# Thread: What statistic(s) do you like -- and why?

1. ## What statistic(s) do you like -- and why?

Given a number of stat v anti-stat threads that have popped up lately, I thought it might be constructive to actually look at some of the stats people like to use.

As us stat-heads have been told over and over, the game is played on the field by real people. While some of us find beauty in the numbers, undeniably the best part of the game is what happens on the field.

So why do we have stats anyways? Certainly we don't need to know what Adam Dunn's slugging percentage is to enjoy a go ahead 3-run homer. We don't need to know the Volquez has an ERA under 3.00 to cheer at another strikeout.

At the simplest level, we use stats because we're trying to understand the game better. We realize that within the course of a given game it's pretty much impossible to figure out who the best players are. At the more complex end, we're trying to build winning franchises or compare Babe Ruth to Josh Hamilton.

In order to do this, we start counting what happened. At some point in the 1800s, people starting combining measures of events in to rate statistics so we could assess how often things happened. Along the way, we've fiddled with how we count things, certain rules we apply to exclude certain events or give extra credit to others.

The key thing to remember in all of this is that stats are just a means to an end. No stat is intrinsically better or worse by nature of it's existence. Rather, we should judge stats based on how well they do what they are supposed to do.

Taking the case of batting average, it was invented to assess basic offensive performance. The goal of offense, by definition, it so score runs. And because most runs are scored as a result of the combined efforts of players, we try to assess each player's individual run production to understand his contribution.

Over time, we've found ways of combining the measurements of offensive events to measure run production that, when added back up at the team level, better match up with how many runs actually end up scoring. Yet many, if not most people, are resistant to ditching batting average even thought its utility has been easily surpassed by other widely available metrics. It's like somebody said they would upgrade your car for free to make it more comfortable, look better, and get more better gas mileage -- and some people aren't interested.

What I'd like to understand is why.

I'd like to have an open conversation about what stats people like to use, what those stats tell them about the players and the game, and why people prefer them to some alternative. This isn't about any player, it's about the way we measure what they do.

I understand that many people don't like to have this conversation for a number of reasons including:
- You just don't care
- You don't want to spend the time
- You hate math
- Stat-heads can be arrogant and condescending
- It just doesn't make sense
- Bill James broke your Optimus Prime toy in 1986

If nobody is interested in doing this, that's cool. But in effect it seems we have an ugly, contentious version of this topic at least twice a week. If you'd rather ask a question about a stat you don't use, feel free. But let's get this conversation going in a constructive manner.

3. ## Re: What statistic(s) do you like -- and why?

OPS is probably my favorite statistic because it's simple really. It combines the two most important jobs for a hitter - getting on base plus the ability to drive the ball and score the runners. I didn't understand what it was until about six or seven years ago but now it's the main offensive statistic I use when judging a player. OPS against is also a stat I look at for pitchers.

4. ## Re: What statistic(s) do you like -- and why?

So OBM, just to play devil's advocate, what's a good OPS? What's a bad one? How many runs does a certain OPS equate to? Are all OPS's created equal? How much "better" is OPS than batting average, OBP, or SLG by themselves?

I don't expect you to answer those questions necessarily, but I'd like to people ask those sorts of questions about stats they don't like. We can collectively tease out our concerns and hopefully move every so slightly towards a better environment when it comes to the use (and debates) of stats.

5. ## Re: What statistic(s) do you like -- and why?

The stat I'd like the most hasn't been invented yet.

What I would really like to see for hitters (and the reverse for pitchers) is something like "Pitcher Quality Dependence Index".

The idea behind this is the following:

We've all heard stuff like "he's a AAAA hitter" or "he isn't clutch" etc and "good pitching always beats good hitting"...about hitters. And observation shows us that there are players who can make the leap from minors to MLB and pretty much put up the same numbers, while there are the Brandon Larsons of the world who tear it up in AAA but can't hit a lick in the bigs.
Similarly we all seem to obsess about hitters who can't seem to get the big hit against the tough pitcher, but completely demolish lesser hurlers.

Its obvious that all hitters hit worse against better pitchers (as an aggregate), but TO WHICH DEGREE. How much are their hitting skills dependent on the quality of the pitching they face?

To get this index, you would run a regression of the hitter's performance (OPS or one of those offensive stats people like) against a pitcher quality stat (OPSA, Dips or slips or whatever). In the case of OPS vs OPSA, you would "in aggregate" get a line that slopes upwards, however graphed by hitter individually...the lines would be much different. Almost all would slope upwards (barring a freak), but with different starting and ending points and different slopes. (Aside..I was thinking it would be simpler to aggregate pitcher into cuartiles or quintiles according to quality...fewer data points)

Why would this be important? Well, there is one constant as one moves into more challenging situations: pitching improves. It improves going up the minor league scales, it improves in high pressure game situations (clutch?)...it improves as you head into the postseason.

If a prospect can't hit the better pitchers in his level...he may not be a candidate for promotion. And a good hitter who performs consistently regardless of pitching qualtity, might be a better pick for a playoff team than a great hitter who is highly pitcher dependent.

Maybe all this is a bit stupid...but I'd like to see that stat.

6. ## Re: What statistic(s) do you like -- and why?

I like the more simple stats. I like stats that are whole numbers or percentages based upon 1.00. I understand OPS is a good stat but at the same time if I am watching the game or driving the game I don't get a real good example of the components that go into the stat. On the offensive side of the game I like BA, OBP, RBI, R, SB, HR, 2B, H. When you look at those stats together you can get a pretty good description of how and what a player is playing like.

You can tell me a guy is OPSing .800 but what does that mean? Is he getting on base at a .400. .500 clip? Is he slugging .400, .500? Its a summation statistic in which the components aren't clear cut.

For pitching again I like the basic. I like era, whip, k/bb, I wish instead of Innings they give you an average of innings pitched per start. For relievers I like WHIP, k, bb, saves.

I know my way of looking at the game is pretty simplistic but at the same time I look at the stats to give myself a general understanding of the game. Its true that a player can be having a lucky season or an unlucky season but thats where my eyes come in. IMO over a 162 game season the unlucky outs tend to even themselves out with the lucky hits.

7. ## Re: What statistic(s) do you like -- and why?

I like the OBP, and I like the SLG stats because I think that they help me to set aside, to filter out my player preferences or biases and to see who really does get on base against the left handed pitcher and the right handed pitcher or both, quickly.

Right or wrong, I can have a sense or consistent measure of knowing that batter x or y is getting on base more often because of my assumption of their ability to either actually hit the ball or to work a walk, avoiding making outs more often than perhaps player z on the whole or aggregate of the season.

Though those two stats may not be of any help tonight to win this single game, (a small sample)

I can see where over time that they would increase the probability of chances to score more often if the batters with those higher stats get the most AB/PA. I think. Anyway I got that from you, Cyclone, WOY and Steel et el. after hours, weeks, months and years, some understanding finally started to sink in. I still like BA as a quick cheap tool to see who is getting hits in x number bats, but nothing more, kind of like using the musing tool for lineups to see what runs they could produce per given lineup, just a small tool, I think it can tell me if a Hairston is hitting the ball better than a Patterson this month or week, just talking about hits only.

I also use the OBP stat to grade the managers choice and decision, to me if the manager made the right choice and decision regarding usage of player personnel, the OBP should support his choice and decisions on offense.

8. ## Re: What statistic(s) do you like -- and why?

I like OPS for the simplicity of it, and I like Runs Created (or even better, RC/TPA).

With RC, I really like knowing, within a very good margin of error, how much of a team's total runs scored, a player is responsible for. If a stat can tell me, within 95&#37; or so) that player A is worth 75 of a team's 600 runs, then I think that's relevent.

9. ## Re: What statistic(s) do you like -- and why?

Originally Posted by OnBaseMachine
OPS is probably my favorite statistic because it's simple really. It combines the two most important jobs for a hitter - getting on base plus the ability to drive the ball and score the runners. I didn't understand what it was until about six or seven years ago but now it's the main offensive statistic I use when judging a player. OPS against is also a stat I look at for pitchers.
I agree about OPS. It's simple. It's the first thing I look for in a hitter. Then I like to compare his BA with his OBP and SLG, so BA is useful to determine how plate discipline or power is controlling his OBP or SLG.

RC is just fun to look at. I really enjoy messing around with ESPN.com's sortable statistics. It's a great way to compare players at the same position. There are several filter options so that you can really have a good time with the data.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/stats/batting?league=mlb

For pitchers, the first thing I look for is K/9, then BB/9, and HR/9.

You can tell a lot about a pitcher just from those three, especially K and BB/9. I could care less about ERA and W/L. I think ground ball to fly ball ratio would probably be pretty useful too, but I admit I sometimes skip right past that.

I also check out Baseball Prospectus daily. This is a great page right here.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/statistics/sortable/

I love to check the adjusted standings. Also, even though I don't quite understand how it is determined, I like to check out VORP occasionally. The Run Expectancy Matrix is pretty nice to look at as well.

10. ## Re: What statistic(s) do you like -- and why?

W/L - I like that one a lot.

I like OPS because after all, there are only so many bases you can fill. After that, they become runs.

I like WHIP and I like you're basic strikes to balls ratio. Guys who through a lot of balls are not efficient and I think good pitching is about getting guys in and out of the batter's box as quick as possible (although I would also like to have a stat that tells me how many times a pitcher backs guys off, which does not happen nearly enough any more).

11. ## Re: What statistic(s) do you like -- and why?

Originally Posted by Raisor
I like OPS for the simplicity of it, and I like Runs Created (or even better, RC/TPA).

With RC, I really like knowing, within a very good margin of error, how much of a team's total runs scored, a player is responsible for. If a stat can tell me, within 95&#37; or so) that player A is worth 75 of a team's 600 runs, then I think that's relevent.
Yeah, though "these stats may have been passed by" they say a lot to me as well. They jibe nicely with my intuitive sense of what a player is doing relative to the other members of the team and other players in baseball.

For pitchers, I like OPSA--it doesn't do much for "prediction" but it says quite well, in my opinion, who the best starters are in any given season when you arrange them in order of OPSA (with a minimum number of innings pitched of course). The very good/elite starters will be @ .625-.675, the solid to very goods will be .675-.725; the averagey .725-765; the just hanging on to effectiveness .770-800; the useless or nearly useless fodder. .800 +

12. ## Re: What statistic(s) do you like -- and why?

A good OPS varies for certain positions. There is a big difference between an .800 OPS for a left fielder and an .800 OPS for a shortstop. Without looking it up right now an .800 OPS out of a LFer is around average I suspect whereas an .800 OPS out of a shortstop is outstanding. It all depends on the position.

As for how OPS compares to BA, it doesn't compare IMO. Batting average just measures how often you get a hit and it counts a homerun the same as a bunt single. OPS of course measures how often a hitter gets on base whether it be via hit, walk, or HBP and it's second component, slugging percentage, rewards extra base hits instead of counting them the same as a bunt single such as BA does. To me, On Base Percentage is the single most important statistic for a hitter. Getting on base gets everything started, and that's when slugging comes in. Getting on base and then driving the ball is what scores runs. OPS measures both. A simple stat IMO.

13. ## Re: What statistic(s) do you like -- and why?

The problem with OPS is that it uses two stats that are difficult to figure off the top of your head. With batting average all you need are the number of ABs and hits and that's pretty much provided for you at every ballpark. It's not a bad stat and it's useful but unless you have OBP and SLG handy, it's difficult to figure out. Then, of course, when you start weighing one of them over the other, it gets even more complex.

14. ## Re: What statistic(s) do you like -- and why?

Originally Posted by Chip R
The problem with OPS is that it uses two stats that are difficult to figure off the top of your head. With batting average all you need are the number of ABs and hits and that's pretty much provided for you at every ballpark. It's not a bad stat and it's useful but unless you have OBP and SLG handy, it's difficult to figure out. Then, of course, when you start weighing one of them over the other, it gets even more complex.
I'm not sure what they do at the GAB, but at the Ted they update OBP/SLG every PA.

15. ## Re: What statistic(s) do you like -- and why?

Originally Posted by Chip R
The problem with OPS is that it uses two stats that are difficult to figure off the top of your head. With batting average all you need are the number of ABs and hits and that's pretty much provided for you at every ballpark. It's not a bad stat and it's useful but unless you have OBP and SLG handy, it's difficult to figure out. Then, of course, when you start weighing one of them over the other, it gets even more complex.
The Dayton Dragons post OPS right in the free program they hand out. Love it.

BA/OBP/SLG/OPS

They also post OBP on the screen when a player is up.

GL

16. ## Re: What statistic(s) do you like -- and why?

I like the traditional stats. BA/HR/RBI/Runs scored. I then like to supplement with other stats.

For example: If someone has a lot of RBI then that means, to me, that the guy is having a pretty good year in that regard. Unless there is a supplementary stat that can knock that down (i.e. had twice as many runners on base than anyone else in baseball), then I like RBI.

I hate when people look at any stat and refuse to use others to supplement their thoughts. Just because RBI can be discounted in some instances doesn't mean it is worthless in all cases.

Of the "newer" ones, I like OPS. I think it has a lot of value. But just like any other stat, all OPSes aren't created equal.

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