by Clark Heins
Introduction: Davis Wylie (pen name of researcher Neil Paine), after much complicated math resulting in each QB‘s stats being “adjusted“ to 2006 levels (through a process known as “translation“, i.e., normalization without standard deviation, converted everything into a final stat “Wins Above Replacement Player” totals in his "The 100 Greatest QBs of the Modern Era” opus which he used to rank QBs.
In football, there is no clearly established formula for determining WAR figures, but Football Outsiders originally estimated that a “Replacement Level” QB was some 13.7% less effective (valuable) than an “average” QB. This percentage was later changed to 13.3% and now rests at 12.5%. All these figures were arbitrary and consisted of some educated guesswork and “value judgments” about “players“ who never existed! It would have been much easier if Wylie had simply used the stat “Wins Above Average” which we can all understand instead of an incomprehensible abstract.
The problem for me was converting these WAR totals to WAA so as to compare with Doug Drinen’s figures in his own WAA opus.
Baseball has three recognized conversion formulas, but I could find none for football except a couple vague variations of Bill James‘ Pythagorean Theorem which, as statistician Zach Fein points out, has an error of between 1.2 to 1.4 games per team per season built into it---that‘s a pretty hefty error when dealing with a 16 game season. I reasoned that, at best, all I could do was approximate, but, by what process?
I’m not a mathematician, but after some experimentation, I came up with a “best fit” equation which I felt, at least, got me in the ballpark---WAR - (11.75% x WAR) = WAA. Although the WAA totals for each QB are going to be infested with some degree of error, the actual statistical rankings of the QBs by Wylie should not change and that is what should really concern us. I’ve included each QB’s WAR totals, my 11.75% subtraction and the resultant approximate WAA totals, then broke down those totals per 16 game seasons. For those QBs who had tie games, I didn’t know what to do, so I’ve included figures with and without the tie games. Wylie’s top 41 QBs were reviewed.
|Wins above average (per 16 games)|
|Player||WAR||WAA||Per 16 games||WAA||Per 16 games|
|Manning (2006)||15.93||14.06||1.43||35.2||2.95 (thru 2008)|
|Brady (2006)||8.17||7.21||1.09||27||3.38 (thru 2008)|
|Brunell 2006||13.54||11.95||1.2||-0.3||-.03 (thru 2008)|
|McNabb (2006)||10.56||9.32||1.36||6.2||.70 (thru 2008)|