Runs batted in (RBI): It's one of the most familiar and comfortable offensive stats around, and it's still got plenty of advocates. It's one of my least favorites, not only because of its native weaknesses but also because of its outsized importance when it comes to awards, bar-stool debates and the like. The primary problem with RBI is that it's highly, highly team-dependent. After all, it's hard to drive in many runs unless runners are getting on base in front of you, and that's not something you can control. Additionally, it's highly dependent upon your spot in the lineup. Take the exact same two hitters, put one in the leadoff spot and one at clean-up and you're going to get vastly different RBI totals. Like any traditional counting stat it's useful at the margins (e.g., it's hard to drive in 130 runs and somehow suck, but it's entirely possible to plate 100 runs and not be a useful player). Mostly, if you feel compelled to pay attention to RBI, don't do so without also paying attention to RBI percentage, or the percentage of runners than a batter plated. You can't consider RBI without also considering opportunities for RBI. - Perry
On-base percentage (OBP): Unlike batting average, on-base percentage doesn't ignore working the count to earn a walk, stepping into an inside pitch or being such a terrifying hitter that one gets pitched around and/or intentionally walked often. There are four players with more than 2,000 career walks: Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. And we're supposed to ignore that and concentrate on batting average? In its purest form, OBP is basically measuring the amount of times a hitter does not make an out. With only 27 precious outs in a regulation game, this stat is paramount. That this isn't mainstreamed as more important than batting average makes very little sense to me. [For more on AVG vs. OBP, click here. I wrote a lot more about it] -- Snyder
Those three stats (K%, BB%, BB/K) are the bulk of what is used to determine a player’s plate discipline, but there are actually quite a few more advanced stats that can be used get a much deeper look into a player’s approach at the plate. It’s really not necessary to get very in-depth with these stats, but a simple description and league context is really all you need to be able to apply them.
Getting on base is an important skill, so you want to use OBP to determine if the player in question is a good offensive performer. However, OBP can only take you so far and it should only be used in the context of other statistics because OBP weights every time you reach base equally, whether you hit a home run or an infield single. If used in conjunction with slugging percentage or isolated slugging percentage, OBP is a very useful tool. In general, something like wOBA or wRC+ will tell a more accurate story, but if you’re looking for something extremely simple OBP is a much better bet than batting average.
Batters actually hold a decent level of influence on their BABIP, which is something that not a lot of people realize. Because there are different types of hitters (mainly speed, power, and contact hitters), not everyone should be expected to have the same “30% outcome” for balls in play. The main source of this influence comes from what is known as a player’s “batted ball profile,” which consists of the following stats:
A few reactions are fast because they skip the brain altogether--the knee-jerk reflex, for example, requiring only a few nerve-cell-to-nerve-cell interconnections, and thus happens in "the blink of an eye." The neural pathway makes a short loop from sensory cells through interneurons to motor nerve cells, which control the appropriate muscle groups. A message is sent to the brain at the same time it is sent to the muscles, so we actually become aware of the knee jerk as it happens.
Carter came to the Astros from Oakland as a player with a reputation for excellent power, but a scary tendency to swing and miss. In his first full season in the majors last year he did nothing to shake that reputation. Carter hit 29 home runs in 2013, but also struck out 212 times coming with in striking distance of Mark Reynolds single-season record of 223. In the last two years (among hitters with at least 800 PA) Chris Carter has been at the top of the leaderboards in all of the statistics related to failing to make contact with baseballs. The following chart shows his numbers in K%, Contact% and Swinging Strike % and where he ranks among the 190 batters with 800+ PA over the last two seasons:
In certain unofficial calculations, the denominator is simplified and replaced by Plate Appearance (PA); however, the calculation PAs includes certain infrequent events that will slightly lower the calculated OBP (i.e. catcher's interference, and sacrifice bunts). Sacrifice bunts are excluded from consideration on the basis that they are usually imposed by the manager with the expectation that the batter will not reach base, and thus do not accurately reflect the batter's ability to reach base when attempting to do so.
Walk/strikeout ratio. The exception is that he does look at the ratio of walks to strikeouts. Elite hitters in high school shouldn’t be striking out a lot. No more than 7 strikeout in 100 at bats in high school. For example, 12 walks and 88 strikeouts is NOT what they want to see. On the other hand, more walks than strikeouts is very promising. Orioles scout Jim Thrift knows that this stat shows a lot about a player’s discipline, hand/eye coordination and knowledge of the strike zone.
If the batter doesn't hit the ball just right, he's in trouble. An amazing series of reactions propels a shortstop or third baseman into the path of a hard-hit ball. In two steps or less, he may have already caught the ball and fired it to first base for an out, with a swiftness and assurance acquired only through years of practice. Inherited skill alone just won't do the job.
Adjusted OPS-plus (OPS+): You might be familiar with OPS, which is simply on-base percentage added to slugging percentage (forget, for the moment, that they have different denominators). OPS+ is simply OPS adjusted for park and league conditions. It's scaled to 100, which means that 100 indicates a league-average OPS adjusted for park and league. An OPS+ of 110, for instance, is an OPS that's 10 percent better than the league average. On the other end, an OPS+ of 85 is one that's 15 percent worse than the league average. It's useful in that you can make a thumbnail comparison between, say, a hitter in Coors Field in 2000 to one in Dodger Stadium in 1968. It helps correct for the two things that most often corrupt unadjusted stats -- home parks and eras -- and it leans on the the two most important things a hitter can do -- get on base and hit for power. - Dayn Perry
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