Baseball statistics newbie!
March 15, 2006 10:19 AM   Subscribe

Help me find statistical benchmarks for sabermetric baseball stats.

I run a website that’s about the successes and, more accurately, shortcomings of a baseball team. I have loved baseball since I was about 6, but I am not a stats guy. I am reasonably proficient at understanding common statistics and placing them in context, however, I do not possess (but am trying to gain) the knowledge to contextualize a lot of the sabermetric stats that are out there, without some assistance.

So, with that in mind, my question is, is there somewhere on teh interwebs where I can find a definition of what a “good” value is for a given statistic? Baseball Prospectus and Hardball Times both have exhaustive glossaries, and they even get into how stats are calculated, which is very helpful. But a glossary’s not quite what I’m looking for – I’m looking for easily grasped benchmarks.

To greatly oversimplify, I know from my years of watching baseball that 18 or more wins in a year is a good year for a pitcher, or that .300 or better is a great year for a batter; what I don’t know is what would typically be considered a “good” OPS, K/BB rate, and so on. Any ideas as to where I could find such a thing?
posted by pdb to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
i'm an avid BP reader, but i am not certain if there's a website that details quite what you're looking for. i can offer my own opinions, for whatever they're worth, which have been formed through osmosis during my experiences with sabermetrics.

to me, an average OPS is in the .700 range. An OPS of .800 is good, .900 is great, and 1.000+ is sublime. but when you're looking at OPS, it's often more helpful to break out what the OBP and SLG are. an OBP of .350+ is generally considered good, with .400+ being the ideal. a SLG higher than .450+ is good, and .550+ being ideal.

as a benchmark, for K/BB, i would say that for a pitcher to succeed, they generally need their strikeouts to outweigh their walks. a strikeout, in essence, is a measure of your "stuff"; BP has done some good research demonstrating that, while the hits a pitcher gives up is determined by their ability in part, a great deal of that is luck. (Greg Maddux has had some years where he's given up a lot of hits, for example; more than his usual.) hits depend on the defense behind you, and sometimes the ball just falls where they ain't, but strikeouts are a measure of the one thing a pitcher CAN control, directly, with his stuff: making the batter swing and miss. walks, alternately, are a measure of a pitcher's control: as direct as a strikeout. a pitcher with a lot of strikeouts and a lot of walks (e.g. a kerry wood) probably has great stuff, but doesn't have great command of it either; and his lack of command helps to cancel out his stuff, and that story is told in how his K/BB ratio isn't as great as you might expect when you see a guy with his kind of arm.

this is getting long-winded, so i'd better wrap up.

what i'm driving at, here, is that the benchmarks you want can be pretty intuitive once you understand the mechanics behind a player's stats. a player who K's a lot doesn't necessarily have a bad batting eye, but those Ks do indicate a player who swings all-or-nothing. The batting eye is indicated more by a positional player's strikeout-to-walk ratio, 1:1 being ideal. you can even paint a picture from the Ks and the BBs; a player who has a 1:1 ratio, but Ks a lot, has a swing that needs to start pretty early, and probably gets its power from the whole body. a player with low Ks probably gets his power from quick wrists and natural batting speed. a player with high BBs probably sees pitches pretty well, and is patient enough to wait for his pitch; with low BBs, fairly impatient. none of these traits are good or bad, in themselves, but together as a ratio do act as a benchmark.
posted by moz at 11:02 AM on March 15, 2006

For OPS specifically, you can figure it out by looking at stats on They have a secondary statistic called OPS+ which, like ERA+, shows a player's performance against that year's competition. Anyone with an OPS+ greater than 100 was above-average. Theoretically, you could reverse-engineer each year's average OPS from that too.
posted by yerfatma at 11:10 AM on March 15, 2006

Response by poster: to me, an average OPS is in the .700 range. An OPS of .800 is good, .900 is great, and 1.000+ is sublime. but when you're looking at OPS, it's often more helpful to break out what the OBP and SLG are. an OBP of .350+ is generally considered good, with .400+ being the ideal. a SLG higher than .450+ is good, and .550+ being ideal.

This is EXACTLY the sort of thing I'm looking for! Thank you! And thanks for the details, as well - it may be long-winded, but it's all helpful...
posted by pdb at 11:13 AM on March 15, 2006

The '+' stats are your friend.

For example using at Sean Foreman's invaluable site and looking at one of my favorite player'sJonny Gomes, we can scroll down to his Special Batting section. We can see that the average OPS for the AL last year was .753, and that Mr. Gomes had an OPS of .906. Now move over left a bit, and we see the stat OPS+, which is the player's OPS divided by the league average * 100. 100 will always be baseline, and acceptable regular players will hover around there. MVP caliber players will feature an OPS+ generally over 150, and Barry Bonds will break 200. Here's last year's leaderboard.

Adjusted OPS+
Lee-CHC 177
Hafner-CLE 170
Rodriguez-NYY 167
Pujols-STL 167
Ortiz-BOS 161
Delgado-FLA 161
Guerrero-LAA 156
Ramirez-BOS 156
Giambi-NYY 156
Cabrera-FLA 151

ERA+ is the same, except with ERA instead of OPS of course, and Clemens instead of Bonds.

For K/BB rate, 2.00 is generally the accepted threshhold for success.

Another great tool is the Lahman Database.

If you need more specific answers, or a point in the right direction towards the research you're interested in, you can email me from my profile.
posted by nulledge at 11:19 AM on March 15, 2006

And beaten to the punch...
posted by nulledge at 11:23 AM on March 15, 2006

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