How We Use Stats at Walkoff Woodward

At Walkoff Woodward I like to employ a use of sabermetrics, which is pompously defined as “the analysis of baseball through objective evidence”.

Sabermetrics is the rope that two groups of people are tugging on. The first group are the backers of the new age statistics, the Sabermetrician, Sabermagician, or even Saberphysician. They speak using words like OPS, BABIP, FIP, and ISO. The second group are members of the ancient fraternity “Omega Sigma Beta” or “Old School Baseball”. These frat brothers deplore the use of Sabermetrics and cry that the over analysis is ruining the national pastime.

Obviously, this tug of war is silly. Sabermetrics are simply a way to further understand and enjoy the game. I don’t debunk Wins and ERA at all, since they have been around since the inception of the game, but I do appreciate the finer points of analyzing the game and like to show it (but not abuse it) in posts.

For those who do not fully understand the terms or acronyms used here, the following definitions should help, or at least help you form an opinion on whether or not you want to click on that little X in the top right corner of your screen.

BA: Batting Average … (H/AB) The rate at which a player gets a hit relative to his total at-bats. The average BA in the Majors for 2011 was .255.

BABIP: Batting Average on Balls in Play … (H – HR)/(AB – K – HR + SF) How many of a player’s balls in play go for hits. BABIP removes HR, BB, and K — outcomes not impacted by defense — from the player’s average. It can serve as a rough estimate of a player’s luck, and can help predict future performance. The league rate stays around .300 (it was .295 in 2011). A higher BABIP often (thought not always) means a player is on the right side of luck (hits are falling in) and will regress. A lower number often implies a player is on the wrong side of luck and will improve. The metric can refer to hitters as well as pitchers.

Batted ball data (GB%, LD%, FB%) … Expresses how many of a batter’s balls in play are ground balls, line drives, or fly balls.

BB%: Walk Percentage … (BB/PA) How often a player walks relative to his total plate appearances. The average walk rate across MLB in 2011 was 8.1%. Jose Bautista walked at a rate of 20.2% in 2011; Yuniesky Betancourt, 2.7%.

BB/9: Walks Per 9 Innings Pitched … (IP/9) * BB How many batters a pitcher walks per nine innings. An excellent BB/9 is below 2. The average BB/9 across MLB in 2011 was 3.1. (Roy Halladay had a BB/9 of 1.35 for 2011.)

K/9: Strikeouts Per 9 Innings Pitched … (IP/9) * K How many batters a pitcher strikes out per every 9 innings. An excellent K/9 is 9.0, or a batter an inning. The average K/9 across MLB in 2011 was 7.1.

K%: Strikeout Percentage ... (K/AB) How often a batter strikes out relative to his total plate appearances. The average K% across MLB in 2011 was 18.6%. When Mark Reynolds set the single-season strikeout record in 2009 with 223 whiffs, his rate was 33.7%. Placido Polanco’s career K% entering 2012 is 8.4%.

ERA: Earned Run Average … 9 * (Earned Runs/IP) The number of earned runs a pitcher allows per nine innings pitched — it does not include runs which scored because of errors or passed balls. The average ERA across MLB in 2011 was 3.94.

ERA+: Adjusted ERA … (LgERA/ERA) * 100 A pitcher’s ERA relative to the league-average ERA and adjusted for his home ballpark. 100 is league average, below 100 would be below average; over 100 is above average. A 150 ERA+ means the pitcher’s ERA is 50% better than a league-average pitcher.

FIP: Fielding Independent Pitching … (HR * 13) + (BB + HBP – IBB)*3 – (K * 2)/IP A single, ERA-like number, focusing on a pitcher’s K rate, BB rate and HR rate (strikeouts, walks and home runs are not impacted by defense). By limiting its focus to factors a pitcher can control, FIP demonstrates a pitcher’s effectiveness better than ERA. The average FIP across MLB in 2011 was 3.94.

xFIP: Expected Fielding Independent Pitching … (FB * .106) * 13 + (BB + HBP – IBB) * 3 – (K * 2))/IP Calculated much like FIP, but with the home run rate kept at the league-average rate of 10.6%. (Individual pitchers’ home run rates often vary year to year.) The average xFIP in MLB for 2011 was 3.94.

Home run per fly ball rate (HR/FB%) … Simply the percentage of how many HR a player hits out of total amount of fly balls

Isolated Power (ISO) … Measures power, or how well a player hits for extra bases. A little more complicated.

RC: Runs Created … (TB * (H + BB)) / (AB + BB) An estimation, developed by Bill James, of a player’s offensive contribution to his team, measured in terms of runs. A precursor of wOBA (below).

OBP: On Base Percentage … (H + BB + HBP)/(AB + BB + HBP + SF) The rate at which a player gets on base relative to his total plate appearances. (PAs include walks, hit-by-pitch, sacrifice hits and catcher interference; at-bats don’t.) The average on-base percentage in MLB for 2011 was .321.

OPS: On Base Percentage Plus Slugging Percentage … (OBP + SLG) A single stat that estimates a player’s offensive production. Note that in OPS, OBP and SLG are weighted evenly (they’re summed), despite the two metrics being weighted differently themselves: OBP is calculated from plate appearances and SLG from at-bats.

OPS+: Adjusted OPS … 100 * ( OBP/lgOBP + SLG/lgSLG – 1)/BPF A batter’s OPS relative to the league-average OPS and adjusted for his home ballpark. 100 is league average, anything below 100 is below average; over 100 is above average. Bautista held a 181 OPS+ in 2011, meaning his OPS was 81% better than a league-average hitter.

SLG: Slugging Percentage … ((1B) + (2 * 2B) + (3 * 3B) + (4 * HR))/AB The rate at which a player gains total bases relative to his total at-bats. The average slugging percentage in MLB for 2011 was .399.

UZR: Ultimate Zone Rating How many runs above or below average a player was worth defensively. 0.0 is considered average. Developed by Fangraphs.com (although they are constantly improving this metric).

WAR: Wins Above Replacement A single statistic summarizing a player’s offensive and defensive contributions. WAR calculates the amount of wins a player adds to his team compared to the contribution that would be expected from a replacement-level player. A replacement-level player is a player who can be signed for mimimum cost, i.e. someone on the waiver wire or a Minor League free agent. 0.0 WAR over a season denotes a replacement-level player, 2.0 is a regular starter, 5.0 is All-Star worthy and a WAR of 8 or above means the player is worthy of MVP consideration.

fWAR: Fangraph.com’s WAR calculation, which includes FIP for pitchers, and UZR for defense (see above) rWAR: Baseball-Reference.com’s WAR calculation, which includes defensive runs saved (plus-minus) when calculating pitching, TotalZone for defense, and baserunning WARP: Wins above replacement player according to Baseball Prospectus

WHIP: Walks and Hits Per Innings Pitched … (W + H)/IP The number of walks and hits allowed by a pitcher per inning. Essentially, this equals baserunners per inning. A WHIP of 1 or below is considered elite. The average WHIP across MLB in 2011 was 1.32.

wOBA: Weighted On Base Average … A single stat that takes into account how a player gets on base, not just that a player gets on base, by assigning more value to extra-base hits. wOBA weighs each aspect of hitting in proportion to its run value, unlike OPS. The average wOBA across MLB in 2011 was .316.

WPA: Win Probability Added … A calculation of how a player affects his team’s win expectancy from play to play, over the course of a game. For example, a player who homers in a late-and-close situation will have a higher WPA than one who strikes out.

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