The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Friday, July 28, 2006

 

JAWS bites ESPN

A big welcome to those of you reaching this site from ESPN, where Jonah Keri (in his new digs at Page 2) used the Jaffe WARP Score methodology in a piece today to examine the Hall of Fame cases of John Smoltz and Curt Schilling. Even better, Keri gave extensive play to JAWS' take on several other active pitchers, and generously included a link to this site.
A Baseball Prospectus metric called JAWS tries to fill the breach. An acronym for Jaffe WARP Score -- named by its creator, Jay Jaffe -- JAWS measures a player's combination of career and peak production against those of Hall of Famers at his position. By this method, peak is defined as a player's seven best seasons according to another BP stat, Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP). The player's JAWS score, then, is a simple average of those seven peak seasons and his career WARP total.

WARP is itself a measure of a player's offensive, defensive and/or pitching contribution above what a freely-available minor leaguer or bench player could produce. With the Hall of Fame's ranks diluted by dubious Veterans Committee selections, the goal of JAWS is to identify players who would be above-average Hall of Famers. They help raise the bar for future generations. There's plenty that JAWS doesn't consider -- awards, postseason play, hitting or pitching milestones, league-leading totals, and character among them. But JAWS does a good job of weighing the meat-and-potatoes contributions of each player in a Cooperstown context.

JAWS is expressed as the total number of wins a player contributes above your typical scrub. Strip out batting average, ERA, OPS and every other stat and you're drilling down to the core of a player's value: how many ballgames he wins for his team.

The average Hall of Fame pitcher accumulated 99.6 career WARP and 63.0 peak WARP (an average of 9.0 per year), for a JAWS score of 81.3, or 81.3 wins more than your typical Gerald Williams-type player. Before this year, both Schilling and Smoltz were closing in on that level. Schilling stood at 96.6 career/63.2 peak/79.9 JAWS, Smoltz at 103.9/55.1/79.5. Those aren't the top scores among active and recently-retired pitchers (those who have yet to appear on a Hall of Fame ballot). Schilling and Smoltz rank eighth and ninth among active pitchers, and 37th and 39th all-time.

But with good 2006 seasons to date under their belt, both Schilling and Smoltz have crossed the gauntlet. If the season ended today, Schilling would wind up at 82.8, Smoltz at 82.0, clearing the 81.3 threshold for the average Hall of Fame pitcher. Both Smoltz and Schilling are also within a couple of wins of placing this season among their seven best of all-time, which would further enhance their candidacies by elevating their peak scores.
Among the other cool things about the piece -- besides the fact that it marks my first time my name has been on the ESPN site, which is a thrill even given how critical I am of the so-called "Worldwide Leader in Sports" -- is that Clay Davenport supplied me with a fresh set of WARP data to recalculate the JAWS scores, something I've wanted to do for a few months now (just about every article I've mentioned JAWS it's been with the caveat that the numbers are slightly outdated). I recalibrated pitchers for this, and I'll be getting some new scores together so that anyone who wants can see the updated scores for the other positions.

I also supplied Keri with this Top 10 of active pitchers:



Note that the besides Schilling and Smoltz, the JAWS scores of some of these pitchers will increase even more if their 2006 totals wind up among their seven; in fact, here's where the bar lies for each of them:

Clemens 10.7
Maddux 10.1
Johnson 10.3
Martinez 8.2
Glaving 7.2
Mussina 7.6
Brown 7.9
Schilling 6.9
Smoltz 6.5
Rivera 7.3
Schilling (1.2 wins shy), Rivera (1.4) and Smoltz (1.6) would seem to have the best shots at bettering their cases; at the very least they will knock Brown down to ninth on this list with one more solid start from Smoltz.

Anyway, thanks to Jonah for inviting me to contribute to his piece, and thanks to Clay for his fine work with WARP and all of the other BP stats that make JAWS possible.

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