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SportMLB advanced statistics: Your guide to WAR, BABIP, FIP and more

21:25  17 july  2019
21:25  17 july  2019 Source:

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MLB advanced statistics: Your guide to WAR, BABIP, FIP and more© Provided by USA Today Sports Media Group LLC

Baseball is perhaps the most statistics-intensive sport of them all. Sometimes it can make the game seem way more complicated than it is.

However, the goal of all the advanced metrics that have come along in recent years is a simple one: to help understand baseball a little better.

Our goal is to help you understand them a little better.

WAR (Wins Above Replacement) -- Wouldn't it be great to have a single number that could sum up everything a player does to help a team win? That's WAR. It combines hitting, pitching, defense and baserunning and compares a player's output to what a typical replacement player called up from the minors would be expected to produce.

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The difference is the player's WAR. The problem is ... the formula is extremely complicated and there are two different versions of WAR (Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs).

The great thing about WAR is that it's adjusted for eras and ballparks, so it's possible to compare players from any time throughout history. (And see how historically great Mike Trout is.)

OPS (On-base Plus Slugging percentage): A much easier way of calculating a player's offensive performance is to take his ability to get on base and his ability to hit for power ... and add them together.

OPS is a quick calculation and it's easy to compare players. The collective OPS of all MLB players in 2018 was .728. A good player has an .800 OPS. An All-Star hitter is at .900 or above. Superstars can get above 1.000. (Mike Trout led the majors in 2018 with a 1.088 OPS.)

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OPS+ (or Adjusted OPS) -- To take into account the differences in stadiums throughout the majors, OPS+ neutralizes ballpark effects and then scales all players so that the league average is 100. (Trout led everyone in 2018 with an OPS+ of 199, meaning he was almost twice as good as the average player.)

wOBA (weighted On-Base Average) -- Taking things a step further, wOBA tries to measure a hitter's overall worth based on the relative contribution each individual event (single, double, walk, hit-by-pitch, etc.) makes toward scoring a run.

The weight given to each event changes on a yearly basis, so while wOBA may be a one of the most accurate measures of a player's offensive value, it's not easy to calculate by hand. (Mookie Betts actually had a higher wOBA than Trout did in 2018, .449 to .447.)

BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play): A measure of how often a player gets a hit when he doesn't strike out, walk or hit a home run (i.e. when putting the ball "in play" when a defender can field it). This is most often used in context of how lucky or unlucky a hitter has been because the norm for all players is right around .300. (In 2018, it was .296.)

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A BABIP higher than .300 indicates a hitter has been slightly lucky -- or has an exceptional skill set, most often the speed to beat out infield hits on a regular basis. (Ichiro Suzuki had a career BABIP of .338.)

ERA (Earned Run Average)-- The standard measure of pitcher success, ERA is the average number of earned runs they allow every nine innings. It uses earned runs (those that don't score due to an error) so that it's more closely related to a pitcher's performance -- and not his fielders.

ERA+ (or adjusted ERA) -- As with OPS+ or any other stat followed by the plus symbol, ERA+ neutralizes ballpark effects and scales all players to a league average of 100. (Blake Snell led the majors in 2018 with a 219 ERA+.)

FIP (Fielding-Independent Pitching) -- An advanced way of judging a pitcher's effectiveness is with FIP, which is based on only the things directly under their control -- namely walks, strikeouts, hit batters and home runs.

The number that results is scaled to expected runs allowed per nine innings so that it correlates with ERA. In much the same way as BABIP relates to batting average, FIP can show whether a pitcher is getting luckier than his ERA indicates or is getting more than his share of bad breaks.

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(A related metric, xFIP -- expected Fielding-Independent Pitching, replaces a pitcher's home run total with the number of home runs they would have been expected to give up with a league average home run-to-fly ball rate. The reason for this is HR/FB rates are extremely volatile, so it can be seen as a better measure of a pitcher's "true" talent level by using the average rate.)

DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) -- Like its companion stat UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), DRS attempts to measure defensive value based on how many plays a fielder makes above or below the league average at his particular position. The calculations are then converted to a scale of runs saved.

Among the criteria used to determine a player's DRS: outfield/infield range, throwing arm, home run-saving catches and ability to turn double plays. Since DRS and UZR take many factors into consideration, they are much better measures of defensive ability than fielding percentage alone. (Oakland A's third baseman Matt Chapman led the majors in 2018 with 29 DRS.)

Have an advanced metric you'd like explained? Tweet us @usatodayMLB

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB advanced statistics: Your guide to WAR, BABIP, FIP and more

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MLB advanced statistics: Your guide to WAR, BABIP, FIP and more

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