Numbers Game: Stats don’t lie

Baseball – America’s pastime – is a game parents send their kids out to play at four years old. It is also a game that sees 85-year-old fans screaming at their television.

The game of baseball creates memories. It brings a smile to the face of anyone that remembers a magical moment from the game. The smells, the sounds, the sights; they leave their mark in the minds of those that experience even one game in person.

A great memory of mine is learning to keep score of baseball games. The middle of a game program was the first place I looked when I had the opportunity to see a game in person. These days, I have an Excel spreadsheet set up for scoring games; pretty weird stuff for those that don’t follow baseball. All I can say is, they are missing out.

But as the 2022 season gets closer (let’s all hope it starts on time), I want to briefly peek under the hood of the game.

There are numbers beyond the smells, sounds and sights of the game. Statistics have become an important tool for teams to utilize as they build their rosters. There is so much data available that a college math professor would be excited. There was even a movie made about stats, ‘Money Ball’, which centered on the Oakland A’s and the use of statistics to build a competitive yet cheap team.

So, let’s review some of the most important statistics in baseball and how they relate when it comes to the O’s. But don’t forget how the game makes you feel, OK?

Batting Average (BA): 2021 Orioles – .239 (19th in MLB) / League Avg. – .244

It’s the total number of hits a player has divided by the total number of at-bats. It is expressed as a three-place decimal but recited as a whole number. In other words, a player’s batting average will be written as .278 but, an announcer will say the player is “hitting two-seventy-eight.”

Key Batting Averages:

.400: It is an incredible achievement to hit .400 over the course of a whole season. In fact, the last player to do so was Ted Williams all the way back in 1941. He’s in Cooperstown, of course.

.300: This is the defining line between having a good season and a great one. Hitting .300 is what all players strive to do at the beginning of the season.

.200: This is known as the “Mendoza Line” (named after former utility infielder Mario Mendoza). Hitting below .200 is unacceptable at the Major League level, if not corrected or increased over a certain period of time.

Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position (BAwRISP): 2021 Orioles – *Scroll down…

Baserunners on second or third base are in “scoring position” because they can try to score on a single to the outfield. A player’s batting average with runners in scoring position is a way to measure whether that player gets meaningful or “clutch” hits.

Earned Run Average (ERA): 2021 Orioles – 5.84 (30th in MLB) / League Avg. – 4.26

It’s the total number of earned runs allowed, divided by innings pitched, times nine. An ERA under 4.00 is very good. An ERA under 3.00 is excellent.

Innings Pitched (IP): 2021 Orioles – 1402.0 (26th in MLB) / League Avg. – 1420

This pitcher’s stat is counted by number of outs and is expressed in thirds. If a pitcher completes five innings and then gets two outs in the sixth inning, he is credited with five-and-two-thirds innings pitched. Although inaccurate, if expressed as a decimal, it would be written as 5.2.

Left On Base (LOB): 2021 Orioles – 1033 (23rd in MLB) / League Avg. – 1065

Sometimes written as LOB, this measures how many runners reached base and did not score. It is typically expressed as a team stat for a game.

On-Base Percentage (OBP): 2021 Orioles – .304 (26th in MLB) / League Avg. – .317

This factors in how often a player can draw a walk. It is the total number of hits, plus walks, divided by total plate appearances (at-bats plus walks).

On-Base Percentage + Slugging Percentage (OPS): 2021 Orioles – .705 (24th in MLB) / League Avg. – .728

On-Base Percentage PLUS Slugging Percentage. This is the stat that many experts say is the best indicator of who the best player is at any given time.

Runs Batted In (RBI): 2021 Orioles – 632 (26th in MLB) / League Avg. – 700

Anytime a player gets a hit and a base runner scores on that hit, the player is credited with a run batted in. If a player hits a home run, he is credited with a run batted in for himself scoring as well. Although the word “run” is the plural in this stat, the plural of RBI is RBIs, not RsBI. This stat is also sometimes called “ribbies.”

Runs Created (RC): 2021 Orioles – 678 (24th in MLB) / League Avg. – 735

This is the total number of runs scored by a player, plus the total number of RBIs, minus the number of home runs hit. The reason you subtract the home runs is that on each home run, a player is credited with both a run scored and an RBI, even though it produces only one run.

Runs And Earned Runs (R and ER): 2021 Orioles – Runs = 956 (1st in MLB) and Earned Runs = 910 (1st in MLB) / League Avg. – Runs = 734 and Earned Runs = 672

When a pitcher allows a man to reach base, he is charged with a run if that runner scores, even if he is taken out of the game and a new pitcher is on the mound (for the relief pitcher who came in, he is charged with an “inherited run” or “inherited runner scored” in that situation).

“Earned Runs” is the number of runs a pitcher allows other than those attributable to errors. If a man reaches base on an error and scores, the pitcher is charged with a run but not an earned run. In addition, if an error occurs in an inning, any runs that score once there are two outs in the inning are unearned runs (because in that situation the inning would have been over had the error not occurred).

Saves (S): 2021 Orioles – 26 (28th in MLB) / League Avg. – 40

While there are complicated rules for when to award a save, the most common is a pitcher who successfully finishes a game protecting a lead of three runs or less.

Slugging Percentage (SLG): 2021 Orioles – .402 (20th in MLB) / League Avg. – .411

A player’s total bases divided by at-bats. Expressed the same way as a batting average (e.g., .645)

Total Bases (TB): 2021 Orioles – 2177 (17th in MLB) / League Avg. – 2217

This adds up the player’s hits, awarding onr for a single, two for a double, three for a triple and four for a home run. This is a way to measure hitting and factor in power.

Walks + Hits per Innings Pitched (WHIP): 2021 Orioles – 1.484 (30th in MLB) / League Avg. – 1.297

Total number of walks, plus total number of hits, divided by innings pitched. This is thought to be one of the best measures of effective pitching. A WHIP of under 1.000 is outstanding.

*So, I was going to include the stats behind this but, after some thought, I agree with many folks that this particular stat needs to die a lonely death. One reason for this is the prevalent thinking that some MLB players are so mentally weak they cannot handle ‘pressure’ situations.

It seems to me that getting through up to five levels of Minor League ball and then playing through a 162-game grind against the best ball players in the world would weed out any mentally weak players way before they ever get to MLB. I believe the stat is nothing more than a complete coincidence.

Over the course of a long season, bad breaks lead to lower averages more than players wilting under the pressure of batting with runners in scoring position and two outs.

Alex Rodriguez is the favorite whipping boy for the “He can’t play under pressure” crowd. His postseason stats are indeed lower than his regular season numbers. However, the 2009 ALDS (.455 BA) and ALCS (.429 BA) tell me he could hit just fine under pressure.

Yep, he totally sucked in the postseason. Small sample size? Yep. So are the numbers behind this entire stat? Rant = over 😉

What are your thoughts on statistics and analytics in the sport, especially when they relate to our O’s? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to follow The Baltimore Battery on Facebook and Twitter! And, make sure to use the hashtag #baltimorebattery when sharing our content to show your Birdland swag!

Published by Wayland Abernathy III

I was born in Omaha, Nebraska. I've been around the world thanks to my Air Force-enlisted parents although I have been in Florida since 1987. I thank my parents for helping me embrace my sarcastic and common sense view of the world.

One thought on “Numbers Game: Stats don’t lie

  1. It would be nice to have also include the median numbers for each stat. That may highlight what it would take to get in the top half of the teams for each stat since average may be skewed by particularly good or bad teams.


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