On Dellin Betances and WAR

According to Brian McCann, he’s not the Yankees’ 2015 MVP despite 25 home runs (387 at-bats) nor is 40-year old ARod (28 HR in 444 AB) nor is Mark Teixeira (31 HR in 392 AB). It’s relief pitcher Dellin Betances (a 1.40 ERA and 13.9 K/9 but only 70.2 innings).

Surprisingly, he’s not wrong (maybe).

2015 New York Yankees by WAR
Teixeira 3.9
Gardner 3.3
Betances 3.3
McCann 3.0
ARod 2.9
Didi Gregorius 2.7

Joe Posnanski recently argued that despite its detractors, WAR has “changed the landscape” to the extent that the utterly ridiculous MVP has disappeared.

[R]ealistically, I just don’t see how anyone who isn’t at least near the top of the WAR chart can build enough of a consensus to win the MVP award these days. I just don’t think it’s possible now…I don’t think WAR is necessarily is picking more winners, but I do think it is eliminating more contenders. I think it’s narrowing the field. I just don’t think quirky and emotional choices like Willie Stargell will be winning MVP awards now. You can either celebrate or bemoan this, but I think it’s the new reality.

But I think there’s a corollary to this, and that’s how WAR can make what might appear utterly ridiculous (or maybe it wouldn’t; I don’t watch the Yankees regularly so maybe it’s obvious that Betances is a realistic MVP candidate for the team) plausible. Betances isn’t an AL MVP candidate (Donaldson and Trout, or Trout and Donaldson if you prefer–with all due respect to Dallas Keuchel and Kevin Kiermaier and Lorenzo Cain) and he isn’t even necessarily the Yankees MVP (.6 WAR difference isn’t trivial, and 70.2 innings vs. 462 plate appearances isn’t trivial either). But it’s not ridiculous.


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