Sunday, September 1, 2013

Your Survival Guide to Basic Sabermetrics in Baseball

Ever since "Money Ball", the award-winning movie that showed in theaters in 2011 starring Brad Pitt, sabermetrics have been a hot topic in the realm of baseball. You can find sabermetrics everywhere, even in Williamsport, PA at the Little League World Series!
Sabermetrics have revolutionized the sport and helped baseball teams form their club and decide which players they should carry on their roster. But what even is sabermetrics?

Sabermetrics is the term for the empirical analysis of baseball, especially baseball statistics that measure in-game activity. The term is derived from the acronym SABR, which stands for the Society for American Baseball Research. It was coined by Bill James, who is one of its pioneers and is often considered its most prominent advocate and public face.

So there you go, that's sabermetrics for you, in a boring, stupidly worded Wikipedia definition. In real, human words, sabermetrics is a specific group of baseball statistics that truly describe a baseball player's skill, but they are too complicated to put on the back of a baseball card. Some examples of the most popular or most used statistics are WHIP, OPS, BABIP, BsR, WAR, and LIPS. What do those things mean? Maybe you can pick up a few things about these new stats that are much more complex than your simple, RBI, ERA, or Batting AVG.

Last Friday, I went to the Boston Red Sox game with my family and as Big Papi stepped up to the plate, his stats lit up on the huge screen in Centerfield: AVG: .310 HR: 24 RBI: 81 OBP: .393 SLG: .557 OPS: .950. My family's eyes found our way to the screen after the first pitch of his at-bat.

My brother asked my father, "What's OPS"?

My father, a casual baseball observer replied, "Well, OPS is..." He was interrupted by strangers behind us and to the right of us asked if they could listen to the answer. They were obviously as clueless as my brother on the matter.

My Dad continued, "OPS is a combination of Slugging percentage and On Base Percentage. Big Papi has one of the best OPS' in the league at .950. I think the highest every recorded is in the 1.100 range, but I'm not sure."

Now this is my Dad, coming through in the clutch with his knowledge for the sports mind in the community around us.


One of the eldest stats in sabermetrics, it was popularized by John Thorn and Pete Palmer in 1984. The stat began to appear on baseball cards in 2004. The best OPS ever recorded was by Babe Ruth, who scored a 1.1638.

CategoryClassificationOPS Range
AGreat.9000 and Higher
BVery Good.8333 to .8999
CAbove Average.7667 to .8333
DAverage.7000 to .7666
EBelow Average.6334 to .6999
FPoor.5667 to .6333
GAtrocious.5666 and Lower


Batting Average on Balls in Play. The coolest sounding sabermetric measures how many of the batter's balls in play go for hits and how many are outs or errors. This stat is also intriguing because it excludes homeruns and strikeouts. A normal BABIP for pitchers is .300.

WHIP: Walks+Hits/Innings Pitched

WHIP measures the pitcher's ability to prevent batters from reaching base. The best pitchers in the MLB generally have a 1.00 WHIP or better.

BsR: A stat that estimates how many runs a team "should" have scored given their component offensive statistics, as well as the number of runs a hitter/pitcher creates/allows. In other words, BsR is a run estimator.

WAR: Wins Above Replacement
This stat measures the value of a player to his team judging by his contributions in games for his respected team.


This stat tries to measure one of my favorite attributes of athletes; clutchness. This stat however, has failed terribly and pretty much nobody knows about it.


This one of the coolest, yet most complicated statistic on this list. It measures how a player plays at home games compared to away games. How the hitter reacts to "Hitter's Ball Parks" like Wrigley Field, or "Pitcher's Ball Parks" such as Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. Click the link to see ESPN's list of MLB BPF fields...

Thank you for reading this post and I hope you learned a few things about baseball and sabermetrics, so you can be "That Guy" at the next ball game you go to and you can teach the people sitting around you what the hitter's stats mean.

Another example of finding sabermetrics in real life is in this 2011 "Simpsons" episode named "MoneyBart".