Statistics sometimes tell the story

A Win Share is a number that covers offense, defense and, if the player in question is a pitcher, pitching.

Updated: February 6, 2004, 9:29 AM ET
By Jim Baker | MLB Insider
I've been using Bill James' Win Shares a bit this week and that's generated quite a few letters asking just what a Win Share is and how it's calculated. I'll explain the first and give you a link that better explains the second.

Joe DiMaggio
Win Share allows fans to compare players from different eras.
A Win Share is a single number that covers the whole shooting match: offense, defense and, if the player in question is a pitcher, pitching. What is especially neat about it is that it takes into account context. A player's home park advantage/disadvantage is factored into the equation as is the era in which he played or is playing. This is done by using the number of runs scored in the player's league as well as the number scored by his team as a basis of comparison. It's far more complicated than that, of course, but that's an easy way to describe it. Some things I especially like about Win Shares are these:

1. It puts pitching and offense in the same context. It manages to compare the apple with the orange.
2. It takes into account defense. Do defensive stats still have a long way to go? Yes, but compared to where they were 20 years ago, they have already come a long way and Win Shares does a full accounting of the up-to-the-minute improvements.
3. It cuts through the vagaries of time. The 26 posted by Pie Traynor in 1925 has the same basic meaning as the 26 posted by Vernon Wells last year.

Jim Baker is an author at Baseball Prospectus and a frequent contributor to Page 2. You can e-mail Jim at