Welp, there goes that. Fangraphs and Baseball Reference recently announced that they were unifying their definition of replacement level, which should serve to provide a bit more uniformity between the two numbers. Its a significant change, which will have substantial consequences.
None are more significant than the effect this change will have on our Historical WAR Races. Those numbers were based on Fangraphs definition of WAR. We noted that Astros catchers were over 11 WAR behind Jeff Bagwell and the shortstop position trailed Biggio by 5. Well, those numbers are obsolete. And the changes did not help out the historically weaker positions.
As outlined here and here, Fangraphs raised their definition of replacement level, reducing the WAR for every player. The longer the time period, the more pronounced the effect. This caused Biggio to drop from 70.5 to 65.2 over his 20 year career. Astros shortstops from 1962-2012, on the other hand, dropped all the way down to 43.6. The same thing happened at the catcher position, which dropped down to 50.3, compared to 80.3 for Bagwell.
Gaps of 30 WAR and 21 WAR are not quite as manageable as the gaps previously reported. My fun and optimistic predictions will no longer get the job done. Check back in 2025 to resume our watchful eye on these scintillating WAR Races.
This has been your Very Important Update to Very Important Historical WAR Races.