5 MLB Players the WAR Statistic Gets Right

The wins against replacement (WAR) statistic is just a number, but the mere mention of WAR can spark arguments (even “war”) between Major League Baseball fans, analysts, and organizations. Advanced statistics are used in every MLB front office, but they don’t always govern what happens on the field.

For example, Yankees manager Joe Girardi will not bench Derek Jeter because he has the worst extra-base power (ISO) in baseball; nor would any manager sit a slugging left-fielder though the team might be weaker defensively when that player patrolled the outfield grounds. A menacing offense is the best defense, he might argue.

Human beings — with their hunches, tics, and emotions — will always be the heart of baseball. Still, WAR may be the most complete stat for determining a player’s value. It can go wrong by overemphasizing defense at a slugging position (as it might in Jason Heyward’s case), but it is hard to argue with WAR for pitching or offense alone. In these cases, WAR often looks the product of a genius. Here are five MLB players WAR is getting right in 2014.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Arizona Diamondbacks

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1. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

Andrew McCutchen does everything on a baseball field a team would want (and then some). WAR may not value his defense (due to the tough nature of the CF position) as much as it should, but there is no faulting McCutchen’s 5.6 offensive WAR. He has all the traditional numbers (.305 BA, .405 OBP, .526 SLG) along with 17 home runs and 17 steals. McCutchen’s baserunning and gutty play cannot be fully quantified, but WAR’s rating him the second-best offensive player is dead right.