Strange Leagues: WAR and wRC

Every once and awhile I will be reading through comments on articles and in the forums, and I’ve noticed an interest in leagues involving WAR, wOBA, etc. I’m not surprised, since this is a statistical site that uses those numbers every day. However, not enough is being said about these “strange” leagues, so I think we need to shed some light on the situation.

WAR Leagues

WAR leagues are always going to be fun and much more realistic, seeing that they actually use defense, which is just as important as the offensive side of the ball. Since UZR is involved, you can’t exactly set up a Yahoo! league to track WAR, whether you want to or not. That leaves you with two options. You can continuously call Yahoo! until they give in, or you can start your own WAR league. I’ve heard of some readers forming their own leagues using WAR, and doing a draft on their own time. This is a great idea, and the boys over at Beyond The Boxscore have a draft every year. In fact, BtB takes it one step further and uses MLB contracts and assigns each owner a $60mm salary cap. This makes drafting hard, and forces owners to put a lot of work in (I should know, I’ve done the draft each year and am actually running a league this year). These leagues aren’t difficult to run after the draft, because each owner can enter his players into his FanGraphs account and check on his team quite easily.

Real Runs

Every fantasy league has the option to use “runs” as a category, but that just counts how many times the player crossed the plate, not how many runs he actually contributed at the plate. Fortunately, there is now a very easy solution for this. In a league I am in with BtB writer JinAZ, he has set our scoring to a “wRC*10 scale”. This point system can now be found on Beyond the Boxscore, if that is something you are interested in. I have to say, I am very excited to see how the draft goes for this league, because the rankings will be different from standard rankings, though by how much remains to be seen.

The new wave of fantasy leagues will eventually be noticed, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the “Big Three” (CBS, ESPN, Yahoo) implement more advanced stats in the coming years to satisfy their customers. Don’t forget, the more you bug them, the sooner they will be implemented.




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Zach is the creator and co-author of RotoGraphs' Roto Riteup series, and RotoGraphs' second-longest tenured writer. You can follow him on twitter.

24 Responses to “Strange Leagues: WAR and wRC”

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  1. Sky Kalkman says:

    Fangraphs Saber-Friendly Fantasy Manager, arriving 2011? ;)

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  2. JWay says:

    One can only wish…

    I started writing about my WAR League, (minus defense, not sure how to implement that yet, with the software available, patiently waiting FG!) at my new blog http://www.fantasybythebook.com.

    5×5 leagues are so 1994. :)

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  3. elgringo79 says:

    !!!!There is a game like this out there already. They don’t use the almighty WAR, but a formula similar to RC applied to a whole lineup. It’s called Baseball Manager. And despite starting up with Prodigy way back in the day, it is still not that well known.

    But what really simulates the baseball experience, your team plays daily games against the other teams in your league using that day’s ACTUAL MLB box scores for each player. And just like the BTB game you mentioned, each team has a payroll, and the draft and free agent signings use it.

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    • elgringo79 says:

      Oh, and it does NOT use is stats like RBIs, Wins, or Saves — you are drafting a player to insert in your lineup, not his MLB team. There is no point accumulation. Every day you want your hitters to get on base, your runners to advance around the bases, and you don’t want your pitchers allowing runs. The pitching/defense side is admittedly weak — ER (gag) are the only stat — but the realism of the rest of the game, including the financial system, is still lightyears ahead of any other fantasy (non-sim) game.

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  4. elgringo79 says:

    If anyone is looking for a challenge, try BBM. They have a free abbreviated season game. Play that, AND the BtB game, and decide for yourself which is more fun.

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  5. R M says:

    This just doesn’t sound that fun to me. Fantasy isn’t about how realistic you can make it. It’s a lot more fun to watch a game and see that Ryan Howard gave your team 2 homeruns today than to see that he gave your team .1 WAR.

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    • Jason B says:

      I totally agree. I prefer something I can see and count*. My player accumulating 0.0037 WAR is just a tad nebulous for me.

      *As long as “things I can see and count” doesn’t veer into holds, triples, HBP’s, sac flies, batters faced, days on the DL, unassisted double plays, unassisted TRIPLE plays, and times my OF flips the ball into the stands thinking there were three outs rather than two.

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      • matt w says:

        times my OF flips the ball into the stands thinking there were three outs rather than two.

        I would play the heck out of a league that measured only things like that. Though I suppose it’d give an unfair advantage to whoever gets Manny.

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    • The A Team says:

      I’m in this bucket, I’m participating in a points league based on linear weights this year and I’m very excited about it because it’s basically a wOBA and FIP league weighted by opportunities. Both stats are broken down into their components so that even though we’re really aiming to maximize 1 stat per player type, we get to see how all the components add up to it (and since we’re using round numbers, it’s not perfect). I would not be excited about a single stat league.

      I think you guys might be misinterpreting things though (or maybe I am). A WAR league would break down statistics much like the league I’m doing this year. So positionally, you’d have wOBA and Dewan +/- (bear with me a second) without replacement level or positional adjustment. wOBA would be broken down by linear weights for a representative group of stats like single, double, triple, walk, hbp, ibb, k, sb, and cs. Fielders would be awarded points for a plus play and deducted for a minus. It feels slightly more intuitive to do that with dewan +/-, but we can use UZR for that too. The pitching would be similar except with FIP, perhaps ideally with batted ball type included.

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      • Zach Sanders says:

        A true WAR league just uses fWAR as the one and only stat.

        @RM – Using the wRC*10 scale you can still get points for things you can see, they are just adjusted using a saber-scale.

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      • The A Team says:

        blech, there’s just something uninspiring about that…I’m not sure why I love the idea of a WAR components league but hate the idea of a straight fWAR league. After all, the standings should shake out the same, one is just a more granular approach towards the same goal. Nevertheless…

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  6. DavidCEisen says:

    UZR is a bit noisy, so I’d rather not participate in a league that uses anything influenced by it.

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  7. TixList.com says:

    I’m in an AL only league that uses real MLB salaries but with a salary cap taking the avg AL team salary, so last year it was 94M. If you’re not doing this, you’re missing out. It gives tremendous value to pre-arb players and farm systems (we have a 20 person farm). Unfortunately, we haven’t moved to WAR, although I’d like to see it. Problem of course is that few if any sites have WAR as a category. Huge revenue stream possibility for Fangraphs.

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    • JWay says:

      That sounds incredibly interesting. I’m really jealous. Do you guys work keepers?

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      • TixList.com says:

        Full keepers, which obviously hurts draft day a little, since most guys are only drafting 4-6 major leaguers, plus another 10 or so minor leaguers (teams usually keep half their farm). For example, our first round last year went:

        Smoak, G Beckham, Sabathia (huge contract hurts his value), Hosmer, T Beckham, Hicks, P Burrell (came over from NL team), Holland.

        This year Ackley will go #1, followed by guys like Nick Johnson, Miguel Tejada, Grant Green, Jacob Turner, Aaron Crow, etc.

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  8. Max says:

    While I think Saber-stats are better to show batters true worth, is that what we really are after when we play fantasy baseball? OBP, OPS, WAR etc are not “everyday” stats. Do you ever really want to root for a walk? Chicks did the long ball.

    On a side note, does anyone think Ron Santo even knows what OBP is?

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  9. TixList.com says:

    For me, yes, it’s exactly what I want. So you’d prefer to root for your starting pitcher who’s given up 7 runs in 4 2/3, but his offense has scored 8, to finish off the inning so he qualifies for the all important “W”? Meanwhile my starter just pitched 9 shutout inn’s but his team loses in the 10th. Congrats, you got the “everyday” stat while I didn’t.

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    • R M says:

      That is part of the game in Fantasy baseball. Your pitcher makes up for not getting the win with the ERA, WHIP and K’s he provides with his 9 inning start. And that is a very extreme example as well…complete games are a fairly rare event, and complete game losses are even rarer.

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  10. Max says:

    Easy, comic book guy. So you prefer The Green Lantern…dosent mean you’re wrong. Maybe I draft Rich Harden because I figure that if he does have a bad day, the Texas hitters will pick him up and help him get the W anyway. I would simply say that I got a lucky win from him. Not that he was the better pitcher of the two in your example. It is what makes the game frustrating yet so much more fun at the same time.

    Lots of folks dont like the main stream stats for fantasy because others are better tests for true worth when it comes to the real thing. I understand the desire to make things as close to real as possible so that we can all say what great a real scout/gm we would be – it is the very essence of why we play this game. That being said, I still prefer Batman.

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  11. TixList.com says:

    Your comic reference missed it’s mark, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    You asked why we play fantasy baseball, and I’m suggesting some of us play it because there are only 30 jobs in the universe set aside for MLB General Managers, and it’s entertaining as hell to put yourself in that position. It sounds to me like you play it because it’s fun to email your buddies because you flipped a coin better than they did. That’s cool, just not my thing.

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    • Jason B says:

      To be fair, I don’t think playing in a league that uses traditional 5×5 stats can be reduced to simply “flipping a coin”. I think that sort of “yeah, your way is fine, mine is just clearly better” response looking elicited the comic book guy comparison.

      You can be familiar with wOBA, FIP, and wRC and still prefer a fantasy league that uses the more familiar metrics. Doesn’t make your preference defective or wrong.

      (Unless its Aquaman. NO ONE can prefer him to Green Lantern OR Batman…)

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      • TixList.com says:

        My point wasn’t my way is better than yours, it all depends what you’re looking for in a roto league. Personally, I’d prefer a league that’s less “luck based” which usually requires the removal of some traditional 5×5 stats. Sounds to me like you’re the one stirring the pot with the suggestion that I called his league defective. I simply said it’s not my thing, but I recognize not everyone cares about wOBA, FIP, etc when it comes to fantasy.

        …still not getting the comic reference, then again, comics were never my thing either.

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    • R M says:

      Tix, you examples are ridiculous. Now these stats are “flipping a coin”?

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