Allow me to introduce myself. I am a drummer from Commerce Twp., MI. I now live in Madison, WI studying engineering. Also, I love the game of Baseball, especially our Detroit Tigers. Every year, I order a copy of the Prospectus, and use it's prophetic powers to make mincemeat of the opposition in my fantasy leagues. (really should've joined the BYB league, will have to next year). Case in point, I think you can see plainly that I am a lover of the game and all of its beautiful intricacies and the numbers that accompany them. However, even as a fan of SABR (a student of the discipline at best, really) I still find it appropriate to question it, and I find today a more apt time than ever to ask these few questions. I feel that I am in the best company to have them answered. I have MANY, but these I feel are the most pertinent, and give me the largest headaches.
1. WAR: Wins Above Replacement. My question: Who is this replacement? It is defined, as I recall from memory, as the average player that would replace said player. Now, is this relative to whatever team the player is playing for? If so, shouldn't we be leveling it for who might be in the wings? For instance, were Cabrera to have been replaced this year, he certainly wouldn't have been replaced by "the average replacement level player". He would have been replaced by Don Kelly, or Ramon Santiago, or going by the farm.... an extremely green Castellanos? I feel that if WAR takes this into account, Cabrera's WAR should be valued much higher than Trout's was. Trout would have (and often was) replaced by Bourgois, who while not as capable a hitter (not many are), was just as good, if not better defensively. Shouldn't Trout's WAR have reflected this? If the replacement level player is actually some average player (MLB? AAA?) then shouldn't we consider WAR as WAR+, being a measure above or below the average player?
2. Hitter vs. Pitcher friendly ballpark. This one really irks me of late as it doesn't take into account the dimensions of said ballpark, but rather 5yr data collected from it. I know that Comerica has some very triple friendly power alleys, but to call it a hitter's park is still absurd to me. It is cavernous, even after bringing in the fences. The fact that for the last 5 years we have had some very formidable offenses in the OED, not to mention the greatest hitter on the planet, certainly skews these numbers from what they should be considered. I will continue with the Tigers v. Angels theme here and compare this to Data collected from Angel Stadium. That is considered one of the most pitcher friendly parks going by the 5yr data. Have you considered that a large part of that has to do with the outfield defense that they have had during that span? Certainly that must skew it by more than a fair margin. It is not a very large park, and especially not when compared to Comerica. My point, I suppose, is that a Park is a Park, and players change from year to year. This comparison is being made by players playing in a park, and not the park itself. It just seems unfair for somebody to say "so and so did this, but they were in a pitcher/hitter friendly park". Honestly, would Petco be considered such a pitchers park if say Cabrera and Braun were on that team? Would Miller be considered such a launchpad if they hadn't featured Fielder and Braun, with generally subpar pitching staffs?
This is generally meant to just be some food for thought/debate, but any concrete clarification would be greatly appreciated. I know that my questions are kind of anecdotal observation questioning concrete numbers, but I find these two topics especially to be mathematical ways of explaining very abstract ideas. As was put in a book I read recently "reading Bill James makes you wonder whether or not he believes the players have souls". Bill James is a genius and his record of being correct more often than not still stands, but it is still a valid statement. And it is always good to question new ideas, IMHO. Who better to do it with than you fine people. Thank you, and goodnight.