Home Baseball Profiling the Profiler: OPS+

Profiling the Profiler: OPS+

by Brandt Dolce

In the days and weeks to come, I will start to release my 2015 outlook for the St. Louis Cardinals.  For each of my evaluations, projections and profiled predictions, I will employ a statistical approach to look at what has happened, and then use a deductive reasoning approach using age, position, health concerns and other factors to give a multi-layered analysis for each area of concern.  Before I profile the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals, it is important to first understand where I am coming from in my analysis.  Although I do not consider myself to be a saebrmetrician, I have evolved a great deal in what numbers tell us, and, for that matter, which numbers to look at to aid in discussions of this nature.  Each area of responsibility on the field provides its own unique challenge.  I separate the game into three main areas of responsibility:  Offense, Defense and Pitching.

Today, let’s look at the offensive side of the baseball triangle.

The biggest offensive metric that I look for that can easily be understood, with little explanation, is On-base Percentage + Slugging Percentage (OPS).  For those unaware, Slugging Percentage is the average number of total bases (TB) per AB.  A single is worth 1 TB, a double is worth 2, a triple is worth 3 and a Homerun is worth 4.  Simple enough.  For easy math in this example, let’s say Joe Schmoe is 2-4, with 2 singles (2 TB).  We then take the total bases, 2, and divide by the number of AB, 4.  Schmoe’s slugging percentage for the example game is .500, or a half of a total base per AB.  It’s just simple math, calculated easily. It is important to look at Slugging Percentage because it gives us an indication on how far along the bases a given player gets within an average AB.  Isolated Power (ISO) is also a good indication.  We will get to that later.  The other half of the OPS metric is OBP.  OBP gives more information than the standard Batting Average.  BA is ONLY an indication of what percent of the time the batter reaches first base safely due to a hit.  The information stops there.  BA treats 2-4 with 2 singles the same as 2-4, with 2 HRs.  These production values are in no way even close to equal from a production standpoint, but BA treats them equally.  You will rarely see me reference a player’s BA in analysis.  OBP effectively tells us what percent of the time a batter reaches first base safely by a hit OR a walk.  A batter is not given credit for reaching safely on an error, by the way.  OBP gives us more information than BA.

If you add OBP and Slugging Percentage together, you get OPS.  This metric tells us the actual production of the player more succinctly and more efficiently than just using BA.  You hear the term all of the time of a “.300 Hitter”  The standard of a .300 hitter has long been used as a measuring stick with fans.  If you use OPS, instead of just the average percentage of time the hitter reaches 1st base safely via a hit (BA), you can tell production from an individual player.

Taking it a step further, OPS+, is the metric that I use the most to compare players head-to-head.  The metric itself already measure the player against the league, very effectively.  OPS+ takes the OPS of the individual player, compares it to the rest of the league, and assess a numerical value to the player’s OPS.  The average OPS is given a grade of 100.  For example, if Joe Schmoe’s OPS is .700, and the league average OPS+ is .700, then Schmoe’s OPS+ is 100.  Higher than 100 is above average, below 100 is below average.  Obviously, the higher the number the better, and the opposite is also true.  The beauty of OPS+ is that you don’t have to wonder what the average is for the year, it is extremely hard to remember individual OPS figures for each player and it is adjusted for the player’s home ballpark.  Anytime you see a mertic that involves a + sign, the number is calculated in the same fashion.

Another thing that I think is advantageous for this metric is there are several different ways to obtain a high OBP+.  Perhaps a speedster gets on base at a high rate, but doesn’t hit a lot of homeruns.  He can still have a high OPS+ with this high OBP.  The reverse can be said for a long-ball hitter that doesn’t walk at a high rate.  The slugging percentage will raise the number drastically.  It levels the playing field, so to speak.

Let’s take a look at a few Cardinals and see where they rank in terms of OPS+ in 2014, against their career average.

Jon Jay 111, career 109.  Matt Holliday (above) 126 (lead STL), career 136.  Jhonny Peralta 116, career 103.  Matt Carpenter 111, career 125. Yadier Molina 101, career 99.  Matt Adams 115, career 116.  Isn’t it amazing how consistent these numbers are?  I think that it is.  The one exception is Yadier Molina.  Molina’s career OPS+ of 99 is brought down significantly by his offensive anemia when he entered the league.  Molina has been much better the last three seasons with 129 (2013), 137 (2012) and 124 (2011).  The lack of production is a key factor in the Cardinals going down in runs scored in the NL.  Notice also that Holliday’s number is below his career average as well.  But, keep in mind, that a 136 career OPS+ is extremely good.  Extremely.  To put it into perspective what Peralta did for the Cardinals as an upgrade over 2013 Pete Kozma, let’s compare the 2 seasons by the players using only this metric, and subtract to see the added production.  Kozma in 2013 was at 53.  Peralta this year is 116.  116-53=63.  Which means Peralta literally gave the Cardinals 118% MORE production than Kozma did in 2013.  That is alarming, and almost comical.  If not for Peralta, the Cardinals would not have been in playoff contention, without Kozma or a host of players playing drastically beyond their normal capacity over 162 games.

I can look at these numbers and directly point to the reasons for the Cardinals decline offensively in 2013.  Holliday did not have even an average year, Carpenter’s production in 2014 wasn’t even close to his production in 2013 (39 points lower, or a 21% decrease), Molina’s lessened production relative to recent years and Adams and Jay having normal years were great indicators.  We also know the drastic decrease of RISP for the team in 2014 compared to 2013.

I chose Matt Holliday for the image in this article.  He lead the team in this category, thus in production.  Ask an average member of the BFIB, and Holliday is overpaid and worthless. Funny how perception and reality never quite mesh.

OPS+ does not tell the entire story, but it paints a pretty good picture in a snapshot of the offensive production of the team.  The next article in the series will feature the offensive metrics that I DO NOT use, with a detailed explanation of why I do not.

More to come in the coming days!  Thanks for the time!

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