OPS: The Mish-Mash of Saber Metrics

This is the first in an ongoing series about understanding advanced statistics in baseball.  Each volume will take an advanced stat, explain it, and contextualize it in the hope that the basic fan can better understand the numbers that drive the game today.

Image result for giancarlo stanton

Sometimes things are just better when they’re mashed together.  Cheese and broccoli.  Play-Doh of varying colors.  Coffee and Donuts.  On Base and Slugging Percentages?  Maybe not the dream team compared to those others… but give it time.

In the world of Saber Metrics, one of the most popular (and accessible) numbers is OPS..

WHAT IS IT?

OPS = On Base Plus Slugging

  • Take a players on base percentage, and add it to his slugging percentage.  The total sum is the players OPS
    • Bryce Harper has a career .386 On Base Percentage, and a .510 Slugging Percentage
      • .386 + .510 = .896 OPS

WHAT DOES IT TELL US?

OPS is a way for an evaluator to get a very basic snapshot of a players “plate discipline” (or, how well does he take walks) and his ability to hit for power.  It is a quick way for a manager to determine matchups against a pitcher, and a way to see which players struggle against particular matchups.

Typically, you’ll see a range of OPS numbers for players, and it should tell you a bit about them.

  • .600 or lower = safe to say this player is scuffling at the plate.
  • .601 to .700 = They might be about average in one mark, but struggle with the other.  Most common for “speedsters”, since they don’t usually walk much, and lack hitting for power, since their main game is stealing bases.
    • Players typically in this range:
      • Dee Gordon (.686)
      • Billy Hamilton (.630)
      • Jarrod Dyson (.669)
  • .701 to .799 = Most average players fall into this category.  Players that get on base at a decent pace, and hit for enough power that they’re suitable for most spots in the lineup.
    • Players typically in this range:
      • Adam Jones (.776)
      • Ozzie Albies (.764)
      • Yadier Molina (.739)
  • .800 to .900 = These are usually your “top of the order” hitters.  If they lack one skill, they probably make up for the other enough to have a prominent position in the lineup.
    • Players typically in this range:
      • Buster Posey (.835)
      • Khris Davis (.838)
      • Nelson Cruz (.860)
  • .901 or greater = This tier is made up of your star players.  These players succeed at an elite level where either their plate discipline is so strong that pitchers can’t help but give them easier pitches to hit, or they hit for such consistent power that pitchers tend to avoid giving them too much to work with.
    • Players typically in this range:
      • Mike Trout (.991)
        • Does both equally well
      • Joey Votto (.949)
        • Mostly due to strong plate discipline
      • Giancarlo Stanton (.906)
        • Mostly due to strong power swing.

SO WHO’S THE GREATEST EVER?

ruth

Babe Ruth Career OPS: 1.164

This one was pretty easy.  When Ruth passed Joe Connor for the all time home run record, he would hit over 500 more after the fact.  He was a power hitter like no one had ever seen in the history of the game, and quite frankly, pitchers did not know what to do with him.  They were not ready for his assault on pitching as they had known it, and thus he racked up unparalleled numbers in an era where the “station to station” baseball was the lay of the land until his arrival.  To this day, the record still stands, and only 6 other players ever finished with an OPS over 1.000 (Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Barry Bonds, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg, and Rogers Horsnby).  He was a class of his own.

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