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Advanced Statistics: A tutorial in preparation for Texas Tech baseball season

In the first of a new series, we dig into the math and meaning of two traditional offensive stats.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Arkansas vs Texas Tech Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

We are less than 50 days from Coach Tadlock and the 2020 Red Raider baseball team take the field against Houston Baptist at Dan Law Field.

We here at VTM have a ton of content planned for this upcoming season, which include weekly pieces, midday and weekend series recaps, and even a weekly podcast dedicated to Texas Tech baseball.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Florida State vs Texas Tech Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

With all that new information, there is a chance that there may be advanced stats thrown around in articles or in dialogue on the podcast that the average person may not understand. This could potentially ostracize the casual VTM reader and not allow them to enjoy the content we work really hard on.

That just ain’t gonna happen, Suzyn.

That brings me to the purpose of this piece. I am going to start a weekly feature up until the start of the season that will highlight a few advanced baseball statistics that could potentially come up during the season, so readers may be knowledgeable beforehand, or can use for reference throughout the season.

The use of analytics and sabermetrics is minimal in college baseball, as it’s typically managing your resources by “feel;” however, that doesn’t mean some of these stats or concepts are not utilized by Coach Tadlock and his staff during the season.

Without further ado, let’s discuss two big offensive advanced stats.

On-Base Percentage (OBP) and Slugging Percentage (SLG)

On-base Percentage (OBP) measures the single most important thing a hitter can do while at the plate: get on base. Players with a high on-base percentage avoid making outs and reach base at a high rate, which gives their team a better chance at scoring. And scoring runs is a good thing!

Ted Williams
Ted Williams: felt cute, might mess around and win a batting title and fight in a World War later
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

OBP reads a lot like a batting average, but incorporates things like walks and getting hit by pitches, so it is typically 50 or so points higher and a more accurate stat to use when judging how good a a hitter is at his objective: get on base.

Rule of thumb for determining if a player’s OBP is good or not, a .390 OBP is excellent, while a .290 is downright awful.

Cool baseball note: Ted Williams currently holds the record for highest OBP over a career (.4817). He also achieved this during a career that saw him serve our country in WWII and the Korean War. What has your favorite football or basketball player done lately?

The formula for OBP (yes, there’s math) is very simple:

OBP = H + BB + HBP / AB + BB + HBP + SF

(H = hit, BB = walk, HBP = hit by pitch, AB = at-bats, SF = sac fly)

While OBP is great to use when determining if a player is a good offensive performer or not, it is not without its flaws. Because it weighs every time a player gets on base equally.

While getting on base via walk is great and certainly valuable, it doesn’t necessarily help your team’s chance of scoring quite like getting a hit, like a triple. This makes reading stat lines and looking beyond the numbers important because a player who goes 2-4 with two singles will have a .500 OBP, but a player who goes 1-4 with a home run will only have a .250 OBP.

This leads me to the importance of the next stat, Slugging Percentage (SLG).

Unlike on-base percentage, Slugging Percentage represents the total number of bases a player records per at-bat. Basically, this stat only deals with hits and does not factor walks or hit-by-pitches. It is also considered a weighted stat, as that it gives more weight to extra-base hits, relative to singles.

Why is it weighted? As we just covered, some hits should be preferred more than others, simply due to their potential increase of producing run. And, again, scoring runs is a good thing!

Again, the slugging percentage acts like a batting average when you read it: the higher, the better. Generally, a .450 slugging percentage is pretty good, a .550 slugging percentage is considered excellent.

San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds connects for his 745 career homerun during action against the New York Mets Tuesday, May 8, 2007, at AT&T park in San Francisco, Calif. (Ron Lewis/San Mateo County Times)
Photo by MediaNews Group/San Mateo County Times via Getty Images

For all his faults (of which, I do not recognize, nor care about because the fact remains he is still the best hitter we’ve ever seen in our lifetime), Barry Bonds still holds the record for highest Slugging percentage. In 2001, Bonds had 411 bases in 476 at-bats that resulted in a Slugging percentage of .863 (!!!).

The formula looks like this:

Slug = ([Singles] + [Doubles x 2] + [Triples x 3] + [Home runs x 4]) / At-Bats

All this is great information, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a stat that combines both components of On-base percentage AND Slugging percentage into one nice number?

You’ll have to check in next week as we highlight On-base Percentage plus Slugging (OPS)!


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