A call for moderation in WAR usage


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.

Report: Athletics sign Trevor Cahill to one-year deal

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Free agent right-hander Trevor Cahill reportedly has a one-year deal in place with the Athletics, according to MLB.com’s Jane Lee. The exact terms have yet to be disclosed, and as the agreement is still pending a physical, it has not been formally announced by the club.

Cahill, 30, is coming off of a decent, albeit underwhelming year with the Padres and Royals. He kicked off the 2017 season with a 4-3 record in 11 starts for the Padres, then split his time between the rotation and bullpen after a midseason trade to the Royals. By the end of the year, the righty led the league with 16 wild pitches and had racked up a 4.93 ERA, 4.8 BB/9 and 9.3 SO/9 in 84 innings for the two teams.

The A’s found themselves in desperate need of rotation depth this week after Jharel Cotton announced he’d miss the 2018 season to undergo Tommy John surgery. Right now, the team is considering some combination of Andrew Triggs, Daniel Gossett, Daniel Mengden and Paul Blackburn for the back end of the rotation — a mix that seems unlikely to change in the last two weeks before Opening Day, as Lee points out that Cahill won’t be ready to shoulder a full workload by then. Instead, he’s expected to begin the year in the bullpen and work his way up to a starting role, where the A’s hope he’ll replicate the All-Star numbers he produced with them back in 2010.