Future of Baseball Knowledge: The Success of New Statistics on MLB Teams

Thomas H.Correspondent IMarch 15, 2010

BOSTON - APRIL 24: General Manager Theo Epstein and Manger Terry Francona of the Boston Red Sox watch the pre-game action before a game with the New York Yankees at Fenway Park, April 24, 2009, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The average baseball fan looks for success in their favorite team by simple facts. People want their stars to be home run hitters who hit 40 every season. They believe their relievers to be these fabulous athletes who can get 40 saves as well. A player is looked upon as a great hitter if he is able to hit 90 or more RBIs.

All those statistics that I just named are false tools. They ignore the true use of a baseball player and ignore what makes a star.

Meet the on-base percentage idea, and the WHIP rating (walks/hits per inning). These two statistics will show you how your player is truly doing on your team.

On-base is a complicated idea to surround, but the basic idea is that if you are able to get a 1.000 OBP then you get on base 100 percent of the time. That includes walks and hits, any way you get on base.

Don’t think that is an important stat? The two best OBP ratings last year were Albert Pujols and Joe Mauer, coincidentally the two MVPs of the NL and AL.

On-base percentage directly goes towards the success of your ball team, because with people on base more there are more runs.

That brings me to another theory. Fans often believe that a player with more home runs but has a worse batting average is a good hitter. That isn’t true since that means that when that hitter goes up to bat they are aiming for the sky and not for a team effort.

An example of this in the 2009 season is Ken Griffey Jr. Thanks to 19 home runs, his slugging percentage was a good .411. He was able to achieve 57 RBIs in just 117 games. Ken was a minus for the Seattle Mariners though. He not only played DH where he could not be a positive for the defense, but his on-base was a lower .324 (the average MLB player gets between .300 and .400) which was mainly due to his walks. His BA was also very poor, with a .214 average compared to .285.

With that simple data, a person can easily say that Ken was a negative addition by the Mariners during the offseason.

Another example? Meet Hank Blalock. The average Rangers fan last year would be happy with Hank’s stats because in just 123 games he was able to hit 25 home runs. This would be a good stat to the average plan, plus they would be happy with the 66 RBIs. Those RBIs weren’t exactly his worse though, nor is anyones' RBIs.

An RBI can be altered by the speed of the outfielders arm, the depth of the ballpark, and the speed of the runner. Well, it turns out that the lineup in front of Blalock was a very fast one which led to more RBIs for his stat sheet.

Hank also had an incredibly poor .277 on-base percentage. His average had dwindled down to .234, 53 points worse than the year before.

At the end of the year, Blalock found himself off the Texas lineup and onto Tampa.

Of the many overlooked pitching stats, WHIP is a great example. It shows how many walks and hits a pitcher would allow in a inning. Now, the problems with walks is that many baseball theorists now believe that walks are not the pitchers fault but a success by a hitter. Having a hitter foul three strikes and then get a walk with a 3-2 count is in no way a failure by the pitcher, but a success by the hitter.

Still, WHIP give a good idea of how a pitcher is doing. Wins and losses give false information and show a bad picture of a pitcher because losses would clearly accumulate faster on a losing team. WHIP, however, is fully based on the pitchers success.

A great example of WHIP is Javier Vazquez. Javier had a 1.03 WHIP last year, the third best for a starter in the MLB. Though he had 10 losses, his 15-10 record was a career year because he was the only solid pitcher on the Atlanta Braves squad. He had 238 strikeouts and a ERA under 3.00, and the WHIP made this the more obvious.

Baseball is a kind of science, and it is becoming even more apparent. The numbers and facts about baseball is still being selected, and still being analyzed.

Get ready for a ride.