Using the OPS as Ultimate Arbiter for 2015 MLB

By: Joe Gavazzi     Date: May 12, 2015

Using the OPS as Ultimate Arbiter By Joe Gavazzi, Winning Sports Advice Monday, May 11, 2015

Baseball has often been described as a “game of inches.” That statement is true of all sports to a degree. But in baseball, the statement seems particularly relevant. It is a matter of inches whether a pitched ball is within the strike zone. Ground balls through the infield often evade an outstretched glove by a matter of inches. Curving line drives down both foul lines fall inches from the first and third base lines. Fly balls to the outfield are caught or miss an outfielder’s glove by a matter of inches. And of course, every evening home runs clear the fence by a matter of inches. These events play out in every game. As such, they seem to even out over the course of time. No wonder handicapping baseball with its myriad of statistics is an ultimate challenge. The bottom line is that in no other sport is parity more evident. Every year in college football, there are numerous undefeated or one-loss teams, with the same true at the other end of the spectrum. The NFL often has teams with just two or three losses, or wins, through the 16 game season. Of the 250 online CBKB teams, many have single digit wins or losses over the 30-40 game schedule. In NBA, there are usually 3-5 teams who win more than two out of three of their total games. Of the three major sports, only baseball plays to the greatest parity. For stretching back many seasons, one can see that rarely in a season are there more than three teams who play outside the parameters of .400 to .600 baseball.

Since the turn of the millennium and the coming of the computer age to MLB, there have been more statistics to analyze than any single handicapper could hope to massage. Arguments continue to rage about a percentage of the handicap which should be accorded to starting pitching, the bull pen, and to hitting. Wouldn’t it be great if there were just one single indicator which could best isolate the teams who have the best and worst won-loss records? In recent seasons, one of the new statistics in baseball has been the OPS. This statistic is the addition of a team’s on base percentage and their slugging percentage. In a similar way, it can also be used for defensive purposes when analyzing a team’s pitching staff. The charts that follow reflect a team’s batting and pitching for the first five weeks of the 2015 MLB season, over which time every team except the Chicago White Sox has played 30 or more games, or approximately 20% of the MLB season. This chart will isolate four different categories regarding OPS batting and pitching numbers. At the conclusion, I will draw conclusions that will prove the worth of the OPS statistics.

The four distinctive categories that we will look at include: •Teams whose offensive OPS is greater than or equal to .735: the good offensive teams •Teams whose offensive OPS is less than or equal to .670: the bad offensive teams •Teams whose pitching OPS is less than or equal to .670: the good pitching teams •Teams whose pitching OPS is greater than or equal to .733: the bad pitching teams

For relevance, please note that the average MLB OPS is .710, a bit higher than in previous seasons. Each of the charts will simply denote each team and each category with their OPS and their won-loss record.

The results of the four charts are clearly definitive. Teams who have the better batting and pitching OPS have clearly superior records to those teams who have the worst batting and pitching OPS. But wait! We can make this better! By simply combining the teams who are in BOTH charts 1 & 3 (the GOOD hitting and pitching teams) we find there are four teams in the LA Dodgers, Kansas City Royals, St Louis Cardinals, and the New York Yankees who have a combined record of 82-42 for a .661 won-loss percentage.

In a similar way, if we combine the four teams who appear in BOTH charts 2 & 4 (the BAD hitting and pitching teams) we find that the Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, Texas Rangers, and Philadelphia Phillies are a combined 47-76 for a .382 won-loss percentage.

We can let the sabermetric analysts use all the convoluted stats they want. And devise any group of analytics they choose to put together. The bottom line as this article proves is that the combination of good hitting and good pitching as determined by the OPS is a simplistic, but very reliable way in which the fundamentals of a team can be analyzed.

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