Are the Red Sox players and management ready for WAR?
Baseball and the Red Sox are statistically driven, not unique to sports, commerce, or the government. Traditional statistical evaluation has undergone a shift as metrics have allowed a deeper dive into player value. The Red Sox management chart has analytics well established in the corporate structure. Analytics may just be leaping into a more pronounced stage.
The latest message from management to the players union is basing pay for salary arbitration-eligible players on WAR. This is part of the ongoing drama surrounding the clash between billionaire owners and millionaire players. The compensation is co-opted to a computer as the determinant. What could go wrong?
On the pitching side, Nathan Eovaldi (5.6 fWAR) tops the Red Sox. Place in perspective that Robbie Ray (3.9 fWAR) is just a notch above Eduardo Rodríguez (3.8 fWAR) and Ray is well behind Eovaldi. Matt Barnes (1.3 fWAR), who disappeared for half a season, is slightly behind Garrett Whitlock (1.6 fWAR). Just a cursory examination of WAR shows – at least from my view – inconsistencies.
The ones I mentioned are just a few that fall into my foggy head-scratching mode. FanGraphs pegs the player value at $11.5 MM per WAR point. If balancing a checkbook is difficult, then examining the calculation for WAR can be daunting. For that challenge, look here.
Using WAR would be just part of the process of determining salary but still a key component. There is some good news associated with this first round of negotiations, and that is the fact the union has placed this idea in the rubbish bin.
WAR, both fWAR (FanGraphs) and bWAR (Baseball-Reference), have become a go-to statistic in baseball. I reluctantly use it since the two parties (FG & BR) cannot agree on it. Going back to Eovaldi, old “Nasty Nate” checks in with a 4.6 bWAR. I could see the arguments now with Scott Boras demanding fWAR and management demanding bWAR.
Players keep track of their statistics since that is the grease that oils their financial future. Will war break out on the field over a fly ball to boost defensive statistics?
The early negotiations are to feel out the other side and determine where the possible closest agreements lie. This salvo is just negotiation spit-balling which the union apparently will quickly bury. The next order of business will be to see just what nonsense the union tosses on the table.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) will raise its ugly head during the offseason. If history is any indicator, expect negotiations to break down and a walkout/strike/snit to take place. Both parties have a death wish for the destruction of a beautiful game.