WAR WAR WAR … it’s all we hear about these days.
Wins Above Replacement. The blanket sabermetric that evaluates a player’s worth. Ever wonder what all goes into that calculation? After all, there are numerous ways that players can impact a game.
FanGraphs tells us that WAR is a combination of batting runs, base running runs, and fielding runs with a positional adjustment, league adjustment, and replacement runs and runs per win factored in.
In simpler terms, WAR takes a player’s offense, base running, and defense and then scales it based on his position, stadium dimensions, and the league average stats that year.
Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) measures the hitting and base running impact a player has on his team, ignoring defense.
Excellent hitters with poor defensive skills will have their WAR dragged down by errors, masking their offensive prowess. Off isolates a player’s offensive contributions to his team.
Take defense out of it. Off tells us exactly who we want at the plate with the game on the line.
Calculating Offensive Runs Above Average
This is a technical, math-based section. Skip to the next if you don’t care how Off is calculated.
The first important thing about Off is that it is a cumulative stat. Off does not tell us what we can expect on a per-at-bat basis. Off tells us how much a player aided his team’s offense over the course of the sample.
Players who receive more at bats and have longer careers will accumulate higher Off numbers. Very bad hitters or baserunners, like pitchers, might actually hurt their team’s offense have a negative Off.
Without going into too much detail, Off is calculated by adding a player’s Batting Runs Above Average to his Base Running Runs Above Average. Below are the formulas for each, thanks to FanGraphs. Don’t worry if this does not make sense to you. I only post this here for the big stats people.
wSB is Weighted Stolen Base Runs, UBR is Ultimate Base Running, and wGDP is Weighted Double Play Runs.
Adding the league-adjusted wRAA to the base running stat gives us Off.
Applying Off to Find the Best Offensive Players
The top offensive performers in the storied history of the game of baseball. A very subjective topic, right? Using Off, we can go back and determine objectively which players won the most games for their team with their bat and legs.
Remember that Off is a cumulative statistic so long careers are an extreme advantage. Here are the top 8 offensive players in history.
What about looking at this decade only? Who were our great hitters in the 2010s? This following table shows the numbers from 2010 to the present.
Remember, this is not the best Off performers that appeared in this decade. This is which hitters accumulated the best stats during the decade.
Finally, I am sure you are moderately curious who the Off leaders are this year, 2019. Here is one last table which breaks it down nicely.
Why use WAR if you only care about offensive production? Next time you are analyzing hitters, Off is your friend. Give it a try.