OPS NEEDS FRAM­ING

Mar­quee uses stat with line­ups rather than tra­di­tional BA, but it still re­quires con­text

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - Twit­ter: @Gro­chowskiJ JOHN GROCHOWSKI

When Cubs games air on Mar­quee Sports Net­work, open­ing line­ups are dis­played with a statis­tic next to each name: OPS.

We see at a glance that Ian Happ (1.062) ranks with the best, while Javy Baez (.588) and Kris Bryant (.576) do not.

On-base per­cent­age plus slug­ging per­cent­age is not a per­fect stat, but it tells us a lot more than bat­ting av­er­age in that OPS ac­counts for ways of get­ting on base in ad­di­tion to hits and hits for ex­tra bases.

Still, fans need con­text. Those who have an im­age of a .300 hit­ter as a star, .280 as pretty good, .250 as av­er­age and .220 as dread­ful don’t al­ways have as clear an im­age of what OPS lev­els mean.

Through Sun­day’s games, MLB av­er­ages were a .246 BA and .745 OPS. Ten qual­i­fy­ing hit­ters had BAs of .320 or bet­ter. The 10th high­est OPS was 1.010. Go­ing 32 bat­ters deep took you to a .300 BA and .901 OPS, so a .900 OPS ranks roughly as high as a .300 BA.

For an easy rule of thumb, di­vide OPS by three and you get a BA that ranks about as high. A .750 OPS ranks in the mid­dle, just as a .250 BA does.

Hit­ters at equiv­a­lent BA and OPS lev­els won’t al­ways be the same play­ers. OPS in­cludes an abil­ity to get on base through walks and hit by pitch, and it in­cludes an abil­ity to move run­ners around the bases through ex­tra-base hits.

Play­ers who draw walks and hit for power climb the OPS scale. The Cubs’ An­thony Rizzo (.223) and Kyle Sch­war­ber (.221) are in the dread­ful BA area but draw enough walks and hit for enough ex­tra bases that their .801 OPSes put them above MLB av­er­age.

Happ’s 1.062 OPS ranks fourth in MLB, an ad­vance over the 31st po­si­tion of his .301 BA.

Those with­out walks or power slide down the OPS scale. The Ori­oles’ Hanser Al­berto is 11th in MLB with a .318 BA but has a more pedes­trian .779 OPS that ranks 85th.

OPS cor­re­lates to runs much bet­ter than BA does, but there are flaws. It counts sin­gles twice and walks once since sin­gles are in­cluded in both OBP and SLG, but walks only in OBP. Sin­gles are more valu­able than walks in that they ad­vance more run­ners, but they’re not twice as valu­able.

De­rived stats at Fan­graphs.com such as weighted runs cre­ated plus and weighted on-base av­er­age ad­dress that prob­lem by as­sign­ing weights to of­fen­sive events. They also ad­just for ball­park and op­po­si­tion.

Weights are ad­justed an­nu­ally as con­di­tions change, but as a start­ing point, wOBA mul­ti­plies un­in­ten­tional walks by 0.69, sin­gles by 0.89, dou­bles by 1.27, triples by 1.62 and home runs by 2.10. Un­der sta­teof-the-art met­rics, sin­gles are about 1.3 times as valu­able as walks, not 2 times as OPS treats them.

OPS can’t tell us ev­ery­thing wOBA and wRC+ do, but it’s an eas­ier cal­cu­la­tion. And de­spite flaws, it tells fans a lot more than bat­ting av­er­age does, given the proper con­text.

AP

Cubs out­fielder Ian Happ’s 1.062 OPS ranks fourth in the majors, but his .301 BA ranks 31st. His high OPS means he draws more walks and hits for power.

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