Friday, October 18, 2013

Mike Pelfrey and WAR

Parker Hageman, one of the bloggers behind Twins Daily, this week posted this query on Twitter:

To which Jack Goin of the Twins front office, who supplies Terry Ryan with whatever statistical input the general manager requires, replied: "Looks like 0.9" — which is the average between the two figures.

Mike Pelfrey made 29 starts
for the 2103 Twins,
going 5-13 with a 5.19 ERA
in his first season after
Tommy John surgery.
This illustrates, by the way, the obstacles WAR — Wins Above Replacement — faces in winning popular acceptance. It's an opaque formula stat. You can't look at a box score and say, "Brian Dozier had .2 WAR last night" the way you can say, "Two-for 5? Dozier hit .400 last night." And because Fangraphs uses a different formula to account for team defense behind a pitcher than Baseball Reference does, you can get, as in this case, drastically conflicting results.

Using the rule of thumb that teams will pay $5 million per win in free agency, Fangraphs says Pelfrey was worth $10 million last year. Baseball Reference says he was release bait.

And Goin's Twitter response suggests that Pelfrey's $4 million-plus pay was basically what he earned.

All this is not necessarily academic. Pelfrey, who'll be a free agent after the World Series, has told people covering the Twins he wants to return to Minnesota. But his agent is Scott Boras, who seldom cuts team-friendly deals. If some other team buys into the Fangraphs interpretation of Pelfrey's season, Pelfrey's return is less likely.

Baseball Reference's interpretation,  and the traditional stats, would suggest that's not a bad thing for the Twins.

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