What is WAR in Baseball? (A Detailed Explanation) - Baseball Scouter (2023)

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The modern game of baseball is starting to gain a reputation as a numbers-driven sport. Ever since the movie Moneyball shed light on how teams use sabermetrics to make front office decisions, the way many fans view the game has changed.

Now, the more traditional statistics (batting average, RBI, ERA, etc.) are accompanied by more complex statistical categories that many knowledgable people at the highest levels of the game would argue are more valuable.

One of those stats that scouts and front office executives emphasize is WAR.

WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement. Essentially, WAR measures how many wins a player is worth for his team. It is called Wins Above REPLACEMENT because it measures the player’s overall value against an average replacement player.

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For example, if Player A’s WAR is 3.5, that means that if he was removed from the lineup and replaced with a player with average MLB production, the team would win roughly 3.5 fewer games.

If Payer B’s WAR is -2.6, it means that if he were replaced by a league-average player, then the team would win around 2.6 more games.

A positive WAR means the player performs at above league average. The higher the number, the more valuable that player is which is why executives place a lot of value on this statistic.

How is WAR Calculated?

One of the reasons WAR is really only used at the highest levels of baseball is because it is very complicated to calculate, and there are several different calculations that can be used.

The MLB’s formula for calculating WAR is as follows:

(Quantity of Runs Above Average in Baserunning, Defense, and Hitting + Position Adjustment + League Adjustment +Number of Runs Replacement Level Players Perform) Runs Per Win

As one can see, this calculation is not for the average person. There are some other ways that people in the baseball world calculate WAR, but this is the MLB’s way of doing it.

What is a Good WAR Value?

When evaluating a player’s WAR, it is important to know the baseline of what is considered to be a good WAR value.

An everyday starter in the MLB should have a WAR of somewhere between 2 and 5. An All-Star level player should be between 5 and 8. Most MVP caliber players have a WAR of 8 and above.

Players that have WAR values between 0 and 2 are mostly backup or platoon players, and players with a WAR below 0 are easily replaceable.

Is WAR Useful in Baseball?

What is WAR in Baseball? (A Detailed Explanation) - Baseball Scouter (1)

Some front office staffs have different opinions about which statistics are most valuable when it comes to evaluating players. Some teams are more committed to using sabermetrics than others, but most organizations at least consider WAR when making roster decisions.

War is definitely useful in baseball to determine a player’s overall value to the team. The higher the number, the more wins a player is worth to the team. There is not another stat that encompasses a player’s production at the plate, on the base paths, and on defense.

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Using WAR to help with roster decisions allows executives to make objective decisions.

For example, does the name Marcus Semien ring a bell to you? Semien is not a household name among baseball fans, but the Blue Jays’ 30-year-old infielder is a hot commodity among scouts and executives.

Why? Because his WAR of 7.3 was good for 3rd in the MLB last season behind Pitcher/Designated Hitter Shohei Ohtani and Pitcher Zack Wheeler.

Despite only batting .265 and playing on a team that did not make the playoffs, Semien was one of the most valuable players in the league. It was his second season in the last three years with a WAR above 7.

The point here is that Semien is not considered to be one of the game’s stars and plays in a rather small market in Toronto, but if he were to become available on the open market, you better believe teams would come after him.

The media may not tell us he is great, but his WAR enlightens us to his value.

Who Has the Highest WAR in Baseball?

What is WAR in Baseball? (A Detailed Explanation) - Baseball Scouter (2)

This past season, the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani led all of baseball with a WAR of 9.1. He was followed by Zack Wheeler of the Phillies and Semien. Here is the rest of the 2021 top 10 list:

  1. Shohei Ohtani – 9.1
  2. Zack Wheeler – 7.7
  3. Marcus Semien – 7.3
  4. Carlos Correa – 7.2
  5. Juan Soto – 7.1
  6. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – 6.8
  7. Walker Buehler – 6.7
  8. Jose Ramirez – 6.7
  9. Robbie Ray – 6.7
  10. Fernando Tatis Jr. – 6.6

Ohtani deservedly won the American League MVP award becoming the first two-way player to do so. The National League MVP, Bryce Harper, did not finish in the top 10 in WAR. He had a WAR of 5.9.

Career WAR is calculated by adding up a player’s total WAR over each season. This shows the number of wins the player was worth throughout his career. Here is the top 10 career WAR list:

  1. Babe Ruth – 183.1
  2. Walter Johnson – 164.8
  3. Cy Young – 163.6
  4. Barry Bonds – 162.7
  5. Willie Mays – 156.1
  6. Ty Cobb – 151.5
  7. Hank Aaron – 143.1
  8. Roger Clemens – 139.2
  9. Tris Speaker – 134.7
  10. Honus Wagner – 130.8

This list consists of three pitchers (Johnson, Young, and Clemens), five outfielders (Bonds, Mays, Cobb, Aaron, and Speaker), one shortstop (Wagner), and one player who both pitched and played outfield during his career (Ruth).

This shows us that some of the most valuable positions in the game are pitchers, outfielders, and shortstops. Outfielders and shortstops are often some of the best athletes on the field, and their defensive positions are very demanding.

Since WAR measures a player’s value in all three aspects of the game, it is clear why players who are elite at these positions end up with high WAR values.

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As far as active players go, here is the top 10 list of players in today’s game with the highest career WAR:

  1. Albert Pujols – 99.6
  2. Mike Trout – 76.1
  3. Zack Greinke – 73.1
  4. Clayton Kershaw – 71.9
  5. Justin Verlander – 71.8
  6. Robinson Cano – 69.6
  7. Miguel Cabrera – 68.7
  8. Max Scherzer – 67.1
  9. Joey Votto – 64.6
  10. Cole Hamels – 59.3
What is WAR in Baseball? (A Detailed Explanation) - Baseball Scouter (3)

Albert Pujols is the leader of this group and coincidentally has played the most seasons of the group (21). The most impressive player on this list is Mike Trout. Despite being only 29 and playing in only 11 seasons — many of which he has been injured — Trout is second on the list.

This shows why Trout is highly coveted as the best player in baseball. Despite playing on many below-average teams, Trout is consistently one of the league’s most valuable players, and his WAR values support that.

For more information about what makes Mike Trout so special, check out our article “Why is Mike Trout so Good?”

What Types of Players Typically Have High WAR Values?

There is often a pattern to what types of players normally have the highest WAR values.

As stated earlier, outfielders, shortstops, and pitchers are often the positions that obtain the highest WAR.

Outfielders are often guys who produce a lot of offense, and the best outfielders often have a lot of speed giving them additional defensive value and making them great candidates to steal and take extra bases on the base paths.

Shortstops are similar, but there is more of a focus on defense at that position. There are few shortstops in the MLB that struggle defensively. When these players are strong at the plate, their WAR often shoots through the roof.

A pitcher’s WAR is calculated differently than a position player’s, but they are so important to the outcome of the game that when they are successful, their WAR is often pretty high.

Basically, any player who plays a position that gets a lot of action on defense and excels at all three aspects of the game (hitting, defense, and baserunning) is a great candidate to lead the league in WAR.

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There have definitely been several exceptions to the rule over the years in the MLB.

For example, in 2017, Joey Votto, a first baseman who is not a threat on the base paths, led the MLB in WAR at 8.1. In 2008, Albert Pujols, a power-hitting first baseman, led the league in WAR at 9.2.

For an average defensive player and below-average runner to have a high WAR, that player must dominate at the plate. That is exactly what Pujols and Votto did those years. They were so productive on offense that their defense and baserunning didn’t really matter to their teams.

Both of these guys will be first-ballot Hall of Famers when they retire and have proven that you don’t have to be an elite defender and runner to provide value to a team; you just have to be an exceptional hitter.

When was WAR created?

As are most unconventional stats, WAR can be traced back to the father of sabermetrics, Bill James, who mentioned it in his abstract in 1982. It took some time for it to catch on in baseball, but by the mid to late 2000s, most teams were using it to some degree to help make roster decisions. Now, other professional sports leagues such as the NBA and NHL are jumping on the analytics bandwagon and using their own version of WAR to evaluate players.

Can a Player Make it into the Hall of Fame with a Low WAR?

It is not likely for a player with a low WAR to make it to Cooperstown, but like always, there are exceptions to the rule. Bruce Sutter, a relief pitcher for the Cardinals is a Hall of Famer despite only having 24.5 career Wins Above Replacement. He does have 300 career saves, and his limited role as a reliever is likely why his WAR is so low.

What is the Average WAR for MLB Players?

The league average for WAR is around 2. As long as players keep their WAR in the positive numbers, they have a shot to remain in the league. When their value dips below zero, that is a sign to the front office that the player may be contributing more to losses than wins.

How does War impact a free agent?

WAR is often used by general managers when deciding if and when to sign a free agent. Also, it helps them determine how much money that player is worth. Sometimes, the current market may suggest that the player should make more money than the GM believes he is worth based on his WAR; therefore, the GM may choose not to sign him for more than he believes that player is worth.

See Also:
Why is Shortstop the Hardest Position in Baseball?
How Many Rounds in MLB Draft: An Overview
How Far Should a 14-Year-Old Hit a Baseball?
What is a 5-4-3 Triple Play in Baseball?


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What is the explanation of WAR in baseball? ›

Definition. WAR measures a player's value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins he's worth than a replacement-level player at his same position (e.g., a Minor League replacement or a readily available fill-in free agent).

How do you determine WAR in baseball? ›

The formula itself is not very complicated and it is WAR = (Batting Runs + Base Running Runs +Fielding Runs + Positional Adjustment + League Adjustment +Replacement Runs) / (Runs Per Win).

What is a really good WAR in baseball? ›

League-average WAR rates vary. An average full-time position player is worth about 2 WAR, while average bench players contribute much less (typically between 0 and 1 WAR).
Scrub0-1 WAR
Solid Starter2-3 WAR
Good Player3-4 WAR
All-Star4-5 WAR
Superstar5-6 WAR
2 more rows

What does WAR mean in MLB pitching? ›

For pitchers, WAR looks at Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) or runs allowed and then adds adjustments. Wins are typically calculated in “runs” first; each component is scaled to correlate to how many runs a player adds to his team, and runs are then scaled to translate to wins.

What is most WAR in baseball? ›

Right field: Babe Ruth, 182.5

Ruth also posted 20.4 WAR on the mound, giving him a career total of 183.1 WAR -- by far the most in history. Ruth reached the 10 WAR mark nine times as a position player and had more than 12 WAR in 1921 (12.8), '23 (14.1) and '27 (12.5).

What is the technical definition of WAR? ›

a(1) : a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations. (2) : a period of such armed conflict.

How accurate is WAR in baseball? ›

Now, since WAR is supposed to approximate actual wins, and there are 162 games in an MLB season, as a result there are 81*30 = 2,430 total wins in an MLB season, approximately . 294*162*30 ≈ 1,430 of which are accounted for by replacement level players, which means there is 1,000 WAR for the entire MLB.

What types of WAR are there baseball? ›

Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is a concept rather than one individual statistic. Batting average, for example, is defined as hits per at bat, but WAR is defined as the number of wins a player adds to his team compared to a replacement level player.

How is WAR calculated for pitchers? ›

When we are in-season, we use the run-scoring averages for offenses for the last 365 days. The pitcher's expected runs allowed is then the sum of his opposition's run scoring weighted by the innings he faced each team.

Who has the best WAR in baseball history? ›

Babe Ruth

What is the most important stat in baseball? ›

Since the beginning of baseball, one stat has reigned supreme over all others: the batting average. Simply put, the best hitters are always considered to be those who possess the highest. Every year, the best hitter in the game is generally considered to be the person who retained the highest batting average.

What baseball player has the worst WAR? ›

Bergen finished his career with a WAR of -6.9, one of the lowest in baseball history. He had 516 hits but only 138 runs and 2 home runs. Bergen had the record for 45 consecutive at-bats without a base hit, which stood for 102 years.

What does G mean in baseball? ›

G – Games played: The number of games the player has appeared in during the current MLB season. AB – At bats: The number of times the player has been at bat, defined as plate appearances minus sacrifices, walks, and Hit by Pitches.

Can you have a negative WAR in baseball? ›

That plot showed total team negative WAR. Here, I'll show you every team's share of negative-WAR playing time. So this is just combined negative-WAR plate appearances, divided by overall plate appearances, including both pitchers and hitters: The Astros have given 0.2% of their playing time to negative-WAR players.

Can WAR go down in baseball? ›

WAR is unique in that it is not created or destroyed, meaning that as one player's WAR goes up, another's must go down so that the league total equals 1,000 WAR for a season. Therefore, a player can only earn WAR for continually being a good (or better) player.

What are 3 types of war? ›

Three pure types of war are distinguished, viz., absolute war, instrumental war, and agonistic fighting.

What is the classic definition of war? ›

'War' defined by Webster's Dictionary is a state of open and declared, hostile armed conflict between states or nations, or a period of such conflict.

What is an example of a war? ›

What's an example of war? The U.S. Civil War is an example of war. This war was fought between 1861 and 1865. It started after a number of southern states seceded from the Union over the issue of slavery.

Who said baseball is something like a WAR? ›

Baseball is a red-blooded sport for re-blooded men. It's not pink tea, and mollycoddles had better stay out of it. It's . . . a struggle for supremacy, a survival of the fittest.” If baseball is akin to war, its most ferocious warrior must have been Ty Cobb.

What does whip mean MLB? ›

Walks And Hits Per Inning Pitched (WHIP)

When was baseball WAR created? ›

Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is a metric created and developed by the sabermetric community in baseball over the last 30 years – there's even room to date it back as far as 1982 where a system that resembled the method first appeared in Bill James' Abstract from that year (per Baseball Prospectus and Tom Tango).

How many MLB players went to WAR? ›

Of the more than 500 major league players who served in the military in World War II, two were killed.

What is the highest WAR in baseball in a season? ›

Single-Season Leaders & Records for Wins Above Replacement
RankPlayer (age that year)Wins Above Replacement
1.Tim Keefe+ (26)20.2
2.Old Hoss Radbourn+ (29)19.4
3.Pud Galvin+ (27)18.4
4.Jim Devlin (27)18.3
55 more rows

How long is the average WAR? ›

Over the last two centuries, most wars have lasted an average of three to four months.

What factors are in WAR baseball? ›

Baseball-Reference uses six components to calculate WAR for position players: The components are batting runs, baserunning runs, runs added or lost due to grounding into double plays in double play situations, fielding runs, positional adjustment runs, and replacement level runs (based on playing time).

What is a good WAR for relief pitcher? ›

The very best relievers in the game are generally worth +2 to +2.5 wins over a full season, or about the same as an average everyday player.

How much does a baseball WAR cost? ›

In 2022, the total payroll of all 30 teams was $4.52 billion. Divide by 1,000, change that 'b' to an 'm' and you get $4.52 million per 1.0 WAR. And in 2021, total payroll was $3.95 billion, for a $/WAR ratio of $3.95 million.

Who has the toughest out in MLB history? ›

Contents. Over nearly 145 years of professional baseball, no player was tougher to strike out than Hall of Fame shortstop Joe Sewell. In 7,132 career at-bats, Sewell heard the umpire say “Strike three” just 114 times. That's one strikeout for every 63 at-bats, or once every 17 games, or in just .

How much is 1 WAR worth in MLB? ›

We can see that during the regular season one WAR is worth between 4–5 million dollars but this is not how much WAR costs to acquire. This is because that there are so many players in the MLB that aren't freely available to acquire.

What is the best stat to judge a hitter? ›

The Best Ways to Evaluate Hitters

For those who don't know, OPS is "on-base plus slugging," or a hitter's on-base percentage (OBP) plus his slugging percentage (SLUG).

What is the most rare stat in baseball? ›

Rarest of all is the unassisted triple play by an outfielder, performed only once in professional baseball history, by Walter Carlisle. It is possible for a team to score on a triple play, but that is also phenomenally rare.

What does R mean in baseball stats? ›

Run (R) Runs Batted In (RBI) Sacrifice Bunt (SH) Sacrifice Fly (SF)

Who has the lowest career war in the Hall of Fame? ›

Bruce Sutter

His career WAR of 24.5 is the lowest of all Hall of Fame pitchers, only just beating out Babe Ruth's pitching WAR of 20.4. Say what you will about his off-field persona; it's definitely a factor that many voters have cited as a reason they're keeping him out of the Hall of Fame, for now.

What is the lowest batting average in the Hall of Fame? ›

Only three hitters have made it to the Hall of Fame with a sub-. 260 batting average: Killebrew, Rabbit Maranville and Ray Schalk. The latter two played up-the-middle defensive positions, partially during the dead-ball era.

What does DP mean in baseball? ›

Definition. A double play occurs when two offensive players are ruled out within the same play. It's often referred to as "a pitcher's best friend" because it's twice as helpful toward his cause as any given out.

What does TB mean in baseball? ›

Definition. Total bases refer to the number of bases gained by a batter through his hits. A batter records one total base for a single, two total bases for a double, three total bases for a triple and four total bases for a home run.

What does a PO mean in baseball? ›

A fielder is credited with a putout when he is the fielder who physically records the act of completing an out -- whether it be by stepping on the base for a forceout, tagging a runner, catching a batted ball, or catching a third strike.

What is the hardest role in baseball? ›

But the catcher has the most responsibility of any player on the field, eclipsing even that of the pitcher. Being a catcher is the hardest job in baseball. Right now, if you're able, get into a crouching position.

What is a poor OPS in baseball? ›

An OPS+ of 100 is defined to be the league average. An OPS+ of 150 or more is excellent and 125 very good, while an OPS+ of 75 or below is poor. The basic equation for OPS+ is.

What is Jaws baseball? ›

A player's JAWS is calculated by averaging his career WAR with the total WAR from his seven-year peak -- that is, his seven most valuable seasons (consecutive or non-consecutive).

Why was WAR created baseball? ›

”The idea behind the WAR framework is that we want to know how much better a player is than a player that would typically be available to replace that player.” Baseball-Reference. “Wins Above Replacement (WAR) …

Which pitcher has the most WAR? ›

Career Leaders & Records for WAR for Pitchers
RankPlayer (yrs, age)IP
1.Cy Young+ (22)7356.0
2.Walter Johnson+ (21)5914.1
3.Roger Clemens (24)4916.2
4.Kid Nichols+ (15)5067.1
73 more rows

Who has the best WAR in MLB history? ›

1Babe Ruth *183.1
2Walter Johnson *164.8
3Cy Young *163.6
4Barry Bonds162.7
76 more rows

Who has the worst WAR in MLB history? ›

Unfortunately for Levey, his form did not last, and he finished the 1933 season with a batting average of just . 195. Once again, according to the data found at FanGraphs, Levey has the worst WAR score of any player in baseball history of -4.0 for the season.

What factors are in war baseball? ›

Baseball-Reference uses six components to calculate WAR for position players: The components are batting runs, baserunning runs, runs added or lost due to grounding into double plays in double play situations, fielding runs, positional adjustment runs, and replacement level runs (based on playing time).

How many MLB players went to war? ›

Of the more than 500 major league players who served in the military in World War II, two were killed.

What types of war are there baseball? ›

Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is a concept rather than one individual statistic. Batting average, for example, is defined as hits per at bat, but WAR is defined as the number of wins a player adds to his team compared to a replacement level player.

What is longest home run ever hit? ›

In 1987, Joey Meyer of the Triple-A Denver Zephyrs launched a moonshot into the second deck of Mile High Stadium. City of Denver engineer Jerry Tennyson was able to verify the distance of the home run at 582 feet. Meyer made his big league debut the following season with the Milwaukee Brewers.

What does whip mean in baseball? ›

Walks And Hits Per Inning Pitched (WHIP)


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