Image Credit: Fangraphs
Last week on Sunday Morning Sabermetrics, we covered the Slash Line, the basic offensive rate stats used to evaluate players more effectively than the traditional batting average stat can accomplish. This week, we delve deeper into offensive rate stats, introducing even lesser known stats to further understand the quality of a player’s offensive contributions. These are Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP), Isolated Power (ISO), and Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA).
BABIP = (Hits – Home Runs)/(At Bats – Strikeouts – Home Runs + Sacrifice Flies)
ISO = Slugging Percentage – Batting Average
wOBA = (.69(BB – IBB) + .72(HBP) + .89(1B) + 1.27(2B) + 1.62(3B) + 2.1(HR))/(AB + BB – IBB + SF + HBP)
The complete spreadsheet for all major leaguer's 2016 BABIP, ISO, and wOBA scores is available here:
Stats are as of games before Saturday, June 25th. These stats are not available on baseballreference.com, so be sure to check out the above spreadsheet!
Batting Average on Balls in Play is a way to measure how often the balls a given hitter puts into play end up going for hits rather than outs at the hands of the defense. The denominator of the above equation represents the number of times a hitter put the ball into play. This is official at bats less strikeouts and home runs (balls not put into play in the total pool of at bats), plus sacrifice flies (balls put into play but not official at bats). The numerator represents the number of times the balls in play were hits rather than outs. This is hits less home runs (included in hits but not balls in play, since no fielder had a chance to make the play).
In a small sample size, BABIP can tell us which players are likely to progress or regress based on bad or good luck, respectively. If a player has an excessively high BABIP over a small stretch of games, it is likely due to balls just falling in the right places for hits. Over time, luck more or less evens out among all players, and the players with the highest BABIP have that because of other factors, mainly exit velocity and speed. Players who tend to hit with higher exit velocity will get on base more on balls they put in play, since balls hit harder are harder to field. Also, speed helps, since faster runners will leg out more infield hits, improving their BABIP scores.
As of Saturday, June 25th, the top 5 highest BABIP scores in the majors are Starling Marte (PIT, .407), David Freese (PIT, .393), Jonathan Villar (MIL, .392), Xander Bogaerts (BOS, .392), and Ian Desmond (TEX, .386). One commonality within this group is high raw batting averages, .329, .291, .292, .349, and .321, respectively. A high batting average, combined with low home run totals (6, 6, 6, 9, 12, respectively), will result in a high BABIP. Also key to this group, with the exception of Freese, is speed. The other four players run very well and can beat out infield hits more than most other players in the league.
Isolated Power is a simple statistic to calculate, merely Slugging Percentage less Batting Average. This measures a player’s ability to hit for extra bases. Players with small ISO scores are mostly singles hitters, while players with high ISO scores will be more likely to hit for extra bases, given that they will get a hit. ISO does not take into account the frequency with which players get hits, instead, it is a way to measure that when a player does get a hit, the likelihood that it will go for extra bases.
The top 5 highest ISO scores in the majors are David Ortiz (BOS, .351), Adam Duvall (CIN, .332), Jay Bruce (CIN, .300), Manny Machado (BAL, .295), and Nolan Arenado (COL, .295). These five players are all tremendous power hitters (18, 21, 16, 18, and 21 home runs), and have high OPS+ scores as well (191, 129, 138, 160, and 138).
Weighted On-Base Average is an improved version of the On Base Plus Slugging statistic, treating a hitter’s ability to get on base as more important than his ability to hit for power, which it is. Using ratios derived from thousands upon thousands of games worth of data, walks (disdaining intentional walks because these hardly reflect the ability of the hitter in that particular at bat), hit by pitches, singles, doubles, triples, and home runs are valued to come up with a weighted on-base average for that player. Tom Tango developed the wOBA stat and to this day is one of the most important standard batting statistics used to evaluate hitters. To prove that, below is the top ten highest wOBAs in baseball so far this season, and it would not make a bad list of the top ten hitters in baseball so far in 2016 in the opinions of analysts, fans, coaches, and scouts:
1. David Ortiz (BOS, .466)
2. Manny Machado (BAL, .421)
3. Matt Carpenter (STL, .416)
4. Michael Saunders (TOR, .415)
5. Daniel Murphy (WSN, .415)
6. Jackie Bradley Jr. (BOS, .415)
7. Jose Altuve (HOU, .413)
8. Nolan Arenado (COL, .413)
9. Paul Goldschmidt (ARI, .413)
10. Josh Donaldson (TOR, .411)
Two players who are notoriously absent from the above list are Anthony Rizzo (CHC, .410, 12th) and Mike Trout (LAA, .400, 16th). This highlights a major shortcoming of all three stats we talked about this week. Neither BABIP nor ISO nor wOBA take into account the home ballpark a hitter plays in. Angels Stadium and Wrigley Field are both notoriously pitcher-friendly, which means that if Rizzo and Trout played in more hitter-friendly parks as Fenway Park or Camden Yards, their raw stats would be higher (more home runs with smaller dimensions, etc.) and may have placed them into the Top 10 for wOBA.
One player who many of you feel deserves a spot in the top 10 is Xander Bogaerts (BOS, .395, 18th). Bogaerts is tied with Daniel Murphy for the highest batting average in baseball, .349. However, Bogaerts has fewer total bases (155) than Murphy (157) despite recording more at bats (307) than Murphy (272). Murphy has a tendency to hit for extra bases more so than Bogaerts, lifting Murphy’s wOBA over that of Bogaerts. Also not helping Xander’s case for the top 10 is that he plays in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball in Fenway Park, giving him an advantage over most other hitters in terms of the non-ballpark adjusted wOBA stat.
Previous Sunday Morning Sabermetrics articles:
June 5th: Pythagorean W-L
June 12th: Wins Above Replacement
June 19th: OBP/SLG/OPS/OPS+
Next Week (July 1st): We cover the cumulative offensive stats, Runs Created, which takes into account the all-around abilities of the hitter on the offensive side of the game and determines how many runs that player contributed to the team. An improved version of Runs Created, Adjusted Weighted Runs Created (wRC+) will also be covered. This article will be published in the early morning of Friday, July 1st, instead of the usual early Sunday morning.