Baseball Stats That Mean NOTHING

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fangraphs.com

We live in a much different world of baseball today than we did ten years ago. The last decade has brought much more meaningful statistical analysis to the game of baseball. This obviously has a ton of implications on how to value players and build a team, but let’s look at what it means for baseball fans.

I am sick of hearing people site a pitcher’s w-l record as proof of his performance

Owning @ShtBallPlayrsDo on twitter has turned me into a master in debate, and man do I come across some stupidity. But maybe it’s not all their fault, so let’s map it out.

Pitchers

Win – Loss Record

Let’s start with pitchers. When you look at the typical statistics surrounding a pitcher, a lot of their “individual” stats are actually team influenced statistics. If you want to compare pitcher A vs pitcher B, you have to throw the team surrounding them out of the debate. The worst of them all is a Win / Loss record. Check out a pitcher’s Quality Start record vs his W-L record to find out how much of a team stat that is. If a pitcher throws a QS, they should get a W. 2014 Cy Young winner Corey Kluber has a WL record of 8-13 this year. ‘Nuff said. Stop talking about it.

ERA

Almost as bad as W-L record, is a pitcher’s ERA. This is also a team statistic since stats like xFIP (fielding independent pitching) and SIERA (skill-interactive ERA) have been introduced to the game. If you want to judge a pitcher’s performance wouldn’t it be smart to take the fielding out of it? I won’t go into detail on how these are calculated, but here’s the explanation of the benefits of the SIERA statistic from Fangraphs

Strikeouts are good…even better than FIP suggests. High strikeout pitchers generate weaker contact, which means they allow fewer hits (AKA have lower BABIPs) and have lower homerun rates. The same can be said of relievers, as they enter the game for a short period of time and pitch with more intensity.

Also, high strikeout pitchers can increase their groundball rate in double play situations. Situational pitching is a skill for pitchers with dominant stuff.

Walks are bad…but not that bad if you don’t allow many of them.Walks don’t hurt low-walk pitcher nearly as much as they hurt other pitchers, since low-walk pitchers can limit further baserunners. Similarly, if a pitcher allows a large amount of baserunners, they are more likely to allow a high percentage of those baserunners to score.

Balls in play are complicated. In general, groundballs go for hits more often than flyballs (although they don’t result in extra base hits as often). But the higher a pitcher’s groundball rate, the easier it is for their defense to turn those ground balls into outs. In other words, a pitcher with a 55% groundball rate will have a lower BABIP on grounders than a pitcher with a 45% groundball rate. And if a pitcher walks a large number of batters and also has a high groundball rate, their double-play rate will be higher as well.

As for flyballs, pitchers with a high flyball rate will have a lower Homerun Per Flyball rate than other pitchers.

Finally we have a stat that A) is accurate and predictive, and B) accounts for some of the complexity of pitching.

The title of this article is a little deceiving. Stats like ERA and W-L don’t mean NOTHING, per say. They are just more of a team statistic instead of an individual statistic, and shouldn’t be used in a twitter debate on who’s the better pitcher.

Hitters

Batting Average & OBP

Many problems with batting average. If you want to look at the value a hitter possesses, shouldn’t doubles, triples, and homers count for a little more than a single? A hitter that goes 3-10 with 3 singles isn’t as valuable as a hitter that goes 3-10 with 3 home runs. Same applies to OBP. So what’s the better stat? Introducing wOBA.

Again, let’s go to the experts at FanGraphs for the explanation

wOBA Flash Card 7-11-15

I hope that we can now change the way we look at a player’s stat line, because we all know…

“baseball statistics are like bikinis, they show a lot but not everything.”