What is an OPS? Part 3

After reviewing what was written in Part 2 of this series there needs to be more clarification as to the difference between Sabermetric  and Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS)  approaches.  Our premise is that complexity added to the Sabermetric version is at best, a big headache to calculate that makes no discernible difference, and at worst, deceptive.

This data model is runs based and does not care about hits, walks, strikeouts, stolen bases, etc.  Those are all game stats based upon hits.  When the MLB commissioner determines the winner of a baseball game, he picks the team with the highest number in the R column ignoring the H column.  A pitcher can throw 20+ strikeouts in a game and still lose because the baseball commissioner doesn’t give any points for throwing strikeouts.  This goes for many of the myriad of stats that sites like Fangraphs and Draft Kings peddle.

Since people are going to want to know how many homers so and so hit or what kind of WHIP does this pitcher have it is important we draw in these stats.  OPS is my favorite hitting stat because it is so popular with the media and it is also somewhat nonsense — which we will get to in subsequent Parts to this series.  We’re just killing time here before we hit the 1/6 baseball season when our real data model kicks in using current year datasets.

Let’s look again at the OBP  formula according to the Wikipedia page.


We described in Part 2 how the At Bat stat (AB) was developed for Batting Average.  The denominator in the above defines a different type of count for a player At Bat without giving it a name.  The Keep It Simple Stupid approach simply makes the denominator Plate Appearances.  KISS treats all walks equally and cares not whether it was through getting hit, intentional, or the old fashioned way of drawing 4 balls.

OBP = (H + W) / PA  where W = BB + HBP + IBB  <– KISS OBP

We demonstrated how the difference between KISS OBP and the Sabermetric OBP is negligible.  Eliminating Intentional Walks from OBP was clearly a human decision so as not to reward certain players like Barry Bonds or Albert Pujols.  They think it isn’t fair those guys get free passes while everyone else has to work for their walks.  Or maybe they think working the count is important in OBP so Intentional Walks shouldn’t count.

Here is a table showing the highest  IBB/PA years Barry Bonds’ career had

2002 Barry_Bonds_SFN 0.582 0.624 10.00
2003 Barry_Bonds_SFN 0.529 0.576 9.98
2004 Barry_Bonds_SFN 0.609 0.673 16.28

In 2004 Barry Bonds has an official OBP of 0.609 and 0.673 with the KISS formula.  This is an extreme case.  According to IBB/PA, Bonds was Intentionally Walked 16.28% that year which is around 1/6 of every plate appearance.  The MLB historical average for Intentional Walks is 0.7% ( once every 140 PAs) which means Bonds’ accrued 20x what is normal.

Let’s bring this down a notch and look at 3 years of your average very good player, Anthony Rizzo.

Year Name_TeamID Official OBP KISS OBP IBB/PA
2014 Anthony_Rizzo_CHN 0.386 0.393 1.12
2015 Anthony_Rizzo_CHN 0.387 0.394 1.27
2016 Anthony_Rizzo_CHN 0.385 0.392 1.17

Rizzo gets about 50% more Intentional Walks than normal and the difference between his Official OBP and the Keep It Simple approach is negligible.  It becomes even more negligible when you drop down to the good players, average players,  and below.

The bottom line:  We get our data from official MLB sources which provide the PA stat without IBB.  We don’t calculate game stats so we will take and display whatever number they come up with for OBP.  For historical purposes OBP is meaningless.  It is not a value stat and cannot be used for ranking purposes.

Edit  5/3/2018: Since we take  PA from official sources, in order to incorporate Intentional Walks we would have to add them back.  That violates KISS and incorporates our bias into an equation.  From now on we’ll accept that Intentional Walks don’t count and since IBBs are so few they are irrelevant to the final OBP anyway.  Walks will be simply W = BB + HBP .

That is the end of OBP talk forever.  Now that we have exhausted the O in OPS, the next part to this series will hit the S.  Until then….