By Landestoy Luke
Before I get into stats that matter, I got a word for all the Jonathan Broxton haters. Really? Who would you rather have out there? Dude’s having the best year of his career. He blew a five-out save. Guess who else blows saves? Every other reliever out there. The question becomes: If not Broxton, then who? That’s what the Luker thought. If he wasn’t a big guy, there probably wouldn’t be the backlash against him here now. Hate to break it to you folks, but skinny guys give up runs and blow saves just as regularly as fat dudes. Just sayin’.
Last Thursday, we talked about overrated stats. L-squared is going to throw down a couple stats that are more relevant than stats such as batting average, wins and steals.
OPS: On-base plus slugging. As the name implies, on-base and slugging percentage are combined. Off the bat, this stat isn’t perfect because OBP is more important than slugging, but it does give you a quick and more accurate picture of a player’s performance. For perspective, Albert Pujols’s OPS last season was 1.101. Jamey Carroll’s was .695. On top of OPS, OPS+ is a stat that weighs home ball park and performance of other players in the league as a means to compare a player with other players. By rule, an OPS of 100 is average. Again, for perspective, Pujols’s OPS+ was 188 last year while Carroll’s was +90.
BABIP: Do you want to know which players are due for a rebound or a dropoff? Look no further than BABIP (Batting Average of Balls in Play). Before delving into this, let the Luker explain something. There’s a theory that there are a lot of variables when it comes to hitting. As such, there is a lot of luck involved in hitting. From a pure batting average standpoint, let’s look at this: Let’s say Player A gets 500 ABs and gets 150 hits. The next year, 10 more ground balls sneak through instead of going a foot to the left or right of a fielder. His average goes from .300 to .320. That’s a huge difference in terms of batting average. Let’s say the next year, the swing goes the other way and he gives back the 10 ground balls that snuck through plus another 10 that usually do sneak through don’t. Now the average is .280, a 40-point swing. Is he a worse hitter? No…there’s just a lot of randomness of balls put in play.
However there is an expected average of balls put in play that go for hits. Last year, the average of BABIP was .299. There are some hitters that have better line drive percentages than other hitters, a sign of a good hitter. So, their BABIP is going to be better than others and they have a better chance of avoiding the randomness. If you look at last year’s numbers, Ichiro was considered the “luckiest” hitter in baseball on his way to hitting .352. His BABIP was .384 when his expected BABIP should have been .308. This year, he has regressed to a BABIP of .356 with his BA coming down to .317. Is he a worse hitter this year than last year? Not really…just a few groundballs that found their way through last year haven’t this year.
Now here’s the real beauty of BABIP. It is much more effective in evaluating pitchers than hitters. How so? Some pitchers can get lucky throughout the course of a season. One example is Cole Hamels of the Phillies. His 2009 season was seen as a disappointment, with an ERA of 4.32. Last year, he had a BABIP of .321 when the expectation was .300. This year, his BABIP has returned to a more reasonable .308, driving his ERA down to 3.63. So when you look for bounce back candidates, look at a pitchers BABIP. If it’s out of whack with their career numbers and their line drive and groundball rates, then expect a nice turnaround.
Sorry, L-squared ran out of time. I have other stats I’d like to share that I’ll sprinkle in as we go along. Luke…out.
Landestoy Luke is a former semi-pro baseball player in the California-Nevada Independent League. Luke is the only pitcher in CNIL history to throw three wild pitches in one game while administering an intentional walk. After spending some time as an advance scout in the Mexicali League, Luke now spends his time as a freelance writer.