Tracking the OPS as Starting Pitcher Indicator
By Joe Gavazzi, Winning Sports Advice
Monday, May 18, 2015
Last week I authored an article entitled “Using the OPS as Ultimate Arbiter.” In it, I proved that teams who had among the BEST OPS batting AND pitching OPS had among the best records in baseball. The opposite proved to be true that the teams who had the WORST OPS in batting and pitching had among the WORST records in MLB.
To review the concept once again, OPS is the sum of OBP (on base percentage) plus SLG (slugging percentage). Combining these two indicators has proved through the years to be the best indicator of ultimate success.
As we review the standings on the morning of May 18th, we find that there are three teams, the LA Dodgers (24-13), the Kansas City Royals (24-14), and the St Louis Cardinals (25-12) who qualify as the only teams who are in the top 9 of both the batting OPS and pitching OPS numbers. Thus, it is no surprise that these teams have three of the four best records in MLB.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are three teams, the Boston Red Sox (18-20), the Chicago White Sox (17-17), and the Milwaukee Brewers (13-25) who are the only teams in the bottom 9 of OPS batting and OPS pitching. These teams are destined to finish in the bottom of the standings.
If the OPS works for TEAM batting and TEAM pitching, then why shouldn’t it work for individual starting pitchers? This article examines the MLB pitchers with the top 20 OPS, all less than or equal to .616, and the 22 pitchers who have an OPS of greater than .800. Note that an average OPS is normally .710. The charts below list the names of these pitchers, their OPS, and their TRGS (team record in games started, which is how we get paid!). At the conclusion of the charts I will draw conclusions, which will not only follow the obvious win-loss records of a pitcher, but also issue some negative indicators in the form of pitchers to PLAY ON and PLAY AGAINST in the future.
The combined TRGS of these pitchers is 92-57 for a record of over 60% winners. That is a number that many of you will choose to follow, and with some success. But as the season progresses, many of these pitchers, particularly the ones with an excellent TRGS, will be overrated. Pay special attention to these pitchers when they are installed as an underdog. In addition, my suggestion is to follow the six of these pitchers who have a TRGS of .500 or worse. Those would be Gray, Liriano, Jimenez, Arrieta, Burnett, and Odorizzi. These pitchers are in the rotation of teams all of whom are no better than 4 games above .500. There can be immense VALUE on these pitchers as they toil for mediocre teams.
Now let’s turn our attention to the 22 starters all of whom have a greater than .800 OPS. These guys for the most part are getting ripped.
The combined record of these pitchers is 72-96 TRGS. These pitchers are all considered to be solid play against candidates. But the best group to play against may well be those who are overrated because of their .500 or better TRGS record. That group would include Danks, Shields, Shoemaker, Guthrie, Vogelsong, Buehrle, Teheran, and Marquis. You should become increasingly interested in playing against these starters when they are installed as a favorite.
It makes good sense that the OPS is a reliable indicator of starting pitcher success. But since it does not encompass the abilities of the entire team, such as team batting OPS, it must be used IN CONJUNCTION with other indices. By this time, you’ve now realized the value of the OPS as meaningful indicator. I hope you use it to provide you with successful wagers this baseball season.