A call for moderation in WAR usage

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Jim Caple of ESPN takes what I think is a decent, moderate approach with respect to the war over WAR. Basically: it’s a cool stat that can be useful, but let’s not rely on it too much or consider it an argument-ender.

Of course, because that’s moderate, I expect almost no one to like it. It’s really, really hard to be a moderate these days.

I do take issue with one thing, however. At the outset of the article he notes his displeasure with how often WAR was used in the MVP debate between Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera last year, and criticizes WAR proponents for relying on it too much. I agree WAR did become a big talking point in all of that, but it wasn’t because of the statheads’ doing.

I read a lot of baseball writing. I bet I read more daily baseball writing and back-and-forth Tweeting among baseball people than about 95% of even hardcore baseball fans do. I have to. It’s my job. And I can say that my distinct WAR takeaway from the Trout/Cabrera thing was that WAR was brought up by non-statheads as some kind of bogeyman, as opposed to statheads as pro-Trout evidence, on the order of something like 3 to 1.

The dialogue was like this:

Pro Trout guy: “Trout for MVP!”

Pro Cabrera guy: “You and your fancy spreadsheets and stats, thinking WAR is the be-all, end-all. God, Cabrera is doing something amazing! Why do you have to reduce it to WAR, WAR, WAR?!!”

Pro Trout guy: “He’s an amazing defender and a great baserunner. Who said anything about WAR?”

Pro Cabrera: “There you go again! WAR WAR WAR!! Enough with the stats! Watch some games.”

Anyway, if your mileage varies, great, but it certainly seems to me that WAR is used as an insult by those who hate it more than it’s used as an argument-ender by those who like it.

Mike Napoli tore his ACL

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Mike Napoli suffered a torn right ACL and meniscus while playing for Triple-A Columbus the other night. The injury will require season-ending surgery.

Given that Napoli will turn 37 this year, given that he will need 10-14 months of rehab and given that, as it was, he was unable to find a major league gig, it’s almost certain that this injury will end Napoli’s career.

Napoli was off to a 1-for-24 start at Columbus after signing a minor league contract with the Indians this spring. He hit .193/.285/.428 for the Rangers in 2017. If this is it for Napoli, he’ll end his career with a line of .246/.346/.475 with 267 homers and 744 driven in. He appeared in the World Series with the 2011 Rangers, the 2013 Red Sox and the 2016 Indians, winning a ring with Boston.