Assessing players in baseball is crucial to setting goals and planning strategies accordingly. There are several metrics like batting average on balls in play (BABIP), isolated power (ISO), slugging percentage (SLG), runs batted in (RBI), and much more. But, is there a metric exclusively to evaluate a hitter? Well, OPS comes into the picture to evaluate hitters.
On-base percentage plus slugging (OPS) is the sum of slugging and on-base percentages meant to evaluate the potential of a player to achieve two skills, on-base, and power. OPS of at least .800 is essential for a player to remain in the hitter’s upper echelon.
While it is easy to summarize how it works, there is more to it as we see baseball being played at different levels. In this article, we shall take a look at the perfect way to calculate OPS, the importance of this statistic, and average OPS values at different levels. Let’s begin!
How to Calculate OPS In Baseball?
OPS is calculated as the sum of on-base percentage (OBP) and slugging average (SLG). However, OBP and SLG have unique denominators.
OBP = (Hits + Walks + Hit by pitch) / (At bats + Walks + Hit by pitch + Sacrifice flies)
This formula is a better way to calculate OPS accurately and consider multiple aspects.
Let us do a quick calculation of OPS for a hitter.
- At bats = 50
- Hits = 20 (3 triples, 2 doubles, 2 singles, 5 home runs)
- Walks = 5
- Hit by pitch = 3
- Sacrifice flies = 3
- OBP = (20 + 5 + 3)/(50+5+3+3) = 28/61 = 0.459
- SLG = Total bases/Total at-bats
- Total bases = Number of singles + doubles + home runs + triples = 2 + 2 + 5 + 3 = 12
- SLG = 12/50 = 0.24
- OPS = OBP + SLG = 0.459 + 0.24 = 0.699
So, is that a good OPS value? Let us look at the table below:
|A||Great||.9000 and Higher|
|B||Very Good||.8334 to .8999|
|C||Above Average||.7667 to .8333|
|D||Average||.7000 to .7666|
|E||Below Average||.6334 to .6999|
|F||Poor||.5667 to .6333|
|G||Very Poor||.5666 and Lower|
According to this table, the value of 0.699 OPS classifies the player as a below-average hitter. This value can affect the position of the hitter in the league.
What Is an Average OPS In Baseball?
Although OPS values fluctuate based on seasons, an average OPS in baseball is at least 0.800. However, OPS scores below 0.700, above 0.800, and 1.000 are considered poor, good, and elite, respectively.
Likewise, a good OBP for a better OPS score is .360.
Jimmie Foxx recorded the highest OPS in his career, being a right-handed batter. On the other hand, players like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, and Barry Bonds scored 1.16, 1.11, 1.07, and 1.05 in Major League Baseball (MLB), respectively.
Contrarily, the values significantly varied when it came to single-season performances. Barry Bonds scored the highest OPS value of 1.4217 in 2004 in an MLB season.
In another MLB season that happened in mid-June 2021, three other players had OPS values over 1.000, including Jesse Winker, Vladimir Guerrero, and Nick Castellanos. These players were considered exceptional hitters.
Branch Rickey initiated the idea of considering OPS as a statistic in the 1940s. According to Branch, another statistic, extra-base power, can be added to OPS to determine the overall effectiveness of a hitter.
OPS has been used ever since the 1870s and has picked up further seriousness among evaluators and broadcasting platforms since the 1980s.
OPS vs. OPS+
OPS sums on-base and slugging percentages while OPS+ sums up both and then normalizes the value for the complete league. OPS+ also considers other ballparks and achieves better accuracy in the value.
OPS presents a generic value that combines two values – slugging and on-base percentages. However, it does not consider external factors like altitude or ballparks. On the other hand, OPS+ presents a rounded value that considers external factors and also enables the team to decide the position based on context-neutral values.
An average OPS value of 80 is needed for hitters to reach the upper echelon. Contrarily, the OPS+ average value needs to be at least 100.
If the OPS value is over 100, the player is categorized as “excellent,” while an OPS+ value of at least 150 will term the player “excellent.”
OPS and OPS+ have different formulae to calculate the respective scores.
Is OPS or OPS + Better?
OPS+ score is complex but not controversial. Contrarily, OPS scores are highly controversial since average league scores are not calculated. Consequently, these scores have also raised concerns on the grounds of validity and accuracy. OPS+ is a lot better and aids decision-makers in terms of performances in specific leagues.
Is OPS a Good Stat?
OPS is a good start for three reasons – assessing offensive production, calculating easily, and combining key variables needed to evaluate hitters.
In evaluating a player’s offensive production, OPS presents an easy-to-understand stat that allows everyone to grab the context easily. As it presents the player’s stand, it is easier to predict the outcome associated with each move. For instance, SLG sets a number for every at-bat, and OBP indicates the frequency of a player reaching the base. Instead of combining too many variables to determine the offensive capability, OPS quickens the task.
OPS includes only two variables. Unlike OPS+, OPS does not consider external conditions that influence the evaluation of a player. As a result, everyone can calculate and know the quality of performance. In short, this can also be a layman’s statistic.
The final reason to call OPS a good stat is that it includes limited variables sufficient to evaluate hitters. As at-bat value and frequency reach the base assess hitters, this formula is complete and accurate.
The applicability of this stat is wide. In any instance, it is feasible to gather values of SLG and OBP. Comprehending values is also quite easy. For instance, an OPS above 7 means the hitter is good. It does not require major mathematical abilities.
Is OPS a Bad Stat?
OPS is a bad stat because it is inaccurate and involves questionable math. OPS doesn’t consider external factors. Hence, it can never be regarded as the sole factor in evaluating a hitter’s performance.
Several broadcasting platforms boast about the availability and ease of use associated with OPS statistics. But, this stat is still inaccurate. Perhaps, this stat also shifts the focus of evaluators from OBP. It also underestimates the influence of on-base when compared to power. If you are thinking of analyzing a player based on OPS, you are more likely to lack quality and accuracy in your decision.
Let us assume that a player has scored an OPS of 1.000, and he is termed an exceptional hitter. This means that the hitter gets on base at all times. But, in reality, this is quite rare. The player does not necessarily get credit for each at-bat. Is it possible for a player to maintain an OPS score of .900 or 1.000? It is practically impossible. There can be ups and downs. This inconsistency is one reason to question the appropriateness of OPS.
As mentioned earlier, OBP and SLG use unique denominators. Beyond The Box Score recommends using PA instead of AB to determine OPS. This approach can solve the math that is being questioned. Further, it also eliminates the issue with the denominator.
With the present practice of evaluators and experts in the field, OPS still evolves as an inferior stat, and this seems to affect the reliability of the outcome.
There are also several tweets by the public and baseball enthusiasts about the ongoing flaw associated with OPS.
Here are a few examples –
These tweets show that OPS is not the worst stat, but it isn’t the best either. It is an unreliable statistic. Evaluating an MLB player based on an OPS score is unfair and inaccurate.
What Is the Average OPS In the MLB?
The average OPS in MLB has been .72. From 1998 to date, OPS scores were in the range of .678-.782.
According to the stat produced by Baseball Reference, the least average OPS score was recorded in 2022, while the highest average was in 2000.
The chart also shows that OBP remains within the range .307-.345 and SLG in the range .371-.437. As of 2022, the OPS and SLG league averages are .317 and .409, respectively.
The trend of values recorded in the last few decades gives a picture of the declining performance of hitters in various MLB seasons. The OPS score is recorded right from 1871, but it has never reduced below .555. This means that players have usually been termed “average” based on their performances. Exceptional players and below-average players existed, although not in each season. This is one reason never to restrict OPS score to one specific value.
- What Is RBI In Baseball?
- What Is ERA In Baseball?
- What Is Whip In Baseball?
- What Is Slugging Percentage In Baseball?
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