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  • Geeking Out: OPS Minus Batting Average

    It's pretty rare when you read me writing about any advanced statistics. I don't mind reading them and trying to understand what they mean and what they are telling me about a player. But I very rarely use more than a Triple Slash line (BA/OBP/SLG) with the OPS in parentheses. I like OPS, but like all stats, it needs to be used in context, and it's OK to ask questions about it.

    For instance, OPS is a combination of On-Base Percentage (OBP) and Slugging Percentage (SLG). On-Base Percentage looks at the number of times a player gets on base by hit, walk or hit by pitch. Slugging Percentage basically assigns a value to all hits. A single is one base. A double is two bases. A triple is three bases and a home run is four bases.


    It becomes apparent quickly that Hits are included in both of these numbers. I am certain that others have evaluated the following idea: since it is really included in both OBP and SLG, what if we subtracted Batting Average from the OPS to avoid duplication? How would an OPS ranking look differently than an (OPS-BA) ranking?

    I admit that I went into the analysis not knowing what it would show, but I thought I would share it with Twins Daily's readers just to get some thoughts and your analysis along with mine. How much will the ranking change, and what does it mean?

    To do so, I looked at two lists, and there was one common name. I looked at the numbers for a dozen Minnesota Twins hitters this season. I then took a look at the Top 20 MLB hitters in OPS. The common player, of course, is Joe Mauer who is currently 14th in the big leagues in OPS.

    Here are 12 Twins hitters, ranked by their OPS and also looking at their (OPS-BA) and how that ranking changes:

    Name OPS BA OPS Rank OPS-BA Rank
    Joe Mauer .916 .330 1 .586 1
    Oswaldo Arcia .823 .271 2 .552 2
    Trevor Plouffe .778 .271 3 .507 4
    Josh Willingham .751 .216 4 .535 3
    Justin Morneau .725 .286 5 .439 8
    Ryan Doumit .718 .238 6 .480 5
    Clete Thomas .716 .278 7 .438 9
    Chris Parmelee .703 .238 8 .465 6
    Brian Dozier .678 .229 9 .449 7
    Eduardo Escobar .664 .236 10 .428 10
    Pedro Florimon .633 .230 11 .403 11
    Aaron Hicks .575 .179 12 .396 12

    Analysis: Joe Mauer is good. No matter how you look at it. Oswaldo Arcia has hit well. Eduardo Escobar, Pedro Florimon and Aaron Hicks have been pretty poor offensively, again, no matter how you evaluate it. Where there is some difference in the rankings really come in the middle. Justin Morneau has the 5th highest OPS, but his OPS-BA drops him to 8th on the list. It appears to me that what this analysis does is makes the value of extra base hits stand out more. Morneau has a decent batting average, but doesn't have a lot of extra base hit power, so his numbers drop in this analysis. I think that is a fair statement. It also shows that although Chris Parmelee and Brian Dozier have not hit for average, they have hit for some power.

    So, what does it look like when we analyze the Top 20 hitters in baseball? Can we make similar statements?

    Name OPS BA OPS Rank OPS-BA Rank
    Chris Davis 1.116 .331 1 .785 1
    Miguel Cabrera 1.106 .370 2 .736 2
    Troy Tulowitski 1.048 .347 3 .701 3
    David Ortiz 1.005 .316 4 .689 5
    Carlos Gonzalez .992 .300 5 .692 4
    Michael Cuddyer .968 .339 6 .629 8
    Joey Votto .957 .326 7 .631 7
    Paul Goldschmidt .956 .306 8 .650 6
    Adam Lind .939 .330 9 .609 15
    Carlos Gomz .925 .313 10 .612 13
    David Wright .923 .309 11 .614 12
    Evan Longoria .923 .301 11 .622 9
    Mike Trout .918 .306 13 .612 13
    Joe Mauer .916 .330 14 .586 16
    Yadier Molina .899 .353 15 .546 20
    Jean Segura .897 .336 16 .561 19
    Edwin Encarnacion .893 .271 17 .622 9
    Shin-Soo Choo .890 .274 18 .616 11
    Ryan Braun .890 .304 18 .586 16
    Carlos Beltran .879 .305 20 .575 18

    Analysis: These guys are all having very good years, so this is not meant in any way to degrade what they are accomplishing. But again, we see that this analysis does minimize the value of batting average. The higher the batting average, the lower the OPS-BA, which, just makes sense since that's what we are subtracting. But that's exactly what we are trying to do as it is duplicated in the OPS calculation. What it is saying is that the higher the OPS-BA, the more often that a player walks or gets a hit that is more than a single.

    So, what do you think? Is OPS overvaluing batting average? If you were a GM, would you use OPS or OPS-BA to evaluate a player's value to the organization or in trade discussions?

    Discuss.
    This article was originally published in blog: Geeking Out: OPS Minus Batting Average started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 80 Comments
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Another way to express it, that might make more sense, is OBP plus isolated power (ISO, which is just SLG - BA).
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      I don't think OPS-BA is a better stat than OPS. BA, while fluctuating based on things like BABIP, LD%, FB/HR%, still is a key stat. Base hits are important. They drive in runs, move runers ect. Subtracting them is basically taking ISO + OBP. This is why power showed to be important in this stat.

      I don't think a single stat deserves to tell an entire story on a player. One can make an argument that oWAR does make a good attempt. The 20 guys listed here will look good no matter how you slice it up, they are having monster seasons. When advanced stats come into play are for guys like Plouffe that contribute greatly yet quietly.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      I think it's the exact opposite. By counting hits twice, OPS is accidentally adding value to singles, which helps offset the fact that OBP is more important than slugging. Not making an out comes first, taking more than one base follows in importance by a pretty healthy margin.

      OPS is a good quick and dirty stat but it should not be used to directly compare players because of the OBP/SLG split and the fact that they shouldn't be judged equally. There are a couple of ways to reach an OPS of .800 but if one of the guys has +/- .100 OBP (say, .425 to .325), that .425 OBP player is going to be much more valuable than the slugging-centric .325 OBP player.

      Looking only at OPS, Dustin Pedroia and Ian Desmond look like virtually the same player (.812 to .809). Except that Pedroia is getting on base nearly 40% of the time while Desmond is getting on base less than 32% of the time. I think that pretty much everybody would take Pedroia's bat over Desmond, and for good reason. It's better.

      Which is not evident by OPS+, where Pedroia trails Desmond 119 to 121 but quite evident in oWAR, where Pedroia leads Desmond 2.6 to 2.2.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      I think it's the exact opposite. By counting hits twice, OPS is accidentally adding value to singles, which helps offset the fact that OBP is more important than slugging. Not making an out comes first, taking more than one base follows in importance by a pretty healthy margin.

      OPS is a good quick and dirty stat but it should not be used to directly compare players because of the OBP/SLG split and the fact that they shouldn't be judged equally. There are a couple of ways to reach an OPS of .800 but if one of the guys has +/- .100 OBP (say, .425 to .325), that .425 OBP player is going to be much more valuable than the slugging-centric .325 OBP player.

      Looking only at OPS, Dustin Pedroia and Ian Desmond look like virtually the same player (.812 to .809). Except that Pedroia is getting on base nearly 40% of the time while Desmond is getting on base less than 32% of the time. I think that pretty much everybody would take Pedroia's bat over Desmond, and for good reason. It's better.

      Which is not evident by OPS+, where Pedroia trails Desmond 119 to 121 but quite evident in oWAR, where Pedroia leads Desmond 2.6 to 2.2.
      This post makes a lot of sense.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      What's the correlation between OBP and scoring compared to SLG and scoring?
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kwak View Post
      What's the correlation between OBP and scoring compared to SLG and scoring?
      Runs Scored Correlations
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kwak View Post
      What's the correlation between OBP and scoring compared to SLG and scoring?
      I asked myself the same thing a few minutes ago. Here was the first link: Correlation Between Stats and Runs, etc.

      I'll continue to defend OPS even over something like Seth is proposing here, especially if we're talking for the masses. OPS correlates to runs extremely well, something in the neighborhood of .94-.97 (r) depending on the source and data pool. Even the most advanced stats can't make a big improvement over that. OPS is something that can be easily explained and understood by casual fans. As for GM analysis, well, I'd hope they're into stuff a lot deeper than both of these...
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      This is a pretty interesting analysis of correlation that goes into a bit more than "this is the correlation number to runs scored" because the topic is a little more complex than that:

      What?s more important, OBP, Slugging or OPS? | Reading into the Numbers

      "A team that raises its OBP from .300 to .400 is expected to increase it’s runs scoring from 3.7 runs/game to 6.7. The equivalent increase in slugging would be about 131 points, on average. An increase in slugging from .358 to .489 predicts a scoring increase from 3.7 to 5.8 runs/game, an obvious downgrade from the OBP surge. However, if a team increases its OBP purely by walking more, then the 100 point increase in OBP will likely only increase run scoring from 3.7 to less than 5 runs/game. What a GM can take from this is that, while increases in OBP seem to lead to more run scoring than equivalent increases in slugging percentage, this is only the case when these increases come with a mix of walks and hits."
    1. Gernzy's Avatar
      Gernzy -
      Wow I didn't realize Cuddyer was having such a great year. Good for him!
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      I think it's the exact opposite. By counting hits twice, OPS is accidentally adding value to singles, which helps offset the fact that OBP is more important than slugging. Not making an out comes first, taking more than one base follows in importance by a pretty healthy margin.

      OPS is a good quick and dirty stat but it should not be used to directly compare players because of the OBP/SLG split and the fact that they shouldn't be judged equally. There are a couple of ways to reach an OPS of .800 but if one of the guys has +/- .100 OBP (say, .425 to .325), that .425 OBP player is going to be much more valuable than the slugging-centric .325 OBP player.

      Looking only at OPS, Dustin Pedroia and Ian Desmond look like virtually the same player (.812 to .809). Except that Pedroia is getting on base nearly 40% of the time while Desmond is getting on base less than 32% of the time. I think that pretty much everybody would take Pedroia's bat over Desmond, and for good reason. It's better.

      Which is not evident by OPS+, where Pedroia trails Desmond 119 to 121 but quite evident in oWAR, where Pedroia leads Desmond 2.6 to 2.2.
      I agree and disagree at the same time. I might favor Pedroia slightly more, but not by as much as you're suggesting. Desmond has 12 HR on the year compared to Pedroia's 4. That is pretty significant. I don't want to turn this into a Pedroia vs. Desmond thread, but this is really Pedroia's on base skills vs. Desmond's power. Fortunately for Pedroia, he is an OBP machine and thus gets a slight edge to Desmond.

      I know you are bias toward OBP, and for good reason. I'm pretty balanced on BA, OBP, and SLUG. Maybe I am just too used to seeing SLUG instead of ISO. I might feel differently about OPS-BA if we just used ISO instead of SLUG. Maybe it is more indicative. In the case of Desmond vs. Pedroia, this would make Desmond sit at .529 and Pedroia sit at .501. So, you would think OPS would then be better since it favors your position more.
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      We can't be sure that something like this isn't being used by one of the MLB teams.
      During the discussion of who should be the AL MVP last year, an Oakland exec said that their stats had Cabrera leading Trout by a tiny margin.
      Pretty sure they were not overly influenced by RBI.

      Fun stuff.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Have I ever said I have a B.S. in Mathematics? I love the numbers in baseball and how to interpret them. There is almost no 2 people that place the same emphasis on the same categories. One of the many reasons I absolutely love this game.
    1. wabene's Avatar
      wabene -
      Quote Originally Posted by Gernzy View Post
      Wow I didn't realize Cuddyer was having such a great year. Good for him!
      A band box in thin air helps
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Badsmerf View Post
      I know you are bias toward OBP, and for good reason. I'm pretty balanced on BA, OBP, and SLUG. Maybe I am just too used to seeing SLUG instead of ISO. I might feel differently about OPS-BA if we just used ISO instead of SLUG. Maybe it is more indicative. In the case of Desmond vs. Pedroia, this would make Desmond sit at .529 and Pedroia sit at .501. So, you would think OPS would then be better since it favors your position more.
      I also believe in balance or those OBP guys won't score (it's a lot easier to drive home runners with a SLG guy than an OBP guy).

      But all things being equal, I think it's harder to find those OBP guys and runs scored correlations tend to favor a .001 increase in OBP more than a .001 increase in SLG.

      In the end, you need both... But if we're drafting, I'm taking the OBP guys first because they're more valuable and they'll be off the board more quickly. If the player is both an OBP and SLG monster, well... All the better.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Quote Originally Posted by wabene View Post
      A band box in thin air helps
      Since his HR/FB ratio is about 12.9 % which is below the 15.1% he enjoyed in 2009, so the thin air isn't making much of an impact here. His LD% is also at 22% which is the highest of his career, not really sure of the thin air make him hit more line drives. O yeah, he is also enjoying a .382 BABIP, which I don't think is an effect of Coors Field. In case you were wondering, his highest BABIP ever is .328 in 2006.

      Lets be fair when assessing players.
    1. Forever34's Avatar
      Forever34 -
      I'm not an expert on advanced metrics, but I'm trying to start a new stat called Total Batting Productivity. It is calculated similar to slugging in that it assigns 1 point for a single, 2 for a double etc., but also subtracts 1 point for a strikeout, 2 for a GiDP, and 3 for those rare GiTP. All of that is divided by total number of at bats.

      A similar more advanced stat would be Total Offensive Productivity which not only includes 1 point for walks and HBP but also 1 for stolen bases. It also subtracts 1 for a caught stealing and is divided by total plate appearances.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      This is a pretty interesting analysis of correlation that goes into a bit more than "this is the correlation number to runs scored" because the topic is a little more complex than that:

      What?s more important, OBP, Slugging or OPS? | Reading into the Numbers

      "A team that raises its OBP from .300 to .400 is expected to increase it’s runs scoring from 3.7 runs/game to 6.7. The equivalent increase in slugging would be about 131 points, on average. An increase in slugging from .358 to .489 predicts a scoring increase from 3.7 to 5.8 runs/game, an obvious downgrade from the OBP surge. However, if a team increases its OBP purely by walking more, then the 100 point increase in OBP will likely only increase run scoring from 3.7 to less than 5 runs/game. What a GM can take from this is that, while increases in OBP seem to lead to more run scoring than equivalent increases in slugging percentage, this is only the case when these increases come with a mix of walks and hits."
      What studies like this miss, or might want to consider, is that in the real world increases in OBP consisting of "a mix of walks and hits" also increase SLG.

      As for dropping BA from OPS, IMO we'd all be better off dropping OPS and using the triple slash line instead. All OBP is not created the same. A single is worth more than a walk, for example, and by knowing BA/OBP/SLG you get a pretty clear picture of a hitter...clearer than combining OBP and SLG into one number, IMO.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by wabene View Post
      A band box in thin air helps
      He's doing very well away from Coors as well. If his OPS away from Coors was his season OPS, he would rank 7th in the NL for OFs, and 2nd in the AL for OFs.

      And most players do better at home anyway. That's not to say that Coors doesn't give him an advantage.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      I also believe in balance or those OBP guys won't score (it's a lot easier to drive home runners with a SLG guy than an OBP guy).

      But all things being equal, I think it's harder to find those OBP guys and runs scored correlations tend to favor a .001 increase in OBP more than a .001 increase in SLG.

      In the end, you need both... But if we're drafting, I'm taking the OBP guys first because they're more valuable and they'll be off the board more quickly. If the player is both an OBP and SLG monster, well... All the better.
      OBP skills tend to follow a player much better than SLUG. I agree with valuing OBP in young players because it is so difficult to project power in the MLB.

      I don't know if we are arguing over a point or just having a discussion right now.
    1. crarko's Avatar
      crarko -
      Quote Originally Posted by Badsmerf View Post
      Have I ever said I have a B.S. in Mathematics? I love the numbers in baseball and how to interpret them. There is almost no 2 people that place the same emphasis on the same categories. One of the many reasons I absolutely love this game.
      Huh, me too, although the truths hidden in these numbers is often pretty gray. I would say that Huff should be mandatory reading for anyone who argues baseball statistics.
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