Stacey's Adventures With Stats

Writing music: "Lovin' Is Really My Game" by Brainstorm If you have listened to the two latest IIATMS podcasts, you'll know that there's a feature called "Teaching Stats to Stacey," and if you haven't listened, what the heck are you waiting for?

Yes, I am admitting to being slightly terrified of stats which is highly amusing since I am co-Editor-in-Chief of this site and it's a blog filled with a lot of smart people who analyze baseball better than most but I am willing to learn. I'm not one of those people who scream, "WATCH THE GAME AND GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR SPREADSHEET!" I know that looking at numbers along with watching the game can help me with my baseball writing. I really just want to be able to use the numbers and actually know what the heck I'm talking about.

Last week, the guys discussed FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) and xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching). When measuring FIP the rule of thumb is this: Pitchers control strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches and home runs but everything else can happen because of the fielders. Like for instance: a first baseman is shaded two steps to the left, just misses snagging a ball that would have been a ground ball out and it ends up being a double down the line. Or an outfielder is playing too far back and lets a ball drop in for a single. FIP is measured on a similar scale to ERA (2.90 is excellent - 5.00 is awful) but it's better to use when looking at a whole season's worth of innings.

According to Fangraphs: xFIP is a regressed version of FIP, developed by Dave Studeman from The Hardball Times. It’s calculated in the same way as FIP, except it replaces a pitcher’s home run total with an estimate of how many home runs they should have allowed. Phil Hughes' numbers are interesting because his FIP was higher than his xFIP in 2013 (4.50 to 4.39) while Justin Verlander's FIP was 3.28 while his xFIP was 3.67.

This week, I decided I wanted to know more about a couple of offensive stats that I've been curious about and that I've actually cited in pieces: wOBA and wRC+.

wOBA or Weighted On-Base Average was created by Tom Tango, author of The Book, and it is used to measure a hitter's overall offensive value. While batting average assumes all hits are equal - home runs and singles count the same in BA - they're not equal in wOBA. What wOBA does is combine all the different aspects of hitting into one metric and weighs each of them in proportion to their actual run value. So in the formula, a HBP is slightly more valuable than a regular walk, a double is slightly more valuable than a single and a home run is worth the most. wOBA is measured on the same scale as OBP (on base percentage) but it varies from year to year. Basically if your wOBA is hovering around 0.400 you are pretty awesome and if your wOBA was .455, you were Miguel Cabrera in 2013 - Eight players finished with a wOBA of .400 or higher last season and Michael Cuddyer who finished ninth in wOBA had a .396. so I guess 2013's scale may be a little different (higher) than previous years.

The next stat is wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus). wRC+ measures how a player’s wRC compares with league average. League average is 100 and every point above 100 is a percentage point above league average. Just to give you an idea of what that means, in 2013, Mike Trout's wRC+ was 176. He created 76% more runs than the average player. and if you think that's the highest wRC+ in 2013, you'd be wrong. Miguel Cabrera had that honor with a 192. Yes, he created 92% more runs than the average player.

The cool thing about wRC+ is that it's also park and league-adjusted which means if you wanted to compare players who played in the Polo Grounds in 1951 to players who play in Great American Ballpark in 2013, you could!

Thanks to Domenic Lanza for the assist with these numbers:

I'm not sure what I will have the guys discuss next week yet but if you are a stat novice like I am and have something you'd like to learn, feel free to leave it in the comments. As much as I'm doing this for myself, I think it would be a great learning experience for the readers as well.

Until next time...

Song playing when I finished the post: "Revolver (Paul Van Dyk Remix)" by Madonna