Sabermetrics 101: Part 1 of Some Number

There’s a good chance you’re not looking at baseball in the best of lights.

What I mean to say is: Is the ‘best player’ the one with the highest batting average?

Yeah, the answer is no. And if you said yes, boy do I have work to do. Tell me, what’s your opinion on wins? It better be that they suck.

Chi is fly

Chi-squared FTW!

Sabermetrics, for those who don’t know, is derived from the acronym SABR (The Society for American Baseball Research). Sabermetrics and sabermetricians seek to apply more advanced to statistical study to baseball. It’s both nerdy and freakin’ awesome at the same time.

Slowly, newer SABR statistics are becoming more mainstream (I’m sure most of you have heard of WHIP, which is a pretty basic stat, but something that traditionalists tend to dislike). Sabermetrics seek to provide us with better, more accurate, more efficient ways of evaluating players then what we have now. And you know what? Statheads have found that what we have now isn’t very good.

So, I will now give you a crash course in sabermetrics in terms of how you’re currently evaluating players, and how you should be (and also the pretty baseball men who have mastered each category). Without further ado…

The stat you use: Batting average (AVG)

The stat you should use: Equivalent average (EQA)

Batting average is the most simple of stats, but because of this it doesn’t tell us very much. It’s very possible to have a crappy AVG and still be an awesome offensive player (which is why OBP is so valuable; it’s a truer measure of how many times a player gets out, where ‘not getting out’ is the whole point of baseball… but I digress). EQA takes many more things into account, and is basically everything you thought batting average was; it’s a truer measure of a hitter’s prowess. It’s calculated such that it runs parallel to AVG. So, .260 is league average, with about .300 being pretty damn good and about .330 or higher being really good. The formula, because I know you want to know, is as follows:

(H + TB + 1.5*(BB + HBP + SB) + SH + SF) / (AB + BB + HBP + SH + SF + CS + SB)

The 2007 AL EQA leader was…:

ARod boasted a .340 EQA, because he is awesome. The NL leader was Barry Bonds at .353, but I assume you don’t want a giant picture of him. This may be MetsBlasphemy, and I am ashamed to admit it, but I think ARod is cute. -.- Sorry.

The stat you use: Wins and Losses (W/L)

The stat you should use: Walk and hits per innings pitched (WHIP)

WHIP isn’t a very intense SABR-y stat, but it’s a much better quick-and-dirty way to evaluate a pitcher than Ws and Ls. It is, quite simply, a pitcher’s total walks and hits given up divided by their total innings pitched. Most broadcasters won’t display this stat, but if you’re a loser like me you can quickly calculate it in your head when a new pitcher comes out and they give you the raw numbers. A WHIP of 1.3 is about average, and anything under 1.2 is pretty good.

Your 2007 NL leader, with a WHIP of 1.06, was:

There weren’t really any good pics of him, but he is kinda cute. The 2007 NL leader was Johan Santana, with 1.07. (EDIT: It’s Jake Peavy. I don’t know why I forgot to put that in originally.)

The stat you use: Runs batted in (RBI)

The stat you should use: Value over replacement player (VORP)

VORP tends to scare traditionalists off because it sounds weird and complicated, but it’s really not. VORP measures, in runs, how much more valuable player X is than some random AAA call-up guy who could be playing mediocre-ly for him.So, say, Placido Polanco. He had a 49.0 VORP in 2007, good for 27th of the year. Bravo, Placido. This means he was worth 49 extra runs to his team. (Ten runs is roughly one win.) And come on, you knew RBI was a bad stat. RBI is entirely dependent on what other people do (what if I bat 1.000, but no one else on my team ever gets on base? I have 0 RBI. Hence, it’s no good).

Your 2007 AL VORP leader? Guess.

ARod was actually the MLB leader with a 96.6 VORP. In the NL, Hanley Ramirez lead the way with 89.5. David Wright wasn’t far behind with 81.1.

The stat you use: Runs scored (R)

The stat you should use: Wins above replacement player (WARP)

People cite runs scored a lot as if it’s at all important, but it’s even more dependent on other people than RsBI. To asses the overall goodness of a player, you could also use WARP, which calculates approximately how many wins a player is worth to their team. WARP differs from VORP in that WARP considers defense, so poorer offensive players can have higher WARPS if they have good defense, making it a more level measuring stick of a player’s worth.

I can’t find a leaderboard, but for reference, in 2007 ARod had a 13.8 WARP. Hanley Ramirez had 7.3, and David Wright had 11.8

Sabermatrically speaking, last year’s NL MVP should doubtless have been Wright, whose numbers were cuh-razy. Hanley would also have been a great choice. ARod was the right AL candidate by a mile.

So, that was some stuff. There’s plenty more (we haven’t even touched + stats or fielding metrics), but I’ll convert you all eventually. And at the least, I’ll goad you into reading via picture.

10 thoughts on “Sabermetrics 101: Part 1 of Some Number

  1. Here’s some good pics of Johan Santana.

    Also, this is something I know nothing about, but I think it’s really cool. I love the acronyms, like WHIP and VORP. And WARP (as in speed) seems fitting for a fast runner who scores, right?

  2. this is a little deep early in the morning, and watching ARod beat out Maggs in more categories is a little disheartening, math or no math.

  3. @ Janalee

    Not a lie: the stats can be more fun than the game. I’ve never played fantasy sports, but I once ran a regression on the relation between OPB, EQA, and AVG. Don’t give me that look, it was a school project.

    But yeah. Numbers are fun :D

  4. Baseball is a fantastic way to get people into math. For a while during my freshman year, a local elementary school was thinking about hiring me to start an after-school “Math and sports” program.

    Also, I don’t go anywhere without my Baseball Prospectus book and at least one Bill James book.

  5. My head is spinning, but in a good way. This stuff makes a lot more sense now. Thanks! Do this more often!

    Perhaps I wouldn’t have left my university stats final crying all those years ago if the exam focused on baseball.

  6. Merhaba iyi günler blog yötecisi. Yazınızı makalenizi dikkatlice okudum.Faydalı denebilecek yazılar olmuş. Yanlız yorum butonunda sorun var sanırım baya zorlandım yorumu göndermek için. İyi çalışmalar.

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