Offense By Numbers
Last season we talked about scorekeeping. Now it’s time to learn how the press, scouts, teams, leagues and awards committees utilize these numbers to provide year-to-year, player-to-player analysis.
The box score is what will appear in the local paper or online telling you the inning-to-inning results of the game as well as the individual batting performance results for each player.
The numbers 1-9 represent the innings and the last box is the total number of R = Runs, H = Hits and E = Errors, from the game.
Individual batting statistics include AB = At Bats for the game, R = Runs scored, H = Hits and RBI = Runs Batted In. RBI means the runs that scored during that person’s at bat. For example, if there is a person on second and a homerun is hit, the RBI’s for that at bat would be two; one for the person on second and one for the batter himself as he scores on a homerun. In the same scenario, where a triple is hit, the batter would get just one RBI.
Looking at the other side of the plate for a moment, some common pitching statistics include BB = Bases on Balls, more commonly called walks, SO = StrikeOuts and HBP = Hit By Pitch, when the batter is hit by the pitch.
Pitching errors include, BK = BalK and WP = Wild Pitch, when the pitcher throws way outside the strikezone, causing the catcher to have to chase the ball. PB = when a ball they should have been caught gets past the catcher and they are credited with the error called a Pass Ball.
There are several teams that produce media guides or annual programs. Within, you will often find additional statistical data. Here are some of the most common In-depth annual statistics:
BA = Batting Average
To arrive at a player’s batting average you simply divide the number of hits by the number of at bats. This is a bit more complicated than it sounds however as a walk or sacrifice will never count as an at bat for a player.
Example: Joe makes 20 plate appearances. He is walked once and has a sacrifice fly as well. Joe’s total at bats would be 18.
In those 18 at bats, Joe hits 2 doubles and 3 singles.
Joe’s batting average would be calculated as: 5 / 18 = .278
If you do the math the number comes to .2777777. As with any math equation, we round. Batting averages only go out three places.
OBP = On Base Percentage
The OBP represents how often a hitter is reaching base compared to the number of times they step into the batters box. Unlike the batting average, which discounts sacrifices and walks, the OBP is all-inclusive.
To calculate OBP add a player’s hits, walks and hit-by-pitch totals and divide that sum by the combined total of his at-bats, walks, hit-by-pitch and sacrifice flies.
H+BB+HBP / AB+BB+HBP+SF = OBP
SLG = Slugging Percentage
Divide a player’s total bases by their at-bats
Total bases are the sum of the player's home runs x 4, triples x 3, doubles x 2, and singles.
Example: In 50 at bats Sue hits 4 homeruns, 1 triple, 5 doubles and 10 singles her total bases will be: 4x4 = 16 + 1x3 = 3 + 5x2 = 10 + 10x1 = 10.
Sue’s slugging percentage would then be 16+3+10+10 = 39 total bases / 50 = .78
On the mound we have:
ERA = Earned-Run Average
This calculates a pitcher's overall effectiveness per 9 innings. To find an ERA, divide the pitcher's earned runs by innings pitched, and multiply the total by 9.
Example: Chris gives up 12 runs in 54 innings.
12 / 54 x 9 = 2.0 ERA
This is another deceivingly easy statistic. A run is only earned if:
(1) The player reached base safely on either a hit or a walk. Players that reached first due to an error, such as a WP, PB, HBP, are unearned runs when they cross home plate.
(2) The pitcher who was on the mound when the person got on base initially remains statistically responsible for that player’s progress.
Example: Chris is pitching and the batter walks then Chris is removed from the game. Erin comes into the game and the first pitch, a homerun is hit. Erin will only be credited with one earned run, the homerun hitter’s run, while Chris is credited with the person she walked.
WHIP = Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched
Add walks and hits given up by a pitcher in their outing. Divide the total by the total number of innings pitched. The WHIP is used to show a more full picture of a pitcher’s outing than simple ERA.
Example: Tim walks none and gives up one hit over 7 innings, 1/7 = 0.143 WHIP. If that hit was a home run, his ERA would be 1.28.
If it was simply a hit however, his ERA would be 0.00.
The following week Tim gives up 3 walks and 4 hits, but no runs. His ERA is still 0.00, but now his WHIP has jumped to 1.00.
How statistics are used by the pros
Many leagues use statistics as tie-breaking mechanisms. The MLB, for example, used to use best record in head-to-head play as the tiebreaker in awarding a playoff berth between two teams with identical records on the season. Also considered have been best record within intraleague and intradivision play.
Scouts occasionally use stats to determine present and future potential in players across all levels. For years, scouts evaluated players based on look-sees, grading them in five areas: speed, quickness, hitting ability, arm strength and mental toughness. They have a scale they use to compare players and include a rating for current success as well as future likely success. Combined, each player gets a basic score and those scores allow players to be evenly evaluated across all levels of play.
Thanks to Billy Beane however, or more likely the fact that Brad Pitt portrayed him recently, most people are familiar with the money ball version of scouting. Utilizing sabermetrics, Beane places no emphasis on the physicality of the athlete, or the physical tools they possess, but looks strictly at hitting stats primarily OBP and OPS.
Coaches use the statistics of opposing players to determine how to place their own players defensively on the field. For example, if a player is known to hit to the gap between 2nd and centerfield, the coach will adjust the outfielder in a bit to decrease the likelihood of the batter making it safely to base. Internally, coach will use player stats to determine lineup changes as well.
Finally, across divisions, leagues, countries and sometimes, even generations, statistics are used to determine award eligibility status. Where the stats, awards and press collide are at the Halls of Fame. This past week the 2017 class of the MLB Baseball Hall of Fame inductees were announced. To determine the best eligible players each year, thousands of statistics across generations of data are poured over.
The statistics presented today only show one half of the picture, the offensive side of the game. Before spring training, we’ll go over some of the defensive statistics you are likely to encounter on a regular bases.