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Reverend Baseball

Alumnus dives into box scores with holy zeal

There’s almost something divine about Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, the number that expresses a baseball player’s value to the team. Rev. Humbert Kilanowski ’04, PhD, who honed his mathematics skills at Case, has been making news for tweaking the most studied formula in baseball.

An assistant professor of mathematics at Providence College, Kilanowski is also an expert in sabermetrics, baseball analytics made famous in the book and film Moneyball. Recently, he was profiled by the Catholic News Service for giving baseball executives more numbers to crunch.

Theoretically, WAR judges a player’s skill over that of his replacement — typically a minor leaguer who would be called up to take his spot on the roster. Using statistical data from the summer Cape Cod Baseball League, where he watched and scored games last season, Kilanowski devised WAR rankings for amateur players with limited playing time and shallower stat pools—something that had not been done before.

His results were published in July in the Baseball Research Journal of the Society for American Baseball Research and appear to have already affected some draft picks.

A lifelong baseball fan, Kilanowski was known as Philip when he studied math and astronomy at Case (Humbert is his religious name). He found his vocation while earning his doctorate in mathematics from Ohio State. In 2018, he was ordained a Catholic priest and became a Dominican Friar. Now he pursues both passions—faith and baseball—with mathematical zeal.

“I knew that I wanted to build on my research background in applied probability,” Kilanowski told Providence College Magazine last year. “God’s providence has shown me new ways to tie in mathematics with my studies in philosophy and theology since becoming a Dominican, and even searching for a better model in baseball is part of the lifelong quest for truth.”

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