Historical WAR & WAR Graphs

Full historical WAR for all position players has been added to the site! It’s available in the career leaderboards and on the individual player pages currently and will work its way to some other sections of the site pretty soon. We’ll do full WAR for pitchers eventually, but right now that’s still only 2002 onward.

The other new feature are the WAR graphs where you can compare up to 4 players at a time in various ways:

Just a quick note that these two graphs in particular were inspired by work done over at Beyond the Box Score.

Some additional notes about our historical WAR:

– We’re using the best fielding metric publicly available at the time, so for anything 2002 onward, we’re using Mitchel Lichtman’s UZR and anything pre-2002, we’re using Sean Smith’s Total Zone. Total Zone prior to 2010 is also available in the fielding section of the site which has replaced Range Factors.

– The batting component is based on wRAA (based off wOBA / linear weights) and uses 5 year regressed park factors going all the way back to 1871.

– Positional adjustments prior to 2000 are based off Sean Smith’s positional adjustments by decade. 2000 onward are based on Tangotiger’s positional adjustments.

– Replacement levels are adjusted slightly by season. They’re all right around 20 runs with the exception of a few years and a couple leagues.

– The run to win converter is also adjusted by season, but it’s generally going to be right around 10.

If you want to know more about how WAR is calculated for position players, read the 7 part series.

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David Appelman is the creator of FanGraphs.

60 Responses to “Historical WAR & WAR Graphs”

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  1. James says:

    Well now, this be news. Good on ya

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  2. poodski says:

    Is it going to be possible to look up historical leaders in WAR? To see who had the best single season ever or the most over a career or per position or stuff like that?

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  3. Dave says:

    This is great. Good job getting fabulous baseball information to the public for free. Could there be a higher calling?

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  4. Temo says:

    Ha, Gary Sheffield is the worst fielder of all time, according to this.

    Andruw Jones is the 2nd best fielder of all time, behind Brooks Robinson.

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    • Matt C says:

      Jeter is the 15th worst and 2nd worst SS all time. I knew he was an overrated defender but I didn’t realize he was THAT bad. That alone takes away almost any credibility of a Gold Glove since he’s won multiple ones.

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      • Temo says:

        I think UZR is giving a wider range of values than Sean’s TZ rating, so more recent players are going to look especially bad and especially good.

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      • Temo, I just looked at distribution in 2009 and this is absolutely not true and the opposite may even be true, but to a small extent. In general they operate in a very similar range.

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      • Temo says:

        Thanks, David.

        I still refuse to believe that Jeter (or Sheffield) is THAT bad though. It’s hard for a player to have amassed the reputation that Jeter has and be the 2nd worst field SS of all time (granted, playing time factors into this quite a bit, but still).

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      • Temo says:

        Actually, the more I think about, the more the playing time thing makes sense. There are probably plenty of SS who were worse fielders than Jeter, but almost none have the bat he does to stick as a starter for as long as he has.

        Although we all know he should have moved to 3B when the Yankees acquired A-Rod.

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  5. Sky Kalkman says:

    You know I love this…

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  6. Steve C says:

    Any chance that the HOF guides could be added for the average hall of famer and the replacement level hall of famer?

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    • Steve C says:

      Cumulative WAR by season would also be nice. :)

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      • HOF guides I want to add later tonight.

        By season is kind of tough to do comparisons for because most of the time the comparisons are not in the same era and the graph ends up looking like two non-related lines separated by a bunch of blank years.

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      • Steve C says:

        Maybe by season is not the best way to put it, how about years of service. Take WAR by age and bring it down so everyone starts at year 1 and goes from there.

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    • Pete L. says:

      I am very late to the game here, but I note that although David indicated the Hall of Fame Zone “guides” would be added, they are not here yet. Any chance of seeing them soon, especially now that we are in the middle of HoF voting season?

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  7. Patrick says:

    Oh my. That is… oh my. *drools*

    Dave, you’re incredible.

    It’s interesting to look at the differences between this and Rally’s WAR… The order is the same up around the top, but it’s still fascinating.

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    • Lucas says:

      Can someone please explain the difference in Rally’s WAR calcs and Fangraphs’? Is one better or worse? Bonus points for also explaining how WARP3 fits in there.

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      • Patrick says:


        There are two major differences (Which Dave explains above!).

        WAR for position players consists of two components (which have sub components, but hey): Offensive runs and defensive runs

        FanGraphs calculates offensive runs with wRAA and 5 year park factors. I don’t know (and can’t find easily?) what Rally uses, but it’s something else.

        For defensive runs, FanGraphs uses UZR where available – 2002 on – as it is considered to be more accurate than TotalZone, which is a defensive system that depends on play by play data. (A very clever one, by the way.. It’s yummy – See: http://www.baseball-reference.com/about/total_zone.shtml)

        Where UZR is NOT available, it uses TotalZone, which is pretty dang all right.

        So the largest differences will be for players in the last 10 years.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        The biggest difference is for pitchers rather than hitters. FanGraphs WAR uses FIP, which Rally’s WAR uses RA adjusted by quality of team defense.

        For hitters, there are some small differences that can add up. FanGraphs WAR uses UZR from 2002 on while Rally’s WAR uses Total Zone, FanGraphs WAR uses generic linear weights for offense while Rally’s WAR uses custom linear weights so that it all adds up for each team at the end of the season. Rally’s WAR also includes a more comprehensive catcher defense stat and GIDP runs and Baserunning runs, which FanGraphs doesn’t include.

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  8. Matt says:

    Well, there goes my productivity. Thanks Dave.

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  9. scatterbrian says:

    Damn you guys. I had shit to do today…

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  10. chuckb says:

    This is fantastic! I sure am glad summer is arriving and I can now spend all my time indoors on the computer!!

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  11. Matt C says:

    Just browsing through the all time WAR leaders and I noticed that one of my favorite players of all time Lou Whitaker is 59th in career WAR just 1 spot behind Pujols yet he hasn’t even sniffed the Hall Of Fame. Such B.S., at the very least he should atleast be in the discussion for the Hall of Fame every year, yet nobody ever brings him up.

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    • Matt C says:

      Oh yeah and one more thing for Babe Ruth does it take into account his pitching? Because if it did I’m sure his total would be quite a bit higher.

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  12. Katie says:

    How far back do you have complete BABIP numbers?

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  13. Darren says:


    1. what are you using for Catcher Fielding through the ages?
    2. I think there needs to be a Pitcher Hitting positional adjustment. I had thought Rally included these in his WAR.

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    • Catcher Fielding is Total Zone pre 2003. After 2003 it’s John Dewan’s catcher ratings.

      We discussed at some point doing a pitcher hitting positional adjustment. I just don’t remember what, if any conclusion was reached.

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  14. Darren says:

    The only reason I say it , is that it currently shows a -16 WAR for Greg Maddux with a 0 pos adjustment. If I want to combine that to his Pitcher WAR (when complete), I think it is going to overly punish his overall career WAR.

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  15. TomG says:

    Ah, beautiful. Yet another piece of ammunition for when I go on my annual crazy “Lou Whitaker was just as good, if not better than, Craig Biggio” rant right around HoF-ballot time.

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    • suicide squeeze says:

      Honest to God, that is the first graph I made with this. I threw in Joe Morgan and Jeff Kent just to fill it out.

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  16. philkid3 says:

    Heh. I kidding said that our graphs at Beyond the Boxscore had inspired this before I finished reading.

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  17. Ivdown says:

    Wow, that is just awesome :) 9.4 WAR for Piazza in 97, just tremendous. Biggio had a 9.6 WAR in 97 as well…shocking. This is awesome! I can’t wait for the pitchers, I’m curious to compare Pedro to Koufax.

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  18. Peterfox says:


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  19. Will says:

    I am not sure I get the point of historical WAR when we know the defensive component isn’t going to be anywhere near as reliable as the more modern data, which isn’t all that reliable to begin with.

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    • Sixto Lezcano says:

      I agree. It’s kind of cool to look at, I guess, but there is no way this is anywhere near as accurate as contemporary WAR. For example, I refuse to believe that Babe Ruth was an above average defender.

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  20. Patrick says:


    Care to define what “reliable” means? How do you know it’s not reliable?

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  21. Stephen says:

    I am confused. How do we have any defensive numbers at all for historical data? I mean, Mickey Mantle for instance. Where do those defensive numbers come from?

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    • Mike K. says:

      If I’m not mistaken, Retrosheet. It isn’t PBP data, but still better than using fPCT or something. Google “TotalZone”, I haven’t read the methodology behind it in a while. Or if Rally jumps on this thread maybe he can explain it.

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  22. A few years ago, Baseball Prospectus wrote a book in which the first chapter asked the question of who was better in their career: Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds. The book was written while Bonds was still playing and concluded that it was a close call that would depend on what Bonds did in the final years of his career.

    Fast forward to today. According to Fangraphs’ new WAR data, Ruth (177.6 career WAR) beat out Bonds (1702 career WAR) by ~7 WAR for his career, or about ~3.2 runs per season.

    Game. Set. Match.

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  23. theperfectgame says:


    Quick question: Will WAR be available on the Major League Leaders tab prior to 2002 at some point in the future (perhaps when you get around to doing the full WAR for pitchers)? Right now, the Value tab only shows up for the 2002-2010 seasons.

    I still can’t believe that this site is free. And that it even makes it easy to export pretty much anything I want to play with in Excel. Fantastic.

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  24. Jay says:

    So, Griffey had a better defensive year in 1996 than Guttierez did in 2009? I always thought the SABRers considered his defense overrated even in his prime. Thoughts?

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  25. Jay says:

    Another note of Griffey love: in the context of these numbers, his selection to the All Century Team over Bonds is actually defensible. From 1996 to 1999, when the ACT was named, Griffey had more WAR than Bonds, and given their relative ages it was reasonable to think that his future was brighter than Barry’s.

    To underscore the obvious, this data is awesome, providing justification for both sides of millions of arguments. Hooray!

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  26. circlechange says:

    Another Griffey fact:

    Up to and including age 30:
    Sr: 23.3 WAR
    Jr: 79 WAR

    Age 31-39
    Sr: 12.7 WAR
    Jr: 7.7 WAR

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  27. The Nicker says:

    Let’s go the charts with Whitaker:


    Yep, like Tigers’ fans have been saying for years . . .

    Maybe we should do some Bobby Grich war charts also?

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  28. The Nicker says:

    And one more: the second graph is the mockery of the Ryan Howard extension, in visual form:


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  29. Thanks David, this is absolutely awesome. I especially like the WAR graphs.

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  30. WBC says:

    Will historical team pages be added at some point (i.e. so one could look at the 1998 Yankees and compare the players?)

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  31. Omar Little says:

    Best part of this activity? Comparing guys who should be in the HOF or at least considered to Jim Rice.

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  32. Sal Paradise says:

    Thank you for making this! I especially like the (very familiar) WAR by age graphs.

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    • Sal Paradise says:

      Ah, but one request — any chance you could put the horizontal line at the average WAR for a hall of famer rather than at 100? It would help a lot more to see what the average HOF has (split by pitchers/batters perhaps) to compare Hall chances.You could even make it selectable by position (how many WAR does the average 1B have?).

      I know that in reality historical WAR is toughest for defense, so that may not be the best, but it couldn’t hurt, right?

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