A Brief Introduction to Sabermetrics

Published: Nov 01, 2013 17:54pm EDT
By Alex, Sports Writer for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Nov 01, 2013 @ 06:01pm EDT


Four years ago, when I was a sophomore in high school, I discovered sabermetrics. For those that don't know, sabermetrics is defined as "the application of statistical analysis to baseball records, esp. in order to evaluate and compare the performance of individual players." I love baseball, and I love numbers and analyzing things so getting into sabermetrics seemed like a no-brainer. 

If you are someone that gets intimidated when it comes to math don't worry, because math is not my strength either. In this article I'll mention some of the basic concepts, and statistics. If you have any questions feel free to drop a comment or two and I'll do my best to answer it.

The first thing that I'm going to talk about is Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). I'm sure you've heard of BABIP, especially if you're somebody that watches MLB Network. The concept is not one that is hard to understand, and you'll realize that shortly.

All BABIP does is measure the total number of a batters balls fall into play as a hit. That means home runs are taken out of the equation, since a home run is technically not in play. League average BABIP tends to be around .300. If a player's BABIP is around .250-.260 we can say that the player is "unlucky", and should see his BABIP regress towards the average.

If a player has a .350-.360 we can say a player has gotten "lucky", and their BABIP should regress towards .300. Of course there are exceptions, just like in anything. For example, Joe Mauer has a career .349 BABIP, so if he had a .360 BABIP in July it would not be unreasonable to think that he could finish the season around that mark.

The same thing works for pitchers. If a pitcher has a .340 BABIP we can consider the pitcher "unlucky", and if the pitcher has a .250 BABIP we can consider him "lucky". Remember, there are exceptions to this. League average for pitchers is also .300.

This next metric is probably my favorite, and that metric is Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+). If you are fimilar with the metric On-base Plus Slugging Plus (OPS+) then wRC+ should be just as easy to understand. wRC+ is based on the metric wOBA, and explaining it can get a little boring because there is math involved. If you're interested in the topic go here.

A league average wRC+ is set at 100, and anything above or below that number is considered to be a percent or below league average. For example, Miguel Cabrera had a 192 wRC+ this season, meaning Miguel Cabrera produced offense 92% better than league average. See, that's not too hard to understand at all!

The next metric we're going to discuss is a pitching metric called Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP). FIP is scaled exactly like ERA is, meaning a 3.00 FIP is really, really good. FIP tells us what a pitcher's ERA should have looked like. To help explain FIP further I'm going to show you a formula. Don't worry, it's not too scary.

FIP = ((13*HR)+(3*(BB+HBP))-(2*K))/IP + constant

After numerous studies it was discovered that home runs are the most harmful of the three true outcomes. Next comes walks, and then strikeouts. The only reason why there is a constant is so that FIP gets scaled to ERA, like I previously mentioned. 

Matt Harvey finished the year with the lowest FIP in baseball with a 2.00 FIP, and Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw, finished the year with a 2.39 FIP. For reference their ERAs were 2.27 and 1.83 respectively. 

When I discovered the value in sabermetrics it gave me a whole new way to understand, and appreciate, the game of baseball. There's so much out there to learn, and while you don't have to like it I think it's important to at least understand the values that they bring. Again, if you have any questions feel free to drop a comment and I'll do my best to answer.



Comments (2)

  • Alex   Nov 1, 2013 @ 07:45PM
    I think that deserves it's own article. One can go pretty on depth when it comes to defensive metrics. -

  • Lance Rinker   Nov 1, 2013 @ 07:43PM
    You didn't mention how awesome a certain defensive metric can be. DRS - Defensive Runs Saved. Greatest defensive metric ever, most reliable as well in my opinion.

    Solid piece and great explanations Alex. Hopefully we can convert a few more baseball fans over to the dark side. -

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