Nerd alert: a brief discussion about baseball stats

20 May

nerdybaseballstats1.JPGLast week, sporadic commenter/current roommate/expert foot masseuse Norm publicly wondered why the “OPS Against” statistic wasn’t used more often to gauge the success of MLB pitchers. ‘Twas a good question. I’ve used it in the past, but only sporadically, and when I began searching for the Twins staff’s OPS Against numbers, I had the damndest time locating the info. Which led me to echo Norm’s question: why isn’t this statistic – flawed, but still more valuable than ERA, WHIP and the like – not a commonly referenced number?

After finding no suitable answers to this query via Googling, I put out a call to two savvy baseball minds, Aaron Gleeman and Ken Tremendous. Gleeman never responded – though, to be fair, he’s probably swamped with his daily tasks of writing baseball columns and ogling over scantily clad lady pics – but KT, that raccoon-wielding beet farmer, wrote to confirm my notions: “The flaws are the same flaws that OPS has for hitters — it’s a little crude as a stat, since it’s just adding two things together.  That being said, it’s way better than most of the stats people use…like wins.  Peter Gammons has been using it for years, which is one more reason that Peter Gammons is awesome.”

Good enough for me. Thanks Ken.

To sum up, two conclusions about OPS Against: (1) the stat isn’t perfect. It weighs OBP and SLG the same (even though OBP is much more valuable), it doesn’t include park factors, or, most importantly, BABIP. There are better, more intricate statistics to judge a pitcher’s worth. (2) On the other hand, OPS Against is a vastly undervalued statistic; one I plan on using frequently, simply because it’s more valuable than ERA/WHIP and more conducive to discussion amongst casual baseball people. (The next time I hear BABIP mentioned in a conversation will be the first, and will likely signify the apocalypse.)

And this concludes the fascinating story of how one man came to see the importance of a scarcely-referenced baseball statistic. The end.

6 Responses to “Nerd alert: a brief discussion about baseball stats”

  1. Jon May 20, 2008 at 6:51 pm #

    An interesting read:

    I was never convinced about OPS until reading that article, but that did the trick. It’s both simple – to calculate, and to understand – and apparently highly correlated with runs scored.

  2. norm May 21, 2008 at 7:47 am #

    Well done sir. However, I slightly disagree that OPS against is more valuable than ERA. I think the two complement each other. The bottom line of statistics is to try to judge wins/losses, i.e. runs scored/runs allowed. So for pitchers this is ERA – we don’t really need to go into other statistics for this – it is what it is. But we all know that ERA doesn’t necessarily reflect how well or poor a pitcher has thrown. So I think the use of OPS against (and WHIP – OPS against being better) is as a predictive stat. For example, Livan Hernandez has maintained a reasonably low ERA this season (3.88), but gives up a lot of baserunners (OPS against .808, WHIP 1.4). The OPS against and WHIP stats would suggest that it is unlikely Hernandez can continue to give up that many baserunners and maintain such a low ERA.

  3. Cool Rut May 21, 2008 at 11:53 am #

    If I have to listen to Norm try to explain his take on this boring topic again, I might quit visiting this site. Seriously, stick to chemistry and 18 year old co-eds.

  4. anonymous guy May 21, 2008 at 1:35 pm #

    Hey Cool Rut, lay-off. I think that Norm makes some excellent points, and really interesting I might add. Also, I heard that he is more of a biophysical spectroscopist than a lowly “chemist.”

    Again, just what I heard.

    PS, she’s almost 22 you a-hole.

  5. Cool Rut May 21, 2008 at 3:10 pm #

    I wish norm had the balls to fight not some stranger that seems to know a lot about him.

  6. anonymous guy May 22, 2008 at 9:51 am #

    he most certainly doesn’t.

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