Baseball season is on the way! The teams are gathering at their spring training sites to begin the process of preparing for the upcoming season. What a great time of the year!
I think that most fans would agree that baseball relies on statistics more than any other sport. A good baseball fan can quote stats just as quickly as they can tell you their phone number. It is just a big part of the “National Pastime.”
Growing up, I knew about batting averages, fielding averages, and earned run averages. These are stats that, through the years, we have used to rank the performance of a player. These are some of the important stats that we find on the backs of our baseball cards.
Over the past decade we have began to see some followers of the sport migrate to different and more advanced stats. The general term given to this new stat system is “Sabermetrics.” I don’t know where it came from and to be very honest, I don’t care.
Let’s look at some of these new stats with their fancy acronyms. You may have heard of them, but chances are many will be new to you. They are new to me also!
How about OBP? Batting average is not enough, so we figure on base percentage. This is how often a player reaches base for any reason other than a fielding error, fielder’s choice, dropped/uncaught 3rd strike, fielder’s obstruction or catcher’s interference. You figure it by adding a players hits, bases on balls and hit by pitch and then divide that figure by the total of his at bats, bases on balls, hit by pitch, and sacrifice flies. This stat is used a great deal to measure how effectively a player reaches base. Hmm!
And then there is SLG or slugging percentage. This measures a player’s ability to get a hit and hit for power. Folks want to know not only that a player can get on base, but that he he can hit the long ball.
Go to the mound and you will find the WHIP. This is a pitching stat that stands for walks plus hits allowed divided by innings pitched. If a pitcher has a WHIP of under one then he is considered to have “nasty” stuff. 1.01-1.20 is very good, but anything over 1.40 can get the guy sent to the minor leagues.
How about WAR? No not Edwin Starr’s great song, but I will ask the same question, “What is it good for?” Well this stat measures a player’s total overall contribution to his team’s win total. It looks at offense, defense, and base-running. I wouldn’t try to tell you how to figure it if I knew how, which I don’t.
OPS! It stands for On-Base Percentage Plus Slugging Percentage. OK! Have fun with this if you want to get involved and figure it out.
Here’s a good one, BABIP! It records Batting Average on Balls In Play. Anything can happen when a batter hits a ball into fair territory and this tells you how successful he is when he does so.
A stat that I was unaware of is FIP. This is Fielding Independent Pitching. This takes the batted ball out of the equation when judging pitchers. The hurler is judged on walks, strikeouts, and home runs which are results that he has direct control over. This is seen by some to be better way to evaluate a pitcher because it takes luck and poor defense out of the picture. Who knows?
The UZR rates fielders. Somehow they figure out how many runs a fielder allows or prevents based on his range, arm strength and accuracy, ability to avoid errors, and ability to turn double plays. I just heard of this one and I have no idea how anyone could do this. Wow!
I’m sure that there are many others but this is enough for now. How about all of these new stat areas. They seem to rate everything a player does, except how many times he scratches.
I don’t care for Sabermetrics. Never have. I think we were able to effectively rank and rate players through the years without all of this newfound rigmarole. Yep thats a word. Just check it in Mr. Webster’s dictionary.
I’m afraid that we will be inundated with many of these news figures as we read about or even view baseball in the future. Just be ready to hear these acronyms as you sit in front of your TV watching a great baseball game. They are important to some people, but if it’s OK with you, you and I will stick to the old BA and ERA.