I like WAR, I don’t love it, but I mostly trust it. I use it in general terms but never as a be-all, end-all definitive stat. I rarely quote it on TV or radio because even within the statistical community there are inconsistencies in how it is calculated, i.e. bWAR vs. fWAR, which can leave some people confused.
That said, I’ve run across an fWAR vs. eyes discrepancy that has me baffled.
I’ve been somewhat obsessed with ranking the Washington Nationals’ starters. This is fun for me because they have, in my opinion, the deepest 1-5 rotation in baseball. fWAR says the Tigers are the best and the Nats are second. That is certainly reasonable when both rotations are healthy.
The Nats have big names like Stephen Strasburg, a very good no-name in Tanner Roark, and some tweeners, good pitchers who maybe the casual fan outside of D.C. or Detroit does not know about, like Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister.
How they rank in fWAR according to FanGraphs:
Jordan Zimmermann: 3.5
Stephen Strasburg: 3.0
Tanner Roark: 2.3
Gio Gonzalez: 1.9
Doug Fister: 1.3
If you took a straw poll in the Washington Nationals clubhouse on who their Game 1 starter should be in a playoff series, Doug Fister would win. Game 2? Close call between Tanner Roark and Jordan Zimmermann, with Zimmermann likely getting the nod because of his experience.
This isn’t about Stephen Strasburg, who currently leads the NL in strikeouts, not being an ace. That’s another Joe for another day. This is about being cautious with WAR and more specificially about how guys like Doug Fister can slip through the cracks in advanced metrics. Fister leads the Nats in Wins, IP/GS, BB/9, GB%, LOB%, and BABiP. Let’s get this man the fWAR love he deserves as ace of the Washington Nationals. Or at least find a way to get him out of the cellar.