Writing about player development without being paid as a full-time scout or having the financial freedom and time to view players in person has more to do with analysis than with gut feelings. I can look at the stats of a player like Peter Alonso and see things that excite me as much as the people who were lucky enough to see him play for Binghamton or Las Vegas last season. Today, since I will have no new stats to review with you for a while, I’d like to talk about the stats that I find most helpful in my analysis.
Batting Average (BA or AVG): This is a basic statistic that takes a players Hits (H) and divides them by their At Bats (AB). As a rule of thumb a good hitter should be getting a hit 25% of the time that they have an at bat or more. The best hitters are able to get hits 33% of the time and one of the best hitters ever, Ted Williams, managed a .406 BA over 146 games in 1941.
- As a blogger, this is a baseline stat but a highly misleading one. A player could be hitting .300 with no power or walks and still not be a very good hitter or once could be hitting .200 and making all their hits count. It’s an important stat to know but not one that tells you the whole story on its own.
Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP): A newer stat that has become one of the best tools for those analyzing the game. This stat expands the batting average stat to remove all strikeouts, and foul outs that a player might have.
- This stat keys in on the luck a particular batter might be having. If a player’s BABIP is substantially higher than their batting average, it likely means that the ball is finding gaps at a abnormal level. It helps us writers temper our enthusiasm over hot streaks.
Isolated Power (ISO): This stat highlights a players power numbers from their Slugging Percentage (SLG) by subtracting their raw Batting Average (BA). Please see below for a breakdown of SLG. People like to talk about the ISO but this is usually a stat that people bring up for power hitters who hit for low average.
- Frankly, I find the SLG easier to work with as one can extrapolate the ISO without actually finding the calculation. If a batter like Amed Rosario has a .256 BA and a .381 SLG it’s obvious that his ISO will be higher than .100 without viewing anything additional. It’s still a good thing to look at.
On Base Percentage (OBP): Adding Walks (BB) to the Batting Average (BA) calculation, (H + BB)/AB gives you an idea of how good a particular player is at getting on base. Like a players ISO, you can easily compare their OBP and BA to get the percentage of time that they are taking a free base on balls.
- One of my key statistics as there isn’t a better metric for gauging a players eye and discipline at the plate without being at the game. Just as with slugging percentage you’d like a player’s OBP to be about .100 points higher than their BA but that often isn’t the case. As with Rosario’s .256 BA and .295 OBP.
On-Base Plus Slugging (OPS): A hybrid shortcut statistic that adds a players On Base Percentage (OBP) to their Slugging Percentage (SLG) to give you a snapshot of their whole batting line in one metric. As a rule of thumb a good player’s OPS should be around .700 or better.
- While I find the ISO shortcut to be a waste of time, the OPS stat is one of my absolute favorites, particularly when you are able to view a player’s OPS by month. Brandon Nimmo had a pretty great season but his 24 games in July were strangely low. His OPS in that month was .170 points lower than any other month of the season and over .200 points lower than his season average.
On-Base Plus Slugging Adjusted (OPS+): The statistician’s stat. This takes you’re regular On-Base Plus Slugging (OPS) and adjusts this with metrics based on ballpark, league averages and other “external factors” to give you a flat number. This number shows how that player’s OPS relates to another player’s OPS on another team. If a player has a 50 OPS+, they are performing half as well as a league average player. If a player has a 150 OPS+, they are playing 50% better.
- Looking back at Nimmo again, his OPS+ was 150 for the year which is only 13 points behind Christian Yelich who could be winning the NL MVP and a Silver Slugger this season. For us minor league guys… this stat is typically not available, sadly.
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Mentioned a few times above slugging percentage adds additional hits to the batting average metric based on the number of bases reached on an individual hit. If you ever wish to calculate this on you own use this formula: (H + 2B + (3B x 2) + (HR x 3)) = SLG.
- This is the baseline stat for power ratings for a hitter. While other people will have their preferred stats, I find the “Slash Line” (BA/OBP/SLG) to be the quickest gauge of a player’s hitting skills. As an example, Peter Alonso’s batting average in Las Vegas was only .260 but his SLG was .585 (.325 points higher) which makes identifying his skill set pretty easy.
Strikeouts (K): A raw stat that keeps track of a players strikeouts.
- I use this basic stat a lot and mostly compare it to a pair of other stats. If a player strikes out over once a game they better hit for a lot of power. Conversely, if a player walks almost as much as they strike out, they probably have exceptional plate discipline.
These are my go-to statistics when evaluating a player’s hitting. What are some of your favorites? Let’s discuss them in the comments below.