A Detroit Tigers Blog with a Feminine Touch

Sunday, March 20, 2011

An Introduction to Baseball Stats (Consider Yourself Informed)

Baseball is a smart-person sport.  Why, you ask? Because it is filled with all sorts of statistics and measurements for determining how good (or how terrible) a player or team is.  There are so many of these statistics that sometimes it's hard to keep track of what they are/what they mean/how important they actually are to know.  That's why, here at April in the D, we're going to make it easy for you.  We'll go through all the major batting and pitching measures and explain what they mean/if they actually mean anything at all.  Let's begin!

Batting Average (AVG)
The most cited of all hitting statistics, batting average is a measure of the number of hits a player has divided by the number at bats he has.  (So hits/at bats, for short).  An okay batting average is around .280, (which is where all the Tigers be by the end of the year PLEASE.)  But an excellent avg. is usually .300 or above. Despite the number of awards and honors that are reserved for players with a certain avg., it doesn't actually tell us much about a hitter's skill or impact on a team.  Magglio Ordonez hit a .303 AVG last year; Will Rhymes hit .304.  Now, nobody in the right mind would say that Will Rhymes had the same impact offensively that Maggs had last year not even Mighty Mouse himself.  This is because a bloop single counts the same as a double or even a home run in batting average land, which means that, batting average really can't determine a hitter's skill at the plate.  (It can however, show that your hitting sucks.  For example, our catchers hit for an average .218 last year....unacceptable!) Miguel Cabrera had the highest batting average on the Tigers (and one of the highest in the league!) with .328.

On Base Percentage (OBP)
A slightly more descriptive statistic, on base percentage is a measure of how often a player reaches the base for any reason besides a fielding error, a fielder's choice or a catcher error. Technically, the calculation is the number of hits, walks, and times hit by pitch divided by the number of at bats, walks, times hit by pitch and sacrifice flies.  OBP is an important measure because when a hitter has one man on base, the rate that he hits the ball actually increases.  If a player can reach the bases often, he gives his team a much greater opportunity to score. Cabrera's OBP last year was .420, a phenomenal grade, and the highest on the tigers last year.

Slugging Percentage (SLG)
The smart man's batting average!  Slugging percentage is the measure of the number of hits divided by the number of at bats, but doubles count for double, triples count for triple, and home runs count for quadruple the amount of a lousy single.  Let's review!  Will Rhyme's SLG was .414.  (Pretty good, actually!) Magglio's was .474!  Now you see that the two are not actually equal in terms of hitting.  Magglio hit for more power and got more bases, whereas Will hit many more singles.  Slugging percentage more accurately shows the power of a hitter and the effect that he has on the game.  Miguel Cabrera's SLG last year was a whopping .622.

On-base Plus Slugging (OPS)
Our personal favorite statistic here at April in the D, OPS is simply the addition of a player's slugging percentage with their on base percentage.  This truly shows the impact that a single bater has upon the game.  Highly influential players are often intentionally walked, which contributes to their on-base percentage.  When given the chance to bat, these player make the most of their opportunity, contributing to their slugging average.  Players with high OPS have the respect of pitchers and managers everywhere because, no matter what, it is stressful situation when they are at the plate.  Only the best hitters have an annual OPS of over .900. Miguel Cabrera's OPS last year was 1.042.  His career average is .939.

Now we move on to some basic pitching stats:

Earned Run Average (ERA)
The most commonly cited pitching statistic, ERA is the average amount of earned runs given up by a pitcher per nine innings pitched.  Unlike its hitting counterpart, batting average,  and ERA is actually an excellent measure of how good a pitcher is.  The best pitchers in the league have an ERA between 2.00 and 3.00, a feat achieved by not a single one of the Tiger's starting pitchers last year (ewww).  The Cy Young Award winners last year, Roy Halladay of the Phillies and Felix Hernandez of the Mariners, had ERAs of 2.44 and 2.27 respectively. This is why we shudder with anxiety when we think about our "pretty good" pitching this year.

Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched (WHIP)
As explained in its name, WHIP is a measure of how often a pitcher allows base-runners.  Whereas ERA is a more offensive statistic (did they score?), WHIP is a measure of a pitcher's skill on the mound.  Players with low WHIPS are excellent because they don't even give the other a teams a chance to score. There have only been two players to have a WHIP of below 1.  But being close to it is considered desirable.  Last year, Justin Verlander had the lowest WHIP out of any of our starting pitchers with a 1.16.  Although this statistic is not used nearly as much as ERA, we think that it is nearly as good, and we'll be using it frequently to describe our pitchers and opposing pitchers this year. Help us bring in the trend!

So what have we learned? We've learned that our pitching needs work, Miguel is amazing, and now, we can all happily look at statistics.  The best thing to do with your newfound information is start acting like a showoff.  The common man doesn't know what OPS or WHIP stand for, so use them as much as possible.  You'll look like you belong on ESPN!

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