Michael Bourn Better Than Matt Kemp: A Case of Taking WAR Too Far
Atlanta Braves’ centerfielder Michael Bourn is a very good player. There is no denying the fact that Michael Bourn is a big reason why the Braves have a 19-13 record, 1/2 game behind the Washington Nationals in the National League East. But exactly how valuable is Michael Bourn? Better yet, how much does the statistic WAR (Wins Above Replacement Player) matter when determining a player’s value.
Earlier this week, Michael Bourn had a higher WAR than Los Angeles Dodgers’ superman Matt Kemp. Which caught my eye because 1) I consider myself a SABR guy, 2) Matt Kemp has been otherworldly this season, and 3) I really have no idea how well Michael Bourn was doing this season. So then, I thought to myself, how in the blue hell is Michael Bourn better than Matt Kemp?
This is why I am moving away from WAR as a whole. Some fans and writers take it too far when you can confidently say Michael Bourn is having a better season than Matt Kemp. Now, granted, it lasted a whole two days, but the fact some people would take a guy with a slash-line of .319/.387/.385/.772 over a guy with a .385/.469/.780/1.249 because he’s a better fielder and baserunner blows my mind.
This reminds of the 2009 when Ben Zobrist had a higher WAR than Albert Pujols for the majority of the season. While Zobrist had a much better line than Bourn at .297/.405/.543/.948, it wasn’t better than Albert Pujols’ .327/.443/.658/1.101. But since Zobrist had a 22.8 UZR – a defensive metric – he was on par with Albert Pujols.
This is what drives me nuts with WAR. A run saved isn’t a run earned – sorry. UZR stinks and is extremely flawed, it’s essentially an educated guess on how good a defender is. So in the case of WAR, it’s making hardcore statistics like OPS and what not equal to a bogus, faulty, and ridiculous defensive metric.
I’m done with WAR, absolutely done with it. I know who are good defenders and baserunners. I don’t need a faulty formula to tell me who’s “the best”. Matt Kemp completely smokes Michael Bourn – case closed.
I will continue to use some of the numbers that go into calculating WAR, but no longer will I be using it as the final say in regards to a player’s value. The day Michael Bourn is better than Matt Kemp is – and should be your – breaking point.
Bryan is a featured writer for Rant Sports. Although he concentrates mostly on the game of baseball, you can find him covering things all over the Rant Sports Network