Using WAR To Bet on Baseball

Fifty years ago, betting on baseball was a difficult science to try to get a hold of, knowing that there weren’t tons of stats readily available that could help make or break your bet. Now, advancements in baseball statistics have really made it very possible to help you bet on baseball. One of the most used stats by baseball junkies and scouts of the game is the WAR stat, and I believe if you use WAR properly, you can find a ton of great wagers to make on a nightly basis.

What is WAR?

WAR, or Wins Above Replacement, is probably the most comprehensive way to quantify how well a player is doing his job in baseball. It isn’t the end all, be all stat, but it certainly is the best one-stat indicator that we have at our fingertips in 2013. This is a stat based off of Sabermetrics. As anyone who watched the movie Moneyball should know, Sabermetrics essentially tries to take luck out of the equation. When a player hits a baseball, it will go for a base hit a certain percentage of the time. Some players get luckier than others. However, when you take luck out of it, Sabermetrics shows exactly what a player should be doing if all lucky or unlucky bounces were created equally.

There isn’t a truly established formula for how to calculate WAR, as every publication that attempts to do it weighs different factors of the game slightly differently. The end target with the WAR stat is to determine how many wins a player is worth to his team above and beyond (or as some cases have it, below) what the average Joe on the bench or in the minors is worth. If the average bench player in baseball would win 50 games over the course of a season, and your 25 man roster has a total team WAR of 50, you should, in theory, be good for 100 wins that season.

For our purposes, we are going to use the WAR stat provided by Baseball Reference, as I feel as though this is the best overall site for baseball information on the internet. However, FanGraphs and others have their own WAR stats they use that are just as effective. Feel free to mix and match as you find it to be effective. Remember that there is more than just one way to win when you gamble on any sport, but most certainly on baseball.

Not Just Your Average WAR

Obviously, if a player is a regular position player at the MLB level, he should be worth at least a win or two more than a replacement player. The league average is generally around a WAR of +2, while starting pitchers averaged out to around a +2 WAR as well. Relief pitchers average out around +0.6 WAR or so, simply because their effect on the game is so minimal.