Study on the Accuracy of Wins Above Replacement in 2012

In last year’s study, I found a .88 correlation between Wins Above Replacement and actual wins. This year is a slightly different story, but WAR still shows as a telling statistic.

WAR is a heavily debated statistic. There’s controversy over which version of WAR is better — BP, FanGraphs, or BR — and there’s debate about whether or not ERA, FIP, or xFIP should be used to calculate WAR for pitchers. The following study uses fWAR.

As much debate as there is, WAR is a fairly accurate predictor of a team’s record even with the inconsistencies and flaws in some of the stats. Before we get into the data, here’s how to project a team’s wins with WAR:

In any given year there would are 2430 wins total between all 30 teams (81*30 = 2430). This year FanGraphs gave out a total of 1150.7 WAR, leaving the league replacement level at 2430 minus 1150.7, or 1279.3.

To find the replacement level per team, divide 1279.8 by 30, which equates to 42.6. So, to project a team’s record based on WAR, add 42.6 to their total WAR. Now, let’s explore the 2012 WAR data.

Here is a list of every team’s batting WAR, pitching WAR, and total WAR:

Team Batting WAR Pitching WAR Total WAR
St. Louis 35.0 18.9 53.9
Milwaukee 35.1 16.6 51.7
Washington 30.0 21.4 51.4
NY Yankees 31.0 20.3 51.3
Texas 26.9 24.0 50.9
Arizona 27.9 20.9 48.8
Atlanta 30.2 18.4 48.6
Cincinnati 27.3 21.1 48.4
LA Angels 38.0 9.9 47.9
Detroit 21.2 24.8 46.0
Tampa Bay 22.3 23.3 45.6
San Francisco 30.5 14.6 45.1
Philadelphia 24.4 19.3 43.7
Oakland 23.4 18.1 41.5
LA Dodgers 21.9 16.8 38.7
Chicago Sox 18.8 18.1 36.9
Boston 20.3 13.7 34.0
Pittsburgh 21.6 12.2 33.8
NY Mets 20.8 12.5 33.3
Miami 16.5 15.8 32.3
San Diego 26.4 5.7 32.1
Kansas City 17.0 15.0 32.0
Baltimore 15.3 16.6 31.9
Colorado 18.8 12.0 30.8
Minnesota 22.5 5.5 28.0
Seattle 14.0 13.5 27.5
Toronto 16.6 7.6 24.2
Chicago Cubs 14.5 7.7 22.2
Cleveland 12.2 7.8 20.0
Houston 10.2 8.0 18.2

Last year I determined that the correlation between WAR and actual wins for the 2011 season was 0.88. This year the correlation dropped to .83. A lot of that drop had to do with the Orioles, who outperformed their WAR wins by 18.5 games.

Team Wins WAR W Difference
Baltimore 93 74.5 18.5
Milwaukee 83 94.3 11.3
Arizona 81 91.4 10.4
Oakland 94 84.1 9.9
Colorado 64 73.4 9.4
St. Louis 88 96.5 8.5
Boston 69 76.6 7.6
San Francisco 94 87.7 6.3
Toronto 73 66.8 6.2
Cincinnati 97 91.0 6.0
Miami 69 74.9 5.9
Houston 55 60.8 5.8
Chicago Sox 85 79.5 5.5
Cleveland 68 62.6 5.4
Philadelphia 81 86.3 5.3
Seattle 75 70.1 4.9
LA Dodgers 86 81.3 4.7
Minnesota 66 70.6 4.6
Washington 98 94.0 4.0
Chicago Cubs 61 64.8 3.8
Atlanta 94 91.2 2.8
Pittsburgh 79 76.4 2.6
Kansas City 72 74.6 2.6
NY Mets 74 75.9 1.9
Tampa Bay 90 88.2 1.8
LA Angels 89 90.5 1.5
San Diego 76 74.7 1.3
NY Yankees 95 93.9 1.1
Detroit 88 88.6 0.6
Texas 93 93.5 0.5
Standard Deviation: 5.40

One standard deviation between WAR and actual wins for this year is 5.40 wins, which is less accurate compared to the 4.61 I found last year. Here are some more facts about this year’s WAR numbers compared to actual wins:

  • 18 of the 30 teams were within one standard deviation.
  • 28 of the 30 teams were within two standard deviations (10.80). Only two teams — Baltimore (18.5) and Milwaukee (11.3) — were more than two standard deviations away.
  • WAR standings would give us the same order of standings for one division: the NL East.
  • Four of the ten playoff teams were outside the top 10 in total WAR.

Here are the 2012 regular season standings side-by-side with the 2012 WAR standings:

American League
EAST W L PCT
NY Yankees 95 67 0.586
Baltimore 93 69 0.574
Tampa Bay 90 72 0.556
Toronto 73 89 0.451
Boston 69 93 0.426
CENTRAL W L PCT
Detroit 88 74 0.543
Chicago Sox 85 77 0.525
Kansas City 72 90 0.444
Cleveland 68 94 0.420
Minnesota 66 96 0.407
WEST W L PCT
Oakland 94 68 0.580
Texas 83 69 0.574
LA Angels 89 73 0.549
Seattle 75 87 0.463
National League
EAST W L PCT
Washington 98 64 0.605
Atlanta 94 68 0.580
Philadelphia 81 81 0.500
NY Mets 74 88 0.457
Miami 69 93 0.426
CENTRAL W L PCT
Cincinnati 97 65 0.599
St. Louis 88 74 0.543
Milwaukee 83 79 0.512
Pittsburgh 79 83 0.488
Chicago Cubs 61 101 0.377
Houston 55 107 0.340
WEST W L PCT
San Francisco 94 68 0.580
LA Dodgers 86 76 0.531
Arizona 81 81 0.500
San Diego 76 86 0.469
Colorado 64 98 0.395
American League
EAST WAR W WAR L WAR PCT
NY Yankees 93.9 68.1 0.580
Tampa Bay 88.2 73.8 0.544
Boston 76.6 85.4 0.473
Baltimore 74.5 87.5 0.460
Toronto 66.8 95.2 0.412
CENTRAL WAR W WAR L WAR PCT
Detroit 88.6 73.4 0.547
Chicago Sox 79.5 82.5 0.491
Kansas City 74.6 87.4 0.460
Minnesota 70.6 91.4 0.436
Cleveland 62.6 99.4 0.386
WEST WAR W WAR L WAR PCT
Texas 93.5 68.5 0.577
LA Angels 90.5 71.5 0.559
Oakland 84.1 77.9 0.519
Seattle 70.1 96.9 0.402
National League
EAST WAR W WAR L WAR PCT
Washington 94.0 68.0 0.580
Atlanta 91.2 70.8 0.563
Philadelphia 86.3 75.7 0.533
NY Mets 75.9 86.1 0.469
Miami 74.9 87.1 0.462
CENTRAL WAR W WAR L WAR PCT
St. Louis 96.5 65.5 0.596
Milwaukee 94.3 67.7 0.582
Cincinnati 91.0 71.0 0.562
Pittsburgh 76.4 85.6 0.472
Chicago Cubs 64.8 97.2 0.400
Houston 60.8 101.2 0.375
WEST WAR W WAR L WAR PCT
Arizona 91.4 70.6 0.564
San Francisco 87.7 74.3 0.541
LA Dodgers 81.3 80.7 0.502
San Diego 74.7 87.3 0.461
Colorado 73.4 88.6 0.453

The purpose of WAR is to provide a stat that quantifies a player’s total value in one easy to use metric. WAR does a good job with that. Using WAR to project a team’s record for the next season won’t give you an exact number, but it can give you a general idea of what kind of numbers a team needs to compete. Unless, of course, a team can outplay their WAR by 18.5 wins like the Orioles.

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About The Author

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Jordan founded Orioles-Nation.com in November 2009. He is a computer science & business major at Towson University. He is the site programmer, designer, editor and primary minor league writer. He also contributes to and maintains the site’s prospect rankings and scouting reports. Jordan's work has been recognized in a number of publications including MASN, The Baltimore Sun, MLB Trade Rumors, FanGraphs and Project Prospect. In addition, Jordan is a special contributor to John Sickels’ (formerly of ESPN.com) blog, Minor League Ball. Read more about Jordan at JordanTuwiner.com and follow him on Google+ and on Twitter @JordanTuwiner.