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Thread: My Thoughts on WAR and RBI

  1. #61
    2BC, you do not understand how position WAR is calculated or how it fits in to the entire system of individual batting, fielding, baserunning and pitching. It has been explained to you repeatedly in different ways by different people who do understand it. But when you characterize it, you continually misrepresent it as a prior condition to play. It is not. It depends on the results during the season of all players at every position, thereby determining how many runs the average player and the replacement player at the position produce offensively. After all, we're interested in "above replacement," and if replacement level offense varies from position to position, we have to account for it.

    The agile first baseman prevents runs with his agility. This is tallied in the defensive runs above average column. For example, projected over full seasons, Keith Hernandez in 1983 would have had an edge of about 30 runs, about 3 WAR, over Dave Kingman, just on defense alone. 3 WAR is the offensive and defensive output of an above average player. It's as if the Mets had an extra average player on the field when Hernandez replaced Kingman.

    If you look at defensive runs above average, you will see that Hernandez outscores many shortstops, season by season and over a career. Of course a contributing factor is that average defense for a first baseman saves fewer runs than average defense for a shortstop. So in a sense Keith gets a leather bonus to compensate for his position ding.

    In fact, it was the wide publication of WAR more than anything else that helped bring about the reevaluation of Hernandez and first base defense. If Hernandez ever goes into the hall of fame, it will be because of the modern measurement of defense, as captured in WAR totals.

    The inappropriateness of your example, your notion that an agile fielder at first is a loser by the system, this shows that you don't understand WAR. Because you haven't studied it. You have placed a huge millstone between you and the subject in the form of an idee fixe. As Nate Silver would say, be less of a hedgehog and more of a fox.
    Last edited by Jackaroo Dave; 01-22-2013 at 10:36 PM.
    Indeed the first step toward finding out is to acknowledge you do not satisfactorily know already; so that no blight can so surely arrest all intellectual growth as the blight of cocksureness.--CS Peirce

  2. #62
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    Quote Originally Posted by filihok View Post
    I've read a lot about WAR. It isn't something that I (or I imagine most of the people that regularly talk about it) have the data to calculate for themselves, so I'm not going to take it on face value. It does correlate well with my general perception of the quality of a player, although there are outliers that are tough to explain.

    The coefficients are derived from a linear regression based on runs produced, which correlates to wins. So my statement might not have been precisely accuarate on how WAR is calculated, but it also shouldn't be a surprise that it correlates well with wins.


    Quote Originally Posted by filihok View Post
    You didn't read the article before you attempted to discredit it, did you?
    The WAR for each team was figured by adding the WAR for each player on the team.
    Yes, I read it. But you haven't answered the question regarding how this proves that the allocation of WAR to each player is accurate.

    Quote Originally Posted by filihok View Post
    Instead of inferring, why don't you go ahead and do so and then report back.


    I was not writing this to discount WAR. I admittedly have not studied it enough to form a full opinion on it. There are aspects of it i don't necessarily agree with (the way the weights shift from year to year, for example) and other aspects that seem to be a black hole (positional adjustments, baserunning and defense, for example). It may be the best we have, or it may not, but it isn't something I will rely heavily on since I don't have all the data to sit down and calculate it.

    But you are missing my point. You are stating (repeatedly) that WAR must be good because it correlates well with teams wins. I showed that run differential correlates better with team wins. So should that be better than WAR?
    Last edited by Brooklyn; 01-22-2013 at 11:45 AM.

  3. #63
    Quote Originally Posted by Brooklyn View Post
    I've read a lot about WAR. It isn't something that I (or I imagine most of the people that regularly talk about it) have the data to calculate for themselves, so I'm not going to take it on face value. It does correlate well with my general perception of the quality of a player, although there are outliers that are tough to explain.

    The coefficients are derived from a linear regression based on runs produced, which correlates to wins. So my statement might not have been precisely accuarate on how WAR is calculated, but it also shouldn't be a surprise that it correlates well with wins.

    Yes, I read it. But you haven't answered the question regarding how this proves that the allocation of WAR to each player is accurate.

    I was not writing this to discount WAR. I admittedly have not studied it enough to form a full opinion on it. There are aspects of it i don't necessarily agree with (the way the weights shift from year to year, for example) and other aspects that seem to be a black hole (positional adjustments, baserunning and defense, for example). It may be the best we have, or it may not, but it isn't something I will rely heavily on since I don't have all the data to sit down and calculate it.

    But you are missing my point. You are stating (repeatedly) that WAR must be good because it correlates well with teams wins. I showed that run differential correlates better with team wins. So should that be better than WAR?
    How can you assign run differential to a player?

    Since WAR is calculated per player and team totals are exceptionally accurate (100% accuracy would actually be a problem) then WAR must be measuring what it purports to measure, no?

  4. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by filihok View Post
    How can you assign run differential to a player?

    Since WAR is calculated per player and team totals are exceptionally accurate (100% accuracy would actually be a problem) then WAR must be measuring what it purports to measure, no?
    Evaluate hitters on runs scored, and pitchers on fewest runs allowed. Can divide by games or innings to account for playing time.

    Mind you I'm not saying this is a good method - just pointing out that the correlation with team wins doesn't in itself make a state reliable

  5. #65
    Quote Originally Posted by Brooklyn View Post
    Evaluate hitters on runs scored, and pitchers on fewest runs allowed. Can divide by games or innings to account for playing time.

    Mind you I'm not saying this is a good method - just pointing out that the correlation with team wins doesn't in itself make a state reliable
    How well does this correlate with team wins?

  6. #66
    Quote Originally Posted by Brooklyn View Post
    Evaluate hitters on runs scored, and pitchers on fewest runs allowed. Can divide by games or innings to account for playing time.

    Mind you I'm not saying this is a good method - just pointing out that the correlation with team wins doesn't in itself make a state reliable
    The strong relationship between WAR and wins is different from the run diff relationship to wins.

    WAR is an individual stat. Run diff is a team stat. So the fact that the aggregate of individual stats predicts wins about as well as the team stat makes a point about WAR: that it connects individual accomplishment to team results.*

    As I think Brooklyn is pointing out, this is not too surprising, since WAR includes a huge amount of varied data. It summarizes just about all the quantitative information known about a player and relativizes it to the league data. It would fail to line up with wins to some degree only if the various coefficients were biased in some way that favored certain kinds of teams over others. It's difficult to imagine this happening to a degree that would discredit the stat as a predictor.

    not exactly as a corollary, but along the same lines, WAR is a good indicator of relative accomplishment player to player. As a simple fact about data, he closer the players are in context, the more direct the comparison, the fewer estimates to be made about environment, so the more reliable the comparison.

    As another fact about data, even though it is an aggregate at the team level, it works better as a predictor with teams than with individuals, simply because the variation of the sum is less than the sum of the individual variations. (The standard error of the sum is like the standard error of the mean in this respect.)

    That in turn implies that error and bias are more likely when comparing individuals, and, in fact, this is where arguments occur. No one says, "WAR is a highly flawed stat because the Dingoes had the third highest WAR in their division but finished fifith." They say "WAR is highly flawed because it rates Lou Whitaker/middle-infielders equal to/more generously than Johnny Bench/catchers." But this is also unsurprising, because evaluating defense is much more indirect than evaluating offense. It is an undisputed (as far as I know) fact about defense that it is harder to quantify than offense. So that means more subjectivity in defensive evaluations, thus more claims of bias when comparing across classes of defenders.

    I think Brooklyn's demurrals about WAR could be expressed by devising a simpler individual stat that did about as well as WAR in predicting team performance in the aggregate. For example, (TB + BB + SB - 2CS)/PA for offense (and inversely for pitching) and RF * FA for fielding would obviously capture most of the team offense and defense and should predict wins well in a uniform context, and pretty well across similar contexts. But these would be very crude measures of individual ability. Not quite as bad as runs produced per PA, but not very good for comparing players.

    This would establish the claim that a good predictor of team wins can be based on individual performance need not be a good indicator of individual performance. This is the crux of the dispute, I think

    To which filihok's reply would probably be, "Interesting. Let us know how it comes out."

    So that's my understanding of the discussion so far. Am I close?
    _________________
    * Unlike, say, win shares, which works top-down, splitting up and apportioning actual team wins, WAR works bottom-up at the team level (though it works top-down at the league level).
    Last edited by Jackaroo Dave; 01-22-2013 at 03:16 PM.
    Indeed the first step toward finding out is to acknowledge you do not satisfactorily know already; so that no blight can so surely arrest all intellectual growth as the blight of cocksureness.--CS Peirce

  7. #67
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    Quote Originally Posted by filihok View Post
    No. Your thinking is flawed.

    What do Topps cards have to do with defensive metrics? (note: this is a question that I'd really like you to answer)

    Positional adjustments aren't calculated based on what position Topps says they played. They are calculated on where the player actually plays on the field. Given your scenario, each player would be credited with playing however many innings they played at each position. So, each player would get 4+ innings at 1B and 4+ innings at 2B.

    WAR takes away runs just because of where a man plays on the field, and not how well he plays that position. Yeah, I am the one with flawed thinking. Yup. And I know just how much to dock the fella by the position listed on the front of his baseball card. I don't even need to know the man's name. Yup. That's another good idea. And under your half-time averaging scenario as explained above, both guys would be docked five runs (-12.5 plus 2.5 divided by two). And that's despite their amazing versatility and skill to play both positions well enough to hold down a starting job in the major leagues. Minus five for both of them. That's even if they lead the league in whatever fielding metric you want to use. It does not matter to me. Pick one. They still get a minus five. And yet someone else on the other team gets a positive two point five just for staying put. Don't bother looking up his record. That other guy has to be good because he was too good to be stuck at first base with all of the other slugs in the league. (with the exception of our position switching duo). The full time second baseman on the other team is seven and a half runs better than BOTH of them, and that's before you turn the baseball card over.

    Positional Runs... lordy. That's a hoot.
    Last edited by Second Base Coach; 01-22-2013 at 09:54 PM.
    Your Second Base Coach
    Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and Cey started 833 times and the Dodgers went 498-335, for a .598 winning percentage. Thatís equal to a team going 97-65 over a season. On those occasions when at least one of them missed his start, the Dodgers were 306-267-1, which is a .534 clip. That works out to a team going 87-75. So having all four of them added 10 wins to the Dodgers per year.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5hCIvMule0

  8. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by SamtheBravesFan View Post
    Each position has its own offensive expectations; the adjustements reflect that. We do those kinds of things mentally already: "Wow, 100 RBIs from the shortstop? That's incredible!" or "Ryan Howard really needs to drive in 100 runs if he expects to keep his value." This method with WAR is no different.
    WAR takes value away from certain positions "just because". I say every team needs to designate a player to play first base. WAR sees this as a mark against that guy. Even if he plays his position better than the team's shortstop plays HIS position.

    That's like saying the co-pilot is a bad pilot just because he is sitting in the other chair.
    Last edited by Second Base Coach; 01-22-2013 at 09:56 PM.
    Your Second Base Coach
    Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and Cey started 833 times and the Dodgers went 498-335, for a .598 winning percentage. Thatís equal to a team going 97-65 over a season. On those occasions when at least one of them missed his start, the Dodgers were 306-267-1, which is a .534 clip. That works out to a team going 87-75. So having all four of them added 10 wins to the Dodgers per year.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5hCIvMule0

  9. #69
    Quote Originally Posted by Second Base Coach View Post
    WAR takes away runs just because of where a man plays on the field, and not how well he plays that position. Yeah, I am the one with flawed thinking. Yup. And I know just how much to dock the fella by the position listed on the front of his baseball card. I don't even need to know the man's name. Yup. That's another good idea. And under your half-time averaging scenario as explained above, both guys would be docked five runs (-12.5 plus 2.5 divided by two). And that's despite their amazing versatility and skill to play both positions well enough to hold down a starting job in the major leagues. Minus five for both of them. That's even if they lead the league in whatever fielding metric you want to use. It does not matter to me. Pick one. They still get a minus five. And yet someone else on the other team gets a positive two point five just for staying put. Don't bother looking up his record. That other guy has to be good because he was too good to be stuck at first base with all of the other slugs in the league. (with the exception of our position switching duo). The full time second baseman on the other team is seven and a half runs better than BOTH of them, and that's before you turn the baseball card over.

    Positional Runs... lordy. That's a hoot.
    Eye-rolling is not an argument. A good fielder at whatever position he plays will get more fielding runs above average than a poor fielder, no matter what position he plays. Do you not understand this? Do you object?

    If a typical replacement player at one position produces x runs, while one at another position produces x + 5, then replacing the second player is going to take more runs than replacing the first player. Is this so hard to grasp? Do you think it's fallacious?

    There are many kinds of objections in detail to WAR's evaluations. But no one I know who has an understanding of the system raises objections like yours.

    You are like somebody who scoffs at the idea that the world is round because we don't fall off, or that the earth goes around the sun, because we can see the sun going around the earth.

    Are sarcasm and metaphor a substitute for research? Can you learn an object of study by making fun of it? I wish I'd known. It would have made calculus a lot easier.

    On one side there's you and all the other people who haven't studied it, and on the other side are the people who have. If you were a betting man, where would you put your money?
    Last edited by Jackaroo Dave; 01-22-2013 at 10:31 PM.
    Indeed the first step toward finding out is to acknowledge you do not satisfactorily know already; so that no blight can so surely arrest all intellectual growth as the blight of cocksureness.--CS Peirce

  10. #70
    Quote Originally Posted by Second Base Coach View Post
    WAR takes value away from certain positions "just because". I say every team needs to designate a player to play first base. WAR sees this as a mark against that guy. Even if he plays his position better than the team's shortstop plays HIS position.

    That's like saying the co-pilot is a bad pilot just because he is sitting in the other chair.
    Three errors in 4 sentences. Followed by a non sequitur.
    Indeed the first step toward finding out is to acknowledge you do not satisfactorily know already; so that no blight can so surely arrest all intellectual growth as the blight of cocksureness.--CS Peirce

  11. #71
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jackaroo Dave View Post

    As another fact about data, even though it is an aggregate at the team level, it works better as a predictor with teams than with individuals, simply because the variation of the sum is less than the sum of the individual variations. (The standard error of the sum is like the standard error of the mean in this respect.)
    Very well said. this is part of what I wsa trying to say, not quite as eloquently.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jackaroo Dave View Post
    That in turn implies that error and bias are more likely when comparing individuals, and, in fact, this is where arguments occur. No one says, "WAR is a highly flawed stat because the Dingoes had the third highest WAR in their division but finished fifith." They say "WAR is highly flawed because it rates Lou Whitaker/middle-infielders equal to/more generously than Johnny Bench/catchers." But this is also unsurprising, because evaluating defense is much more indirect than evaluating offense. It is an undisputed (as far as I know) fact about defense that it is harder to quantify than offense. So that means more subjectivity in defensive evaluations, thus more claims of bias when comparing across classes of defenders.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jackaroo Dave View Post
    I think Brooklyn's demurrals about WAR could be expressed by devising a simpler individual stat that did about as well as WAR in predicting team performance in the aggregate. For example, (TB + BB + SB - 2CS)/PA for offense (and inversely for pitching) and RF * FA for fielding would obviously capture most of the team offense and defense and should predict wins well in a uniform context, and pretty well across similar contexts. But these would be very crude measures of individual ability. Not quite as bad as runs produced per PA, but not very good for comparing players.

    This would establish the claim that a good predictor of team wins can be based on individual performance need not be a good indicator of individual performance. This is the crux of the dispute, I think.
    yes, that is exactly what I was trying to say. I of course was not implying that runs/PA wsa a good evaulator of performance, but that showing a stat, in aggregated, correlates to team wins dos not in itself prove that the stat is reliable on an individual basis

    Quote Originally Posted by Jackaroo Dave View Post
    To which filihok's reply would probably be, "Interesting. Let us know how it comes out."

    So that's my understanding of the discussion so far. Am I close?
    I'm not sure if I have the data to do that, but would be interested in the result as a purely academic exercise. You nailed the discussion, from my point of view.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jackaroo Dave View Post
    _________________
    * Unlike, say, win shares, which works top-down, splitting up and apportioning actual team wins, WAR works bottom-up at the team level (though it works top-down at the league level). ?
    What happened to win shares? Is that totally out of favor?

    Back on topic, while I understand your point, aren't the coefficients a linear regression from runs produced, which itself is highly correlated to wins? So while it might be bottom-up, wasn't it derived to regressed to maximize run production which approximzes wins? (at least the batting and pitching portions)

  12. #72
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    Again, there are reasons why a multi-time GG winning 1B with a .307 average, over 200 HRs and 1,000 + RBIs and one MVP from a high-profile team cannot crack 30% support for the HOF, but a GG winning 2B with 1,000 RBIs, one MVP and a .285 average made the HOF in his 3rd year eligible. Positional adjustment is not a sabermetric thought. MVP voters and HOF writers have been considering positional scarcity and importance long before sabermetrics. No reason to not try and quantify it.
    Last edited by Bothrops Atrox; 01-23-2013 at 06:24 AM.
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  13. #73
    Quote Originally Posted by Second Base Coach View Post
    WAR takes away runs just because of where a man plays on the field, and not how well he plays that position.
    This IS true. Credit where credit is due.

    Yeah, I am the one with flawed thinking.
    This is also true. Again, credit where credit is due.

    And I know just how much to dock the fella by the position listed on the front of his baseball card. I don't even need to know the man's name. Yup. That's another good idea.
    These are estimates, yes.

    I'm going to ask you a series of questions that I'd like you to actually answer
    Are first basemen typically better hitters than shortstops and catchers?
    Why?
    Why don't teams put good hitting first basemen at SS and catcher instead of at first base?

    Do you think that an average fielding shortstop who hits .300/.400/.500 is equal to an average fielding catcher who hits .300/.400/.500 and both are equal to an average hitting first baseman who hits .300/.400/.500? Why or why not?
    Last edited by filihok; 01-23-2013 at 06:38 AM.

  14. #74
    Quote Originally Posted by Second Base Coach View Post
    WAR takes value away from certain positions "just because". I say every team needs to designate a player to play first base. WAR sees this as a mark against that guy. Even if he plays his position better than the team's shortstop plays HIS position.
    Would Ozzie Smith have been as valuable as a first baseman?
    In 1925, when Gehrig Wally Pipped Wally Pipp Gehrig hit .365/.531. Pipp was a career .341/.408 hitter. And Yankee SS Peewee Wanniger hit .256/.305. Why didn't the Yankees move Gehrig or Pipp to SS?

    As I showed above an excellent first baseman can have more defensive value than a poor SS.

    In 2012 Alcides Escobar was credited with 7 positional runs and -12 runs for his actual defense. A total of -5 runs
    In 2012 Adrian Gonzalez was credited with -11 positional runs and 14 runs for his actual defense. A total of 3 runs.

    Why doesn't Gonzalez play SS instead of 1B? There must be a reason.



    Maybe it'd make more sense if you looked at it this way

    Instead of looking at these numbers:
    Catcher: +12.5 runs
    Shortstop: +7.5 runs
    Second Base: +2.5 runs
    Third Base: +2.5 runs
    Center Field: +2.5 runs
    Left Field: -7.5 runs
    Right Field: -7.5 runs
    First Base: -12.5 runs
    Designated Hitter: -17.5 runs
    What if we said that a DH provides 0 value defensively.
    An average 1Bman provides 5 runs defensively
    An average RFer and LFer provide 10 runs defensively
    An average CFer, 3Bman and 2Bman provide 20 runs defensively
    An average SS provides 25 runs defensively
    An average catcher provides 30 runs defensively.

    Does that make more sense?

    The point you seem to be missing is that the average player who plays 1B isn't as good of a defensive SS as the average guy who plays SS. Makes sense, no? What both the above charts are saying is that if you took an average fielding 1Bman and played him at SS instead of 1B, the team would give up 20 more runs. It certainly makes sense that a team would give up more runs with a 1Bman play SS, does it not?
    Last edited by filihok; 01-23-2013 at 07:23 AM.

  15. #75
    Quote Originally Posted by Brooklyn View Post
    Very well said. this is part of what I wsa trying to say, not quite as eloquently.
    WAR is not a predictor though. It measures what already happened


    yes, that is exactly what I was trying to say. I of course was not implying that runs/PA wsa a good evaulator of performance, but that showing a stat, in aggregated, correlates to team wins dos not in itself prove that the stat is reliable on an individual basis
    Can you give me an example?

  16. #76
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jackaroo Dave View Post
    I think Brooklyn's demurrals about WAR could be expressed by devising a simpler individual stat that did about as well as WAR in predicting team performance in the aggregate. For example, (TB + BB + SB - 2CS)/PA for offense (and inversely for pitching) and RF * FA for fielding would obviously capture most of the team offense and defense and should predict wins well in a uniform context, and pretty well across similar contexts. But these would be very crude measures of individual ability. Not quite as bad as runs produced per PA, but not very good for comparing players.

    This would establish the claim that a good predictor of team wins can be based on individual performance need not be a good indicator of individual performance. This is the crux of the dispute, I think


    To which filihok's reply would probably be, "Interesting. Let us know how it comes out."

    Quote Originally Posted by Brooklyn View Post


    I'm not sure if I have the data to do that, but would be interested in the result as a purely academic exercise.


    Quote Originally Posted by filihok View Post

    Can you give me an example?
    Looks like Jackaroo Dave predicted your response, more or less. Runs scored (hitters) and runs allowed (pitchers) is an example. I would like to run something less simple, like what Dave suggested. Not sure if I have the data.

  17. #77
    Quote Originally Posted by Brooklyn View Post
    Looks like Jackaroo Dave predicted your response, more or less. Runs scored (hitters) and runs allowed (pitchers) is an example. I would like to run something less simple, like what Dave suggested. Not sure if I have the data.
    He's probably ridden this merry-go-round before. I know I have. Both as the horse and the rider.

  18. #78
    Quote Originally Posted by Jackaroo Dave View Post
    I think Brooklyn's demurrals about WAR could be expressed by devising a simpler individual stat that did about as well as WAR in predicting team performance in the aggregate. For example, (TB + BB + SB - 2CS)/PA for offense (and inversely for pitching) and RF * FA for fielding would obviously capture most of the team offense and defense and should predict wins well in a uniform context, and pretty well across similar contexts. But these would be very crude measures of individual ability. Not quite as bad as runs produced per PA, but not very good for comparing players.
    Jackaroo Dave: I have been reading this thread with some interest, but my eyes widened when I read the above passage. In the pure context of hitter performance evaluation, what is so awful about RC/PA for hitters, as long as the following conditions are in place:

    1. The hitter's RC/PA is related to the prevailing average for such RC during his playing years, perhaps also refined as to League[s] in which he played each season?

    2. The intent [context] of the evaluation is made clear: against contemporaries; against contemporaries at specific position[s]; comapred across generations or MLB history or a portion of the whole?

    There are also variations of RC determination, some quite well relayed to actual run scoring within a team or league, some admittedly more down and dirty shortcuts. However, if the presenter makes clear his degree of specificity, where's the problem with RC/PA?

    Just seems strange that one so ready to come to the defense of WAR [at least in general principal] should find notable blanket fault with RC/PA.

  19. #79
    I think there's some confusion about nomenclature. "Runs produced" is a stat that has been around since the 1960s, maybe 50s. See my post on Pie Traynor in Bluesky's Third Base thread in the hall of fame forum for more background.

    It's equal to Runs + RBI - HR. We had a discussion about it in the stats thread a while ago, concerning the wisdom of throwing out homers. I don't think anyone now, even its fans, and they are out here, would claim that it's a good comprehensive stat. Something to look at, but not the One True Great Stat. Its critics think it's mostly a function of choice of teammates.

    Runs created, as you know, is something very different, a multiplicative stat that Bill James thought up as TB*OBA, and which has gone through refinements in various directions, some which are pretty much indistinguishable from linear weights based offense.

    I pretty much agree with all you said. The qualifications you mentioned are the ones I tend to follow. I like the original version when I'm in a hurry. RC/AB, instead of PA, you can pretty much do in your head by multiplying SLG * OBA.
    Indeed the first step toward finding out is to acknowledge you do not satisfactorily know already; so that no blight can so surely arrest all intellectual growth as the blight of cocksureness.--CS Peirce

  20. #80
    JD: Thanks - got it.

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