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wWAR: Applying Extra Credit for "Peak" to Wins Above Replacement

WAR is awesome.

For a Hall of Fame guy like me, it's pretty much the best thing ever. I'm constantly looking for a way to rank players historically. So, WAR come along and does the park adjustment, era adjustment, and park adjustments for us. It's almost too easy.

Of course, WAR isn't quite the perfect benchmark that definitively tells us one player is more deserving than another of Hall of Fame induction. It merely tells us that according to the WAR framework, that player provided more value over the course of his entire career.

Not all careers follow the same path, though. There are "compilers" who slowly and steadily improve their WAR totals and finish with excellent numbers. There are also "peak" guys who dominate and accrue similar value over a much shorter period of time. If these two players finished with the same career WAR, who has the better chance of induction?

While career value is nice (and I'm a compiler sympathizer, if that's a thing), voting trends tend to favor the guy with the "peak". Voters want a guy who was the best at his position for a certain period of time. Quiet consistency is boring. They want Ryne Sandberg (62.1 WAR) and not Lou Whitaker (69.7 WAR).

So, let's adjust WAR to favor peak years. We already track Wins Above Excellence (single season WAR above 3.0) and Wins Above MVP (single season WAR above 6.0). We'll apply the extra credit there. We'll count WAR above 3.0 twice and WAR above 6.0 three times. Let's call it Weighted WAR (wWAR). The formula is simply WAR+WAE+WAM.

Here's what all Hall of Fame position players look like, with the players in this year's ballot mixed in (in green):


Click for full version.

For a specific example, let's look at Ed Delahanty and Paul Molitor.


Their career WAR is basically the same (74.8 for Molitor, 74.7 for Delahanty). But Delahanty edges Molitor in WAE (40.9 to 22.8) and WAR (a whopping 12.7 to 1.1). As a result, Delahanty trumps Molitor in wWAR, 128.3 to 98.7.

How about the players on this year's ballot? As expected, Jeff Bagwell is again far ahead of the pack. The question shouldn't be if he will get inducted or not. It should be a question of where this guy ranks among the very best players of his era. And once again, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell, Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Roberto Alomar, Mark McGwire, Tim Raines, and Rafael Palmeiro all rate above the Hall of Fame median. John Olerud, again, sits just below it. This doesn't really change my opinion of this year's ballot—it just merely further confirms what I already felt was true.

Does anything stand out to you?

(All WAR data from Baseball-Reference.)

Update: (3/15/2011) I just posted the last of a series of articles where I created the "Hall of wWAR". I re-populated the Hall of Fame based purely on wWAR. Have a look!

The Hall of wWAR
Catchers | First Basemen | Second Basemen | Third Basemen | Shortstops
Left Fielders | Center Fielders | Right Fielders | Designated Hitters