I want to leap frog off kuri's great post this morning about the validity of WAR in discussions of player value.
Here's an interesting factoid from a post on the NYTimes' Bats Blog:
The Yankees’ best position players this season have been Robinson Cano (5.6 WAR), Gardner (3.7), Teixeira (3.6) and Nick Swisher (3.5).... [Cano, Gardner and Swisher are] owed less than $10 million this season, despite playing on a team in which nine players earn eight-figure salaries.
The Yanks are getting about one win per $16M from Arod, and for 0.5 WAR, Jeter's $21M might be a single season record for expensive futility from a player who never hit the DL (which isn't to say he isn't hiding some injury).
But the Yankees have the second best record in baseball, one loss from a tie for the best record, are all but assured a playoff spot and promise to be a threatening (if not overwhelming) force in the playoffs.
A part of that is thanks to huge contributions from smaller contracts picking up the slack for the aging stars, of course. But part of that is the pitching. Pitching wins. In a series, in a month, in a season, in the postseason, the best pitching is always the best bet.
So Sabathia's 4.3 WAR is a sound investment. As is Mariano Rivera's 1.6 WAR.
I think that number is low.
Phil Hughes' WAR is 1.9 and AJ Burnett's WAR is 1.3.
Not all innings are equal, but to WAR they are. Part of what makes Sabathia so valuable for the Yankees is not just that he pitches many innings- it's that he pitches many innings in a single night, basically giving the bullpen a night of rest. He doesn't pitch more innings- he pitches a higher percentage of the innings in the games he plays. How do we measure that value? Because if we're going to push the advanced metrics to their next level of usefulness, we need to.
WAR for pitchers draws much of it's substance from FIP, which likes pitchers who pitch many innings with fewer baserunners than K, especially those who don't give up homers. In general that's how I like my pitchers, too. But as frustrating as AJ Burnett has been this season, I don't know a single Yankee fan who would argue that Mark Teixeira has been nearly 3 times more valuable than AJ, or that Cano is nearly half again as valuable as Sabathia.
I don't have a solution to propose. I'm not high on WPA because it evaluates the events of the game without considering the skill of the players, nor the value of a great play.
I'd like to know, using whatever metric you like (subjective or objective, or a mix), how many wins has CC Sabathia been worth to the 2010 Yankees? Do you think 4 is the right number? Should we adjust for the size of his contract or the size of his appetite? Do we adjust for the psychological effect of having the horse to fall back on?