Advanced Analytics: Baseball Lives Off of Them

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When people think of advanced analytics in baseball, they think of Billy Beane, Bill James, and Tom Tango. With Bill James being considered the father of advanced analytics, he is a controversial figure in sports. His controversial analysis and analytics have become the most debated topic between the old guard and the new in sports.

Baseball media has had a history of varying beliefs on modern analytics, and it’s due to a tainted legacy. The Oakland Athletics had failed to bring a title home when Moneyball first burst onto the scene. This left the traditionalist crowd laughing at advanced metrics and their on-field failures. Billy Beane’s criticisms are laughable though, as he wasn’t even the first man to prioritize OBP.

Gene Michael Followed A Similar Philosophy

While, yes, Billy Beane did revolutionize the game for smaller market teams, this wasn’t the only advanced team. Gene Michael built the late 90s and early 2000s New York Yankees. He had built this team on getting on base over batting average. From 1996-2004, the Yankees had a 10.1 BB%, which was 3rd in MLB. That was only 0.1% worse than the athletics in that span of time. “The Stick” had built a team on something ground breaking at the time, and it worked.

People will point out that the Yankees had money, but they always brought in players who got on base. Even Earl Weaver used this philosophy, showing OBP’s value has been the difference between bad teams and good teams. I will still have deniers because of those teams having talent; but what about nowadays?

The Main Source of Knowledge For Teams in Baseball

Back in 2015 ESPN ranked teams based on their use of advanced analytics. Every team in the skeptic (or non-believer) category in 2015 missed the playoffs that year. Those squads had a 569-726 record, which was good for a 43.9 winning percentage. The only GM on those 2015 teams remaining is Jeff Bridich of the Rockies. Bridich is the guy who just ruined his relationship with Nolan Arenado, and outside of 2017 and 2018, has been a train wreck.

Most of your favorite teams are using wOBA and wRC+ and xwOBA, not batting average and RBIs. When you evaluate players with that, you end up with an extremely flawed and incomplete analysis of a player, and it’s been outdated for a while.

Advanced Analytics have been in baseball for a while, but what are some examples of them?

Which Are the Best Advanced Stats For Analysis?

For offense, you have metrics like wOBA and xwOBA found on Baseball Savant and Evanalytics. I think Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) is a great stat for people to use to judge hitters. Weighted On-Base average factors the bases gained in an at-bat and the frequency at which you get on base, while properly weighing the result of an at-bat. This carries into xwOBA which is a stat that takes away defense and adjusts for park factor to determine if a hitter’s wOBA was higher or lower than it should be. This is another metric teams look at for hitters to determine whether signing them is worth it or not. As a result, it can be misleading, which is why xwOBA is so important.

For pitchers a metric like SIERA and pCRA are fantastic, as they both explain why a pitcher should or shouldn’t have succeeded. Using quality of contact and park factors as well, they can help with seeing how sustainable the result (ERA) was. pCRA can be found on SixManRotation while SIERA is found on Fangraphs.

Defensively, OAA (Outs Above Average) is the king of defense. You can find OAA on Baseball Savant and it is one of the most accurate and complete defensive metrics we’ve ever seen. I personally enjoy OAA a lot. While the infield variant of OAA is less than a year old, it is still amazing, and is objectively the best defensive metric for range, runs saved, and total impact defensively.

Advanced Analytics Grow the Game of Baseball

These advanced analytics help the sport of baseball have better talent. It shortens the gap that small and big market teams have, and is great for the sport. Use more advanced metrics and you’ll understand more about the sport and it’s players. The dude hitting .250 might be a better hitter when you look at OBP and wOBA than you thought. The guy who looked like he had a slick glove may not be a great defender. Metrics are great for baseball and for our understanding of it, so I ask that you explore them.

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