It’s how often a player reaches base that’s important, not batting average, not RBI.
Baseball doesn’t have a clock in the sense that football or basketball does, but it has outs, 27 of them, and each one an offense spends brings the game closer to extinction. The players who reach base most often are the ones most likely to put off the inevitable death of the offensive effort. The more your players get on base, the more your players get a chance to hit, meaning you score more runs.

I have been reading some of the comments from people over the weekend. I see a few derogatory remarks about OPS. I agree OPS is not the perfect stat, but its a hell of a lot better than batting average. Batting average is a useless stat, its nearly as useless as RBI when judging the usefullness of an individual hitter.

RBI are opportunistic; RBI are a team stat and are not indicative of a player’s ability.
In 1985 Don Mattingly had a great year. The Yankees often batted Rickey Henderson first and Mattingly second. Henderson was having an even better year than Mattingly, reaching base 42% of the time and putting himself in scoring position constantly thanks to his 28 doubles, five triples, and 80 stolen bases–the last of which cost the Yankees only 10 caught stealing. At his peak, Henderson was the rare player where the rewards of stealing handily outweighed the risks. Hitting .324/.371/.567 behind this on-base dynamo, Mattingly drove in 145 runs and won the MVP award.

The next year, Mattingly was even better, improving his numbers to .352/.394/.573. Oddly, he drove in 32 fewer runs. The problem was Henderson, who saw his OBP drop to .358 in 1986, meaning he was on base less often. Better Mattingly + Worse Henderson = fewer RBI opportunities for Mattingly. If RBI were an expression of a player’s ability, we should hold the shortfall against Mattingly despite his being better than the year before. That doesn’t make much sense.

I know most people on the Redlegnation understand production, and for the most part I am preaching to the choir, but I would like one of the Redzoners “people who think batting average and RBI are useful stats” here to ENLIGHTEN me. Tell me why Battinag average is better than OPS, teach me the reasons RBI are a stat that can tell me how good a hitter is.

UPDATE: Brian makes a good point in his comments, I didn’t mean to disparage a whole class of people (Redzoners)

8 Responses

  1. Brian Erts

    Umm… Matt, I’d say that your “Redzoner” tag is misaimed.

    That poster doesn’t represent Redzone on any level when it comes to baseball acuman.

    Nor does he represent anything more than an gutless troll who slammed me and one of my posts without putting in a real name… hence the Redzoner moniker.

    BTW that argument is useless here IMO, We all know the deal… I also believe that we are all able to point someone who actually cares about learning more in the right direction.

  2. Joel

    I agree with Brian. Personally, I don’t have a problem if someone doesn’t want to take the time to learn about OPS or some of the more complicated stats. Everyone has the right to enjoy the game however they want to enjoy it. I do get tired of people who make weak arguments and disparage others because they have actually try to learn more than what is on the back of a baseball card.

    If you don’t want to be a “stathead,” fine. But if you going to go into an argument and ignore the mountain of evidence that is out there, well, you are the foolish one.

  3. Brian Erts

    The whole RBI thing as a measurement for a players skill is whack anyway, Deron Johnson 1965 Reds is my best example of what happens when a guy plays in a stacked lineup and has a career BA and SLG.

    130 RBI’s… never got to 100 again or before.

  4. Brian Erts

    Here’s some wood for the fire

    In 70 PA’s with RISP Dunn is 1st in BB Casey is first in Batting Average

    casey has 26 RBI’s Dunn 18

    Caseys line .344/.416/.406/.822

    Dunns .204/.466/.469/.935

    Casey RC/27 in RISP 5.16
    Dunn RC/27 in RISP 8.30

    Casey 1 RBI every 2.4 ab’s Dunn every 2.77

    Casey 22 hits in that situation 4 were doubles

    Dunn 10 hits in that situation 4 were HR’s 1 was a double

    Dunn 21 BB in that situation Casey 10

    Dunn scored 28 times after that situation Casey 21

  5. Pinski

    If a team could actually get 8 straight at-bats with runners in scoring position that would be awesome, but its not likely.

    So instead lets say that there is a runner on first in each of those at-bats. Which one is better? The guy with the HR and the 3 walks? (2RBIS) Or the guy with the 3 singles and the double? (Maybe 1 RBI, as long as its not Casey or Griffey or LaRue on 1st)

    Thats the whole point. If you want to look at specific comparable situations, runners on first, etc, Then fine use batting average, RBIS etc. Thats okay. But when you don’t want to go that deep into the stats, and try to compare them in the exact situations, you need something better. OPS is that.

  6. Pinski

    Like I said. Yes Dunn is leading overall in OPS. But not with RISP. Thats what I was trying to point out.

    But Dunn, has more Runs than those two other guys. And this gets to the chicken and the egg issue. Yes you need a guy to hit you in to score runs, but in the end if you can score 100 runs batting 250, who cares about BA?

  7. Blue

    Dunn:

    vs. lefties: OBP-.278 SLG- .397 BA- .162
    vs. righties: OBP- .434 SLG- .639 BA- .284

    Late innings of close games: OBP- .323 SLG- .500 BA- .192

    Just some information for you to chew on.

    I have a theory that players with high OPS and low batting average achieve this by knocking the crap out of really bad pitchers, whereas hitters with high average are more consistent against good pitchers. This could explain why the Reds, with high OPS and low BA destroyed the D-Rays but couldn’t touch the Red Sox, with Clement, Arroyo, and Wells. Thoughts?

  8. Joel

    I have a theory that players with high OPS and low batting average achieve this by knocking the crap out of really bad pitchers, whereas hitters with high average are more consistent against good pitchers. This could explain why the Reds, with high OPS and low BA destroyed the D-Rays but couldn’t touch the Red Sox, with Clement, Arroyo, and Wells. Thoughts?

    I just did a brief glimpse at some of the top pitchers that Dunn has faced this year. My list included 37 pitchers and I will admit that I just eyeballed names to determine who was good and not (quick & dirty) but names included players like Smoltz, Clement, Prior, Wood, Zambrano, Milwood, Sabathia, Oliver Perez, Oswalt, Clemens, Pedro, Kip & David Wells, Peavy, Mulder and others. I tried to take guys that were at the worst identifiably average or a “tough lefthander”. While I did pick and choose with no statistical criteria, I did not look at the Dunn’s stats against each pitcher until after I had chosen my list.

    Here are Dunn’s (non-scientific) numbers against the top pitchers he has faced this year:
    121 PA, .268 avg, .413 OBP, .660 Slg, 9 HR, 19 RBI, 24 BB, 34 K.

    Again, this is just 2005 data, so the results aren’t definitive, but at the very least it is interesting to note that Dunn is hitting the better pitchers pretty well, especially considering that they are some of the best pitchers in the NL. I didn’t do this for the whole team, but I figured Dunn is usually the example for this type of argument and it was pretty easy for me to gather his numbers together.