does not mean they are agreeing on one implementation of WAR. They still calculate it differently with a couple key differences in methodology. And that’s okay.

Sean Forman explains this change well:

The main benefit of this change is that and Fangraphs are now handing out WAR from the same sized basket, so any differences in WAR totals is now due to our differing methodologies for evaluating pitcher value or batter defense, etc rather than just an issue of scaling.

This is good news. A lazy criticism of WAR is that there are multiple implentations. I think that’s fine because there are different ways to interpret value. Forman makes a great analogy to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It does, however, make sense for the two systems to use the same scales and inputs when they can. It was downright annoying for each system to use different replacement level—and doing so was hurting the credibility of the entire framework.

As a result of the updates, Fangraphs WAR values went down a bit across the board while Baseball-Reference’s WAR numbers went up. Because the Hall of Stats is built on Baseball-Reference’s WAR, we needed to re-calculate every number that appears on the site. One reason I was a bit slow to update was that I just did that when we announced franchise pages. But I was finally able to find the time and now we’re up to date.

Here’s What Happened

I gotta tell you—not a whole heck of a lot changed. Because the replacement level change was global and impacted every player, the Hall of Stats was barely affected. But we did have a couple changes.

In the Hall of Stats

Nap Rucker and Frank Tanana are always hovering near the borderline. Rucker has actually spent some time in the Hall of Stats while Frank Tanana was, at one time, a member of the Hall of wWAR. Both are, for now, in.

Remember that the Hall of Stats borderline is much different than the Hall of Fame borderline. There is much more fluctuation and it should be treated that way. Frank Tanana’s Hall of Stats status is much more flimsy than, say, Bret Saberhagen’s. With the Hall of Fame, you’re in or out. Everyone’s the same. Not so here.

Out of the Hall of Stats

I was always surprised that Wilbur Cooper was in the Hall of Stats. Granted, he always hovered near the borderline. Now he’s fallen just short.

Bob Caruthers, meanwhile, is a good example of how the Hall of Stats has evolved. When I first started doing this, Caruthers was one of the two or three best players outside of the Hall of Fame. With several refinements to the WAR formula and my own formula, Caruthers finally finds himself on the outside looking in.

That said, he compiled a Hall Rating of 97 in a very short career and was a huge star. I’d still put him in the Hall.

Two New Faces

I noticed that the Baseball-Reference WAR downloads added two new players since my last update—William Sullivan and Joe Cross. It turns out these are players who had short careers who were only recently discovered. Before, their stats were attributed to other players. Finally, their careers are recognized as their own. We now have 17,941 major league players in the database.

That’s it. Hope you enjoy the update! I’m happy we’re up to date. Up next for me is finishing my duties this week as part of SABR’s 19th Century Overlooked Legend committee (be ready to vote soon!) and then turning my attention to the Hall of Stats poster for SABR 43. That’s right—the Hall of Stats was accepted as a poster presentation!

I’ve also updated the About page (particularly the intro) as I’m constantly trying to better articulate what the Hall of Stats is and what my goals are with it. I’d love it if you’d hop over there and let me know if the explanation is missing anything in particular (or if something is unclear). I want to make it as accessible—but also as complete—as possible.

Thanks for your continued support!

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