Based on a suggestion from Sky at Beyond the Boxscore, I set out to “post-dict” the Mets 2008 season using WAR (“wins above replacement”). This exercise entails plugging the Mets statistics from ’08 into the BtB “easy-to-use” WAR spreadsheet. It’s a way to see how much the Mets talent level correlates to their W-L record. Also, we can find out just how accurate these WAR calculations are. It's decently complicated stuff, both for the casual fan and the aspiring sabermetricians among us. Baseline for National League replacement-level wins is 48.5. Add WAR to that and we’ll have our predicted actual win total.
It took some time, but I filled out the spreadsheet. Every inning pitched and plate appearance by a Mets player is accounted for, including Andy Phillips’s 5 PA’s and Matt Wise’s 7 IP. For those interested, I used wOBA for hitting (because it includes stolen bases), UZR/150 for fielding, Fangraphs FIP for pitchers, and Baseball Prospectus baserunning stats. I gave Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Luis Castillo a .25 WAR bump for baserunning. Believe it or not, Castillo The Gimp was a decent baserunner last year. Here are the results, compared to actual win total and Pythagorean wins:
WAR: 87 wins
Actual: 89 wins
Pythagorean: 89 wins
The predicted 87 wins is an average, as the team had a 55% chance of winning at least 86 games. It appears WAR is pretty good talent evaluator. I’d like to see how precise it is for every team in baseball before declaring it the greatest thing since John Olerud, but results like this lend credence to WAR. The 2008 Mets were slightly lucky or luck neutral, as actual win total equals Pythagorean wins and is a bit higher than WAR-predicted wins.
Playing the “What if?” game
Billy Wagner didn’t get hurt, and we credit him with Luis Ayala’s 18 IP? +0.6 WAR
Aaron Heilman wasn’t the sux0rest, and posted a FIP in line with his 2006-2007 performance (3.60)? +1.6 WAR
Pedro Martinez gave up homers at his career rate (0.75 HR/9) rather than his 2008 rate (1.57 HR/9)? +1.6 WAR
The possibilities for the “what-if” scenarios are endless, but ultimately kind of depressing given how the season played out. My advice to Mets fans, and baseball fans in general: exercise, eat healthy, and believe in WAR.