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Bench v Whitaker? Does WAR favor infielders and depreciate catchers?

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  • Bench v Whitaker? Does WAR favor infielders and depreciate catchers?

    I split this off from Dom's thread on WAR and position because Willshad raised an interesting point I wanted to go into without hijacking the thread.

    In the thread on position and WAR value, Willshad makes a succinct but very strong argument:
    Bench actually played 2158 games, which is a decent amount. He has .9 more WAR than Lou Whitaker, in about a seasons worth less games played. They are almost identical, according to WAR. . . . . Somewhere along the line, catchers are getting cheated out, and/or good fielding infielders are getting overrated..and it has nothing to do with the amount of games played. You can pretty much add 1 WAR each season, and 2 WAR for each great season of a catcher's career in order to even things out.
    Over there we have Lou Whitaker, a solid second baseman, universally admired and respected. Over here we have Johnny Bench, a titan, Hercules in shin guards, a god who walked the earth--and WAR says they are about the same in value. QED.

    With an apparent mismatch of this magnitude, looking at the comparisons in detail should reveal where WAR goes wrong, but I can't find it.

    (Edit: One reason I did this was to familiarize myself with WAR. I'd be grateful for any checking and comments on errors.)

    The first component of (BBREF) WAR we can check off quickly is Rrep, the approximately 20 run annual difference between league average and replacement value, pro-rated for playing time. This is uniform for all players at all positions. Since he actually played a bit more than Bench (15% more PA), Whitaker takes the lead here, 314 to 261 runs.

    There were more runs scored in Whitaker's era, so the upper bound of replacement runs is 22 for Lou, while it is only 20 for Bench. Otherwise, Whitaker would only be leading 300 to 261. But parity is restored out when runs are converted into wins at the end. So this part seems equitable, provided the league run disparity is properly handled.

    The next set of runs is attributable to position played, again pro-rated over playing time. A second baseman gets a possible 4-run bump per year, while a catcher gets a possible 9-run bump. I don't think we can argue that Bench is cheated here. However, over about 15 full-time years, Bench racks up only 89 position runs, both because he missed a lot of games—as catchers do—and he played a good bit of third and outfield, without the bump. So he “only” averages 6 runs per full time season. Whitaker stayed in the lineup much more consistently at a lower rate, so he managed to accumulate 50 position runs. He still leads, 364 to 350.

    With batting runs, Bench pulls decisively ahead, racking up 269 to Whitaker's 209. This is the number of runs above average that a player earns by batting. Again, this calculation is position blind. It neither favors infielders nor deprecates catchers. Bench had a higher OPS+; Whitaker had a longer career. The bias favoring Whitaker that his era was more productive will be repaid at the end, because wins will cost more runs for Whitaker. Bench leads 619 to 573.

    Runs fielding may raise some eyebrows and hackles: Bench is 6th all time in catchers' runs fielding, with 72, behind Irod (146), Sundberg (114), Carter (112), Boone (106), and Ausmus (79). Part of this surprising result is due to number of innings caught, but Bench also gets his 72 the hard way, earning 97 fielding runs as a catcher, and then losing over a quarter of his total, 25, by his poor defense at third and in the outfield. Whitaker, on the other hand, finished 9th all time among second basemen with 77 runs fielding, all at second base.

    I asked BB-REF how much confidence they really had in their defensive ratings right now, and I got the answer that they were confident they could divide fielders into weak, average, and good, but nothing more finely grained than that. Whitaker had about 19000 innings, at second, about 30% more than Bench's 14488 at catcher. Bench spent 3225 innings more at other positions—about 18% of his total. So I guess we could say that Bench was among the best of catchers 82% of the time and a lousy third baseman or outfielder for 18%, while Whitaker was an excellent 2nd baseman who—again—put in a lot more time at his specialty. So they come out about even. I'm completely comfortable with that assessment. It seems obvious to me, actually, having walked it through.

    691-650, Bench.

    Bench was a surprisingly good baserunner for a catcher. He wound up only two runs below league average for his career: He was 60-43 as a base stealer, took about 200 bases on flies, wild pitches, etc. and got caught 80 times; and he took an extra base 40% of the time, which is very good for a catcher. Unsurprisingly, Lou was better, more baserunning gain with higher success rates:143 SB to 75 CS, 326 bases taken, 102 times out on basepath, and a 50% extra base taken ratio, which is very good, period. He scored 34% of his times on base to Bench's 27%, earning 32 base running runs above average all told.

    Bench, 689; Whitaker 682.


    Finally, Whitaker grounded into 143 double plays (10 per 162 games) making him 16 runs above average, while Bench hit into 201 (15 per 162), for 15 runs below average. Again, a position-neutral stat.

    Bench 674, Whitaker 698.

    When these are converted, Whitaker pays more for his wins, so they come out to 72.3 WAR for Bench and 71.4 for Whitaker. For the life of me, I cannot see where any rank injustice was done to Bench as a catcher. He lost 25 runs playing out of position, 31 runs on double plays, and 34 runs on other baserunning. That's 9 WAR, or two very good seasons, and lord knows how much he lost for missing games. It's not WAR's fault; it's the blight catchers are born for.

    For what it's worth, using a completely different approach, Bill James scores their career values about the same in his 2nd historical abstract: 356 career win shares for Bench, 351 for Whitaker.

    I think the surprising result is more due to their different career arcs than positions. Bench's peaks are prominent and uniquely high, his two MVP seasons and two near misses, overshadowing all those games they had him fooling around at third and in the outfield to keep his bat in the lineup without killing him. Whitaker was the second coming of Charlie Gehringer, routinely good seasons, year after year, no promontories at all.

    If you were to look at peak value you'd come up with a very different story. Career WAR writes down and weighs all that little stuff we tend to forget, as well as the MVP awards and the caught stealing records that stick in our minds.

    Or if you looked at wins above average, you could drop Whitaker's 314 and Bench's 260 replacement runs, scoring Bench 414 to Whitaker 384.That would put Bench about 45 wins above average, Whitaker around 40. Career WAR favors consistent, long-career players, and that is one reason I like it.
    Last edited by Jackaroo Dave; 10-14-2012, 06:54 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
    Originally posted by Jackaroo Dave View Post

    The next set of runs is attributable to position played, again pro-rated over playing time. A second baseman gets a possible 4-run bump per year, while a catcher gets a possible 9-run bump. I don't think we can argue that Bench is cheated here. However, over about 15 full-time years, Bench racks up only 89 position runs, both because he missed a lot of games—as catchers do—and he played a good bit of third and outfield, without the bump. So he “only” averages 6 runs per full time season. Whitaker stayed in the lineup much more consistently at a lower rate, so he managed to accumulate 50 position runs. He still leads, 364 to 350.
    If I understand this correctly, this means that WAR gives a C a bonus of 9 RC per year.

    If that is so, it credits a full time C with roughly the equivalent of 8 fewer outs, along with 5 more singles and 3 more homers.

    If that is true, than that would be false. A catcher saves every other player in the line up from having to squat 50% of the time, from taking collisions at home plate, from wearing hot protective gear 50% of the game, from taking balls off the fingers, shoulders, face mask, etc. The effect on the other players hitting would never be so minimal as this 'bonus.'

    The problem with a 'bonus' like this is that it minimizes the effect that catching has on hitting and running.

    Had Bench switched to 2B, and Whitaker to catcher, Bench's hitting (and running) would have improved dramatically and Whitaker's plummeted. The gain and the loss for each would have been far more than 5 RC per year (difference between 2B and C). While it might be true that actual defensive fielding runs would change for both, that is a completely separate issue.
    Last edited by drstrangelove; 10-14-2012, 09:11 PM.
    "It's better to look good, than be good."

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by drstrangelove View Post
      If I understand this correctly, this means that WAR gives a C a bonus of 9 RC per year.
      If that is so, it credits a full time C with roughly the equivalent of 8 fewer outs, along with 5 more singles and 3 more homers.

      If that is true, than that would be false. A catcher saves every other player in the line up from having to squat 50% of the time, from taking collisions at home plate, from wearing hot protective gear 50% of the game, from taking balls off the fingers, shoulders, face mask, etc. The effect on the other players hitting would never be so minimal as this 'bonus.'
      The problem with a 'bonus' like this is that it minimizes the effect that catching has on hitting and running.

      Had Bench switched to 2B, and Whitaker to catcher, Bench's hitting (and running) would have improved dramatically and Whitaker's plummeted. The gain and the loss for each would have been far more than 5 RC per year (difference between 2B and C). While it might be true that actual defensive fielding runs would change for both, that is a completely separate issue.
      I will do the best I can with this, though it is a case of the blind leading the blind, and I hope others more knowledgeable will weigh in. First, the 9 runs (and the second baseman's 4 runs) are runs above average. In other words, zero is the midpoint not the floor. The figure 9 is reached by determining the runs of the average player at that position in relation to overall league average. It's not just pulled out of the air as an estimate of the position's worth to the team. Since catchers as a group average 9 runs below league average, a catcher whose production equals league average is 9 runs above average for his position. A second baseman with league average production is 4 runs above average for his position; I believe a center fielder is 1 run below average.

      The extra beating that a catcher takes does not enter into the calculation of WAR at all. That just isn't something it counts. Of course such things are important in measuring a player's contribution to the team, but this statistic does not measure them, any more than Batting average or RBI do. It doesn't set itself up to do that. There is a replacement runs category, a position runs category, fielding, batting, baserunning, and double play runs categories. There is no runs-for-debilitating-conditions category.

      Willshad proposes an extra WAR per season for an ordinary catcher's performance; an extra two wins for an outstanding one. It seems much easier and less messy to add on an external position bonus in this way than to try to revamp WAR so that it accounts for discomfort, likelihood of injury, shortened seasons and careers, time forced out of position, psychological stress, however far you want to take it, for every position.

      Because WAR purports to account for wins and runs from offense and defense, it seems reasonable to assume that this uberstat is supposed to count for everything. It isn't. It doesn't, and one shouldn't claim it does. or fault it for not doing so. Posters have several times reminded us that WAR isn't intended to compare players holistically. I thought it was pretty clear that the discussion is confined to the numbers that players put up--or fail to put up--not the underlying physical or other causes. In a post on the parent thread to this one, I went on at too great length about the extra burden catchers bear, pointing out that WAR does not deal with them. I guess I sort of felt that would carry over here. I'm sorry if my post was misleading.
      Last edited by Jackaroo Dave; 10-14-2012, 10:10 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

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Jackaroo Dave View Post
        I will do the best I can with this, though it is a case of the blind leading the blind, and I hope others more knowledgeable will weigh in. First, the 9 runs (and the second baseman's 4 runs) are runs above average. In other words, zero is the midpoint not the floor. The figure 9 is reached by determining the runs of the average player at that position in relation to overall league average. It's not just pulled out of the air as an estimate of the position's worth to the team. Since catchers as a group average 9 runs below league average, a catcher whose production equals league average is 9 runs above average for his position. A second baseman with league average production is 4 runs above average for his position; I believe a center fielder is 1 run below average.

        The extra beating that a catcher takes does not enter into the calculation of WAR at all. That just isn't something it counts. Of course such things are important in measuring a player's contribution to the team, but this statistic does not measure them, any more than Batting average or RBI do. It doesn't set itself up to do that. There is a replacement runs category, a position runs category, fielding, batting, baserunning, and double play runs categories. There is no runs-for-debilitating-conditions category.

        Willshad proposes an extra WAR per season for an ordinary catcher's performance; an extra two wins for an outstanding one. It seems much easier and less messy to add on an external position bonus in this way than to try to revamp WAR so that it accounts for discomfort, likelihood of injury, shortened seasons and careers, time forced out of position, psychological stress, however far you want to take it, for every position.

        Because WAR purports to account for wins and runs from offense and defense, it seems reasonable to assume that this uberstat is supposed to count for everything. It isn't. It doesn't, and one shouldn't claim it does. or fault it for not doing so. Posters have several times reminded us that WAR isn't intended to compare players holistically. I thought it was pretty clear that the discussion is confined to the numbers that players put up--or fail to put up--not the underlying physical or other causes. In a post on the parent thread to this one, I went on at too great length about the extra burden catchers bear, pointing out that WAR does not deal with them. I guess I sort of felt that would carry over here. I'm sorry if my post was misleading.
        First, I can move this post if you think it belongs elsewhere. Just say so. Second, I understand and agree with the concept that WAR does not model everything. But models are never perfect and often need to be fixed. The outliers are typically the evidence that the model does not work.

        WAR has numerous implicit assumptions. One of them is that the only value a player brings to his team from hitting occurs when he is actually hitting. I find that to be categorically false.

        1) if you compare games played at C versus every other position, it's clear that people are unable to play catcher as often. This is obviously not because the seasons are too long or the players lazy. It's because a person can only catch so often before the toll of physical demands on the job become too much. In the entire history of baseball, only 27 times has a person caught 150 or more games in a season. That is just one time every 4 years. If the job affects you that much, it's fairly obvious that it detrimentally affects your hitting. Teams don't swap catchers for platoon reasons. The catchers get worn out.

        2) using career offensive WAR only, the top catcher is tied for 66th. Does that make any sense to anyone, even allowing for the number of games played?

        3) worse and more telling still is that using single season offensive WAR, the top catcher is tied for 67th. The second best was Joe Mauer who was tied with 24 players at 213th. Does this makes sense to anyone that Piazza, Campanella, Berra, Bench, Mauer and all the other catchers in history can only manufacture one season better than Roberto Alomar, Fred Lynn and Cesar Cedeno in offensive WAR? Really? Are we to believe that minor league scouts/managers 'know' who the weakest hitters are and make them catchers? That the reason there are no great hitting seasons for catchers is that people uncannily predicted the lack of great offensive prowess of catchers at the age of 18?

        There is ample, evidence of the injuries and physical problems with which catchers play. There are the numerous quotes of players and managers to the effect of many catchers being the most valuable players on their teams AND playing hurt for large chucks of the season. Is this because people who play and manage baseball don't understand what WAR seems to know, or is it that WAR doesn't understand enough about baseball to properly evaluate catchers? Is it reasonable to assume that if we move other players to catcher that their offensive numbers would not decline? That Henderson as a catcher still has the legs to steal 1,500 bases? That Mantle as a catcher with his bad knees still can run out grounders? That Williams as a catcher taking foul ball after foul ball off his shoulders and fingers plus one or two violent collisions each year would still hit .344?

        So, the bottom line to me, is that WAR does one thing consistently across all teams. It degrades and undervalues the role of catchers. It does so by assuming implicitly that catchers offensive WAR is fairly judging their contribution to the team. Using the logic of WAR, if catchers had to catch bare handed and as a result had negative offensive WAR, they would be regarded as useless to the team and borderline replacement level players.

        When a model displays your contributions and the major driver is the luck of which position you are made to play in, then the model needs to be fixed. When a player loses offensive WAR by playing catcher he does not become worse as a player, anymore than if a catcher moving to first and gaining offensive WAR become better. The person playing catcher helps the team by not forcing another player to lose offensive WAR. The fact that every catcher does this for every team is something that the model ignores 'democratically' by screwing each catcher equally.

        It works in the model because the model is built around how teams score runs.


        Earlier I said that to WAR (offensive WAR) the only value a player brings to his team from hitting occurs when he is actually hitting. This is tantamount to football saying that the only value a player brings to scoring is actually scoring. Football has it right. The offensive line is rightly regarded as one of the key components of a winning team. They don't score touchdowns. They don't stop touchdowns. They don't rush, receive or pass. But they are mandatory so that other people can. Catchers make it possible for 7-8 other players to go up to the plate and swing the bat while playing less physically demanding positions while catchers take the injuries that come from being a catcher. They deserve more recognition not because it's hard but because the rest of the team hits better because they don't have to catch.
        Last edited by drstrangelove; 10-15-2012, 10:18 AM.
        "It's better to look good, than be good."

        Comment


        • #5
          Interesting stuff. I think Berra's case is even more troublesome than Bench's. His 56.1 WAR in over 2100 games would make him a borderline HOFer, or even worse, if he played any other position. By comparison, Kenny Lofton has 64.9 WAR in about the same number of games.

          Comment


          • #6
            ^Doc,

            If you look at my original post charitably, you will see a litany of observations about the toll catching takes. I don't see any way for WAR to account for this based on the data it uses, and we don't ask that of any other compound statistic. We are both aware of the same facts. You maintain that WAR makes an implicit promise to account for catcher debilitation; I don't see any evidence for that.

            Our disagreement is about WAR, not about catching, and frankly, I don't know how it could be resolved. I think the waters have been too muddied by its misapplication in emotionally fraught contexts here over the years.

            (I will say, though, that if you maintain catcher compensation should be intrinsic to WAR, rather than applied afterwards--like league quality, for example--you should somehow support the claim that it could even be done, given the constraints in calculating the statistic. Bonus runs bestowed on catchers will have to come from somewhere. How do you propose to adjust the current method so that the books still balance?)

            When Willshad pointed to Bench and Whitaker and said, "I refute WAR thus," I interpreted him as saying Bench's numbers, not his suffering, made the difference. He can straighten me out, and I apologize if I misrepresented him.

            I'm utterly baffled by your offer to move my thread. (Edit: Well, no wonder I was baffled; you were talking about your post. Sorry. No, it's fine; it spells out the position very clearly. I'm responsible for making my own clear.)
            Last edited by Jackaroo Dave; 10-15-2012, 05:44 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

            Comment


            • #7
              Just for the record, here is my pre-original post, in reponse to Willshad's observation, and the starting point for my post at the top of the thread. You can see that it anticipates much that drstrangelove covers in this thread, as an explanation why highly regarded catchers have the same WAR as less regarded peers.

              I was surprised to see this, but thinking it over, we do give catchers a huge subjective position bounce for reasons that are not captured in the stats: seasons are shortened, careers are shortened, batting performance is impaired. Baserunning usually disappears. Except for pitchers, everyone else plays the field more or less relaxed comfort. Catchers play in continual discomfort, punctuated by acute pain, punctuated by occasional excruciating pain. Neither WAR nor any other stat compensates for these extra obstacles, but fans can, do, and should.

              (Edit: One consequence of this is that most players would probably not be catchers if they had a choice. I don't know how many good hitters chose to play other positions, but we all know of players who would have never made it at any other position.)

              In his second historical abstract, Bill James ranks the top 100 players. The highest ranked catcher is Josh Gibson, number 9. The highest ranked MLB catcher is Berra at number 41, then come Bench and Campy close behind, Cochrane and 1999 Piazza in the seventies, and Fisk in the nineties, and that's it. My point is that by far the highest ranked catcher is the one ranked by reputation, not by numbers.

              His approach begins with team wins, so it works in reverse from WAR. James was uncomfortable with the low ranking that Bench got and he pointed out it was still better than what other statisticians could come up with.

              But think about it. Suppose Berra or Gabby Hartnett, or Fisk, or even Cochrane and Dickey had put up the same numbers as third basemen. How many would be top tier HOFers? Suppose Hodges had put up the same numbers as a catcher. Would there even be an argument over his qualifications? No, because we quite properly grant an extrastatistical hardship bonus to catchers.
              Last edited by Jackaroo Dave; 10-15-2012, 05:37 PM. Reason: boldface
              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

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by willshad View Post
                Interesting stuff. I think Berra's case is even more troublesome than Bench's. His 56.1 WAR in over 2100 games would make him a borderline HOFer, or even worse, if he played any other position. By comparison, Kenny Lofton has 64.9 WAR in about the same number of games.
                I think it would be more enlightening to compare Berra's WAR to Bench's, because we have two candidates for the best catcher ever, both spending a good bit of time at other positions, yet a pretty substantial difference in favor of Bench. There doesn't seem to be a subjective balance here as there would be with Lofton. If you held a gun to my head and asked, "Bench or Berra?" at this point I'd just say, "Go ahead, shoot me."

                Is WAR unjust to Berra? Too gentle with Bench? Does the hardship bonus go out the window, or is it reconfigured? Is WAR useless for comparing catchers to one another? Or does the big edge for Bench actually help settle the question?

                These aren't rhetorical questions, and I really do think they are interesting ones if you want to get a handle on WAR. If you feel WAR is all bathwater, no baby, then they probably aren't.

                (Edit: I went to Fangraphs to compare Bench and Berra and on Berra's front page there was a link to an article asking if WAR is unfair to Posada: http://fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php...sada-unfairly/

                It discusses Bench and Berra as well, and I'm embarrassed to say that I'm much more in agreement with Doc and Willshad than with the author, whose point is that Posada is demonstrably lower in WAR than Dawson, the HOF baseline, while Bench and Berra are higher. It's pretty mush-minded stuff, so maybe I'm mistaken about the WARriors' self consciousness.)
                Last edited by Jackaroo Dave; 10-15-2012, 06:21 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

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Jackaroo Dave View Post
                  ^Doc,

                  If you look at my original post charitably, you will see a litany of observations about the toll catching takes. I don't see any way for WAR to account for this based on the data it uses, and we don't ask that of any other compound statistic. We are both aware of the same facts.
                  I saw your other post after this one. I agree with it.

                  Originally posted by Jackaroo Dave View Post
                  You maintain that WAR makes an implicit promise to account for catcher debilitation; I don't see any evidence for that.
                  If I said that, it would have been a typo since I believe the opposite.

                  Originally posted by Jackaroo Dave View Post
                  Our disagreement is about WAR, not about catching, and frankly, I don't know how it could be resolved. I think the waters have been too muddied by its misapplication in emotionally fraught contexts here over the years.

                  (I will say, though, that if you maintain catcher compensation should be intrinsic to WAR, rather than applied afterwards--like league quality, for example--you should somehow support the claim that it could even be done, given the constraints in calculating the statistic. Bonus runs bestowed on catchers will have to come from somewhere. How do you propose to adjust the current method so that the books still balance?)

                  When Willshad pointed to Bench and Whitaker and said, "I refute WAR thus," I interpreted him as saying Bench's numbers, not his suffering, made the difference. He can straighten me out, and I apologize if I misrepresented him.

                  I'm utterly baffled by your offer to move my thread. (Edit: Well, no wonder I was baffled; you were talking about your post. Sorry. No, it's fine; it spells out the position very clearly. I'm responsible for making my own clear.)
                  My proposal is this for runs created each season:

                  catchers = RC + x

                  all other positions (1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF, DH) would each be calculated as: RC -x/8

                  where RC equals runs created and x equals the average impact of catching on runs created. This is overly simple since it has to be modified to allocate along some metric (e.g., games played, plate appearances).

                  Benefits:

                  1) RC still adds up based upon actual in game hitting
                  2) it correctly adjusts for the invalid assumption that position does not affect hitting
                  3) it properly re values each player's contribution to team success within each season
                  4) it corrects for the obvious anomaly for catchers single season WAR figures
                  5) it corrects for the obvious anomaly that catchers are routinely valued highly among baseball experts but not by WAR

                  It does NOT credit catchers for games not played at catcher.


                  So what is x going to be? Good question that many will argue about. However, like many things, we may not know exactly what is, but we know what it isn't. It isn't 300 and it's not 0. It's something that will cause single season offensive WAR figures from catchers to appear more comparable to other positions (whereas now the top 2 seasons are 67th and 213th.) It's something that will explain why Berra, Campanella, Bench and Cochrane were revered.
                  Last edited by drstrangelove; 10-15-2012, 08:07 PM.
                  "It's better to look good, than be good."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by drstrangelove View Post
                    If I said that, it would have been a typo since I believe the opposite.
                    My bad. You criticize WAR's implicit rejection of the importance of catcher debilitation.
                    My proposal is this for runs created each season:
                    catchers = RC + x
                    all other positions (1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF, DH) would each be calculated as: RC -x/8
                    where RC equals runs created and x equals the average impact of catching on runs created. This is overly simple since. . .
                    Benefits: . . .
                    So what is x going to be? Good question that many will argue about. However, like many things, we may not know exactly what is, but we know what it isn't. It isn't 300 and it's not 0.
                    Excellent point about a lot of numbers; not made often enough.
                    It's something that will cause single season offensive WAR figures from catchers to appear more comparable to other positions (whereas now the top 2 seasons are 67th and 213th.) It's something that will explain why Berra, Campanella, Bench and Cochrane were revered.
                    Lots to think about here. I still feel from what you've described it would be simpler and maybe work as well to keep that piece separate from the WAR machinery. My reasons would be a lot of "but what are you going to do about blah? Shouldn't WAR then also have a mechanism for bleh?" Lots of possible unintended consequences (which themselves might be revealing).

                    But that kind of discussion would be illuminating.
                    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

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Jackaroo Dave View Post
                      My bad. You criticize WAR's implicit rejection of the importance of catcher debilitation.

                      Excellent point about a lot of numbers; not made often enough.Lots to think about here. I still feel from what you've described it would be simpler and maybe work as well to keep that piece separate from the WAR machinery. My reasons would be a lot of "but what are you going to do about blah? Shouldn't WAR then also have a mechanism for bleh?" Lots of possible unintended consequences (which themselves might be revealing).

                      But that kind of discussion would be illuminating.
                      This is a very good point. I really haven't given this the thought you and others have and I gladly defer. Conceptually, I know where I'd like this to end up, but I certainly think there's ways to handle it better than other ways.
                      "It's better to look good, than be good."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        My solution is rather simple. I conclude that because catchers play fewer games a season, and shorter careers that if a team loses a catcher they will tend to get an even lower replacement level (because their "replacement" catcher also would play fewer games per season and would not last as long.

                        A typical player gets 22 runs above replacment for being "average", but the longest career catchers only make it to about 2/3 as many games as the longest career position players. That would mean that comparatively that a team will end up with a sub replacement player in 1/3 of the games that a starter can not go because of longevity and wear issues. What is a sub-replacement level catcher? A replacement level catcher is set at about 64% of the win level of an average catcher, so I set it at 64% of that, or 40% of that. That would give every catcher about +1.44 WAR for every 162 games caught, or in Bench's case about +16 war giving him about 88 which is somewhere around 25 and higher with LQ and post season and peak considerations.

                        Also this value is probably "real". We can argue over the "sub-replacment" level but we can't really argue that over a decade a team will be more likely to have games played at catcher by someone who is not #1 or #2 in an organization's depth chart, than at other positions. Basically I am positing that the "replacment level" at catcher should be lower, but not adjusting the positional value. The positional value itself seems a little low because catchers underproduce shortstops by a little more than 2 runs per season given baserunning issues. And we also are still not crediting catchers for being better at calling games or whose pitchers do not hold runners well, but if the defensive metric is right it should work.

                        If we give Berra 1.44 war per 162 games caught he rises to 71, and we still need to look at peak, and post season performance to rank him.

                        correction, actually my premise that catcher's only last 2/3 as much would mean that a catcher should get only 1/3 of the sub replacement value per 162, or 1/3 of 1.44, or .48 (about .5) given a third string catcher level of 20% winning percentage. It may be however that a backup backup catcher is even lower than this. I have seen teams who have had an injured started and their sub sub catcher puts up a near 0 OPS+ and perhaps a near 0 win level, which would be about -4 WAR, or -1.33 for 1/3 time replacment.

                        OK, well give a catcher somewhere between .5 and 1.33 wins per 162 games caught, whatever seems right if you want. Keep in mind that Bench has 72 WAR in 2100 games. That would be about 100 in 3000 games so using a weighted method also brings catchers closer.
                        Last edited by brett; 10-16-2012, 03:31 PM.

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                        • #13
                          There is also a possibility that Berra is a bit overrated due to the MVPs, playing in an era of few stars, and of course by being on the Yankees. How much better, really, is he than a guy like Ted Simmons?

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                          • #14
                            --As a hitter I'd say Berra was only a little better than Simmons. The bigger difference and much harder (perhaps impossible) to quantify is how much more Berra contributed behind the plate. I don't think Berra was an all time great defender, but he was at least above average by all accounts. Simmons was below average. Thats just in fielding the position.
                            --What may be more important is handling the pitchers and Berra was widely regarded as being great at that. The Yankees of the Stengal era ran though alot of pitchers and virtually all of them did better - in many cases much better - pitching to Berra than than had elsewhere. Now some of that is due to the Yankee defense and the fact they no longer had to pitch to the Yankees, but probably some of the credit has to go to Berra (at the time MOST of the credit went to him). Berra was the leader of a team that won the pennant all but 2 years from 1949-60 with him as their regular catcher. Simmons never was recognized as a particularly good handler of pitchers or as a team leader. Of course if his teams had won more that may not be the case, but that is a chicken/egg question we can never know the answer to.

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