Why OPS sucks: an open thread

Two players, same team, the 1980 A’s

Rickey Henderson: .420 OBP, .399 SLG = .819 OPS
Tony Armas Sr.: .310 OBP, .500 SLG = .810 OPS

Pretty close OPS, completely different level of contribution. Rickey created 7.1 runs a game and had a .691 offensive winning percentage. Armas created 4.9 runs a game and had a .533 offensive winning percentage. A team of Hendersons, with average defense and offense, would have won 112 games in a 162-game season; a team of Armases 86. Some of that’s the stolen bases, obviously — but most of it is the giant difference in on-base percentage.

Open thread.

119 thoughts on “Why OPS sucks: an open thread”

  1. Well, that’s definitely one way to look at things.

    BA/OBP/SLG might be the best thing to use when evaluating a player first.

  2. I don’t think anyone would ever confuse Tony Armas for Rickey Henderson. That OBP is amazing. I remember even when he barely had any bat speed left how he was still able to get on base at such a high clip.

  3. OPS is a decent crude, fast way to analyze a hitter. It’s obviously not the only thing you want to look at if you’re trying to get a complete idea of how good somebody is. Context matters. You wouldn’t want your leadoff man getting on base at a .310 clip or your cleanup hitter slugging .399. You would take .420/.399 (and all of Rickey’s steals) from your leadoff man in a heartbeat. In the real world, you don’t get to have 9 Rickey Hendersons or even 2 of them. And even if there were 9 Rickey Hendersons available, you wouldn’t be able to afford them unless you were the Yankees.

  4. I don’t think it’s an argument as to why OPS sucks; it just shows that OPS shouldn’t be the sole criteria used to judge a player.

  5. Somebody in the previous thread mentioned being unimpressed by Phil Hughes.

    To which I ask: Can I have some of those pills? I can sell them for a lotta money in venues featuring fog & multi-colored disco lights.

    I don’t know if you’ve actually watched him pitch, but his stuff is ridiculous. In his second major-league start, his curve was locking up hitters like Nolan Ryan. His upside is way up there. If Hughes wore a Mississippi Braves uni, he’d be viewed as the second coming of John Smoltz.

    Didn’t think I’d have to do this, but here are his career minor-league numbers:
    237 IP/150 H/269 K/54 BB/2.13 ERA

    If I’m the Yanks, I still feature him in a package for Santana, but you gotta understand why Cashman has pause.

  6. Mac,

    Obviously we don’t know how many runs Rickey Henderson created, we just have what a lot of people think is a good formula to estimate that. I just saw something on THT in the last week on trying to use play by play data from Retrosheet to develop a “fourth order” offensive formula for players. That is, it would take into account whether the walk came with two outs runners second and third or whether it came with no outs nobody on.

    Can you tell us the “stolen base effect”? That would help the discussion.

    My memory is that further refinements and cross checks indicate that 1.6 times OBP plus SLG is a very tight fit to overall run production (much tighter than the original OPS).

    Nobody has ever had a team with even 8 Rickey Hendersons in the lineup so why assume 9? Also, if actual Rickey and actual Armas, Sr were hitting 1st and fifth or sixth respectively, then the impact in favor of Rickey would not be quite so great (by mathematically created and re-checked formula). Further, if somebody had stupidly batted these 2 the other way around, then it wouldn’t have been nearly as favorable to Rickey.

    Down and dirty, quick and fast, OPS is the easiest check to compare the offensive outputs of players. If you know you are going for a top of the order player, then obviously people are looking tighter at OBP.

  7. Rule 5 draft tomorrow. Do we lose anybody? What does the gang think?

    Also, how many of our minor league guys ( and who) have to be on major league 25 roster by end of spring training or else be released?

  8. If you want to call me crazy, go ahead. I do not think he is going to be the superstar that Joba will be. While we are throwing arond minor league stats. Here are Chuck James stats:

    343 IP/ 221 H/ 417 K/103 BB/2.05 ERA

    Does anyone on this board think Chuck James is a future ace? There are plenty of guys who put up great numbers in the minors. I think it is healthy to have a little skepticism about minor league players, especially over-hyped Yankees.

  9. Chuck James will be a future ace if he is traded to the Royals or is sent down to AAA. He has two pitches!!!!!!

  10. The only player that I am afraid that we will lose is Dan Smith. He did not have a good year in Richmond, but someone might take him. While his departure would hardly be a disaster, it would be nice to have one more pitcher at AAA who might be able to develop into a major league pitcher….

  11. Is there a stat that uses stolen bases to enhance slugging? What I mean is that when a guy hits a single but steals a base- he’s got himself a double sort of. I using this assuming that slugging percentage awards a guy for getting a further base- why cant stolen bases be used?

  12. But stolen bases don’t advance other runners, a prime element of slugging percentage. The runs created version B-R uses includes stolen bases and caught stealing when available.

  13. Mac, if your point is that OPS is used by way too many mainstream journalists to determine a hitters offensive value yes it sucks becuase it is a very simplistic metric.

  14. Kenny,
    I’m not talking about Joba Chamberlain. I’m talking about Phil Hughes. One guy has nothing to do with the other.

    All you gotta do is watch Hughes pitch once to see that he has very little in common with Chuck James. His stuff can be overpowering. What I’m saying is that his upside is very high because pitchers of his profile are the ones coveted most. When you have one in your system, it had better take a Santana to pry him away.

    And if your issue is that a team is over-hyping its talent, I hate to break the news to you, but every team does that.

    As the rare Yankee season-ticket holder who doesn’t care if the Yankees win or lose, I’m kind of hoping to see the youngsters given a chance to pitch for a full season. But that’s not a view fully shared by everyone up here.

  15. Again, I think you took offense to something that was not meant as a slight. We are in agreement though, I would definitely make the trade for Santana.

  16. CF possible options right now…

    DeJesus, Crisp, Freel, McLouth, Willits, Anderson, Schafer, Blanco, Figgins, Lillibridge, B. Jones, Duffy, Cameron…any others

    who would you want? I think our in house guys would be just as good

  17. Team OPS differential has a .93 correlation with winning percentage. What more do you need to know about it? Sure there are advanced metrics with better correlation but .93 is pretty damn good. OPS is also simple enough that anyone can understand so it’s a useful tool to help us move past the batting average is everything era.

    It’s also instructive that you had to take one of the most exceptional players in the history of baseball to prove the stat is broken. :)


  18. csg,

    None of those outside options really excite anyone, do they? I agree I would rather keep our CF we have now and hope Schafer comes along quickly. Don’t forget Furcal came from A ball, and won rookie of the year.

  19. Yeah, and then Furcal got hurt, declined, and stagnated, and still hasn’t reached the OBP heights of his rookie year. His rookie season is still the second-best of his career. I can’t prove it, but I suspect that rushing players like that causes them to have problems not right away, but 2-4 years down the line. Ask Mike Caruso what it was like to be promoted from A-ball, if you can find him.

  20. Rickey Henderson: .420 OBP, .399 SLG = .819 OPS
    Tony Armas Sr.: .310 OBP, .500 SLG = .810 OPS

    It’s good you brought this up because I can’t count the number of people I’ve run into that think Rickey Henderson and Tony Armas are roughly equal. Finally laid that myth to rest.

    #25 is right on the money, especially this:

    It’s also instructive that you had to take one of the most exceptional players in the history of baseball to prove the stat is broken.

  21. Also, Furcal was 2 years older than we thought he was. His performance in A-ball when we thought he was a 19-year old looked a lot more projectable than it did when we realized he was 21. Still a good player, of course, but like Andruw he never lived up to what he coulda been.

  22. I think our in house guys would be just as good

    Willits has a career .393 OBP. Josh Anderson and Gregor Blanco wouldn’t sniff that in a trillion years.

  23. Wow Robert- I don’t think Mac was using the two comparisons based on the fact they both had similar OPS’s- and then using that to show how unreliable they can be. How can that be construed to say that Mac was saying they were both a like?

  24. It’s an overly dramatic example, Robert. I was making a point. Here’s another one — 1991 Mets. Dave Magadan had a .720 OPS, Kevin McReynolds had a .738. But because Magadan’s was OBP-heavy, he created 5 runs a game, while McReynolds created 4.6. 1983 Braves: Hubbard’s OPS was .736, Benedict’s .733. But Benedict’s OPS was OBP-heavy, so he created 4.8 runs a game (career year) while Hubbard created 4.4.

  25. Oh, in 1980 Henderson finished tenth in the MVP voting and Armas finished twelvth. Sure, comparing them looks strange now, but not at the time. After all, Armas hit 35 homers!

  26. Could Furcal’s rookie year also be attributed to the fact that he league hadn’t adjusted to him and his weaknesses. His ability to bunt and get on base was something that they (NL East) hadn’t seen much of at the time….I believe Jimmy Rollins had also just entered the league around the same time. Furcal was also splitting time with Walt Weiss at the beginning so he also was getting a breather and keeping his average up since Bobby…PLATOONED…them.

  27. AAR, sorry if that sounded snippy. I only meant that another 10 years of standard Andruw with all his ups and downs will probably land him in Cooperstown.

  28. At 31: Willits’ career consists of 164 major league games. I don’t think he, Blanco, or Anderson really have enough of a sample size yet to say much of anything definitively.

  29. I would be stunned if our only CF candidates came from our internal options. No matter how good the rest of the lineup is you can’t have two auto outs (pitcher and CF) playing at the same time in the modern game.

  30. Willits doesn’t have much power, but he draws walks, and throughout his minor league career he had a high OBP.

    More fun with Rickey Henderson: in his entire career, he had 5 seasons in which he had more strikeouts than walks. In the other 20 seasons — every season from ages 23 to 41, and that incredible age 21 breakout season — he had at least as many walks as strikeouts, and in most cases far more walks.

  31. @ #36

    I don’t think anyone could accuse Furcal of being a good bunter. That was about the only thing I didn’t like about the guy. He tried that stupid drag bunt all the time but could never get it down.

  32. The Braves seem very prone to rushing guys to the majors. The result seems to be that they get pretty good performance initially but that many of the players plateau. Certainly true of Furcal and Andruw; arguably Kyle Davies and Francoeur. Chipper was not rushed (in part because he was injured his first year). The Braves have managed to stay competitive without spending huge dollars by rushing guys to the majors but it might be inhibiting their development and hurting the cause in the long run.

  33. #38

    What about minor league track records? Lets take a look.

    Willits: .397 OBP, 13.1 BB%

    Anderson: .342 OBP, 5.7 BB%

    Blanco: .372 OBP, 13.1 BB%

  34. I am sure that they didn’t want to rush Davies et al but with circumstances like Hampton’s injury etc etc. and the price of mediocre pitching on the open market the team probably felt like it had no choice but to try reyes, davies, et al virtually straight out of AA.

    I am very sure that rushing Francouer has inhibited his full development. As for Furcal, I just have to think that his first season and that .392 or something OBP was just a fluke.

  35. Willits has 467 AB’s

    .291AVG .393OBP and OUCH .339SLG%

    Anderson only 67 AB’s

    .358AVG .412OBP and .403SLG%

    neither guy has played a full season, but is there a big enough difference at this point in time to also try and trade a prospect or two for Willits? Maybe, I dont know

  36. Ok Mac, I give. The knothead started swinging for the fences. But doesn’t that change in behavior still mean that the 2000 season was a fluke?

    Willits will just add to our collection of powerless slap hitting CFs.

    Maybe we could trade James for Jacoby Ellsbury.

  37. We are just going to have to accept that CF will be manned by a weak hitting speedster, no matter if its Willits, Anderson, Blanco, Schafer, Lillibridge, or someone else. Until Schafer fully develops, then that spot will be a weakness. That lack of offense, will be made up for our advantage at short, second, and catcher. Everything will be fine.

  38. How much would it take to sign Bradley to a one year deal? Would anyone here want him? It has been said that he would take a one year deal coming back from injury, and I think he’d be a good pick up at the right price.

  39. The psycho personality aside, Bradley is as fragile as a piece of crystal. He has only played over 100 game twice in his career.

    Coming back from injury should be his middle name.

  40. Twins & BoSox at an impasse. Twins talking with Mets, but I can’t imagine they have enough for Minnesota if they aren’t going to discuss Reyes.

  41. Will he even be ready by ST? Surely he would demand more than the $2 million Wren has earmarked to sign someone to the position.

  42. #10

    My memory is that further refinements and cross checks indicate that 1.6 times OBP plus SLG is a very tight fit to overall run production (much tighter than the original OPS).

    Several years ago I was using (1.26 x OBP) + SLG on road stats to come up with a slightly more labor-intensive but more accurate portrayal. Klesko and Nevin were vastly underrated in 2000-2001 using this method. They had monster years.

    So they’re saying 1.6x now? That’s quite a jump.

  43. From 40: No matter how good the rest of the lineup is you can’t have two auto outs (pitcher and CF) playing at the same time in the modern game.

    My response (intended entirely in jest, not to start a kerfuffle): CF can’t be an auto out b/c there’s already one in RF.

  44. ububba – are they talking about this three-way trade possibility in New York yet? It’s obviously just a rumor… but it’d be crazy.

    Mets send Jose Reyes, Kevin Mulvey, and Hector Pellot to A’s
    A’s send Bobby Crosby and Dan Johnson to Mets
    A’s send Dan Haren to Twins
    Twins send Johan Santana to Mets

    Mets get Johan Santana, Bobby Crosby and Dan Johnson

    A’s get Jose Reyes and Kevin Mulvey

    Twins get Dan Haren and Hector Pellot

  45. I’ll see your kerfuffle and raise you a donnybrook. I want no part of Milton Bradley — all the talent, none of the health or mental stability. When he’s not fighting, he’s injured. What happened at the end of the season last year is just one more in a long list of unfortunate events in his career. I’m surprised the Nats haven’t traded for him yet.

    If we can find a CF with a little speed who can get on base, frankly I don’t think it matters if he slugs, as long as he can drive a fastball. (I’m not sure Gregor Blanco can. We all know Willie Harris can’t.) But Lillibridge can, and the jury’s out on Josh Anderson. I don’t mind filling that position with a spare part as long as we’re just looking at 2008 and Schafer will really be ready in 2009; judging by his AFL performance, it’s very possible that he will be. I think we can afford to carry someone who will look like a leadoff hitter, as long as they can get on base enough to act like one.

  46. I just got an email from ESPN offering me two subscriptions to ESPN The Magazine for the price of one. I actually already get ESPN the Magazine, but I never read it. I guess they mean gift subscriptions, but does anyone have enough friends that they can afford to give them such a gift?

  47. I think I’d be willing to take a chance on Bradley, because I think we have internal options ready if he were to go down. Again, this would only peak my interest if we can get him CHEAP.

  48. I agree with Joshua. The Braves, players or coaches, seem to put the kibosh on so-called “attitude” problems fast.

    If Bradley was picked up, I wouldn’t mind. It’s a good risk, and enables us not having to start Anderson, Schafer or Lillibridge in center.

  49. I guess inventing all those board games finally got to him. I say pass. Too much baggage. Fearless prediction:
    Schafer – Pearl Mississippi where he struggles a bit.
    Anderson – we find out that he really sucks
    Blanco – that means o-fer in Spanish
    Lillibridge – ok so he can’t catch as good as the other guys but he is hitting .271 .240 .460 good enough until Schafer overcomes Andy Marte disease.

  50. I dont believe this at all…

    Willis/Pudge Spinoff To Mets?
    According to Sweeny Murti via MetsBlog, the Tigers have looked into the idea of spinning Dontrelle Willis off to the Mets. I’m sure this would thrill the Marlins, who didn’t want to trade within the division. No offer has been made, but it’s been discussed.

    The part that doesn’t make sense is the inclusion of Ivan Rodriguez to the Mets as a salary dump. The Tigers, after all, chose to exercise that $13MM option on Pudge.

  51. csg, I know it’s very common for Mets fans to think they can pick up players without giving anything in return, but who exactly are they supposed to give up for Pudge/Willis

    I’m sure Humber/Gotay/Heilman should get the job done in their opinion

  52. New blog up from DOB. Corey Patterson? I’ve heard worse ideas, but I’ve heard better. I’d take him over Anderson any day.

    In a comment, he indicates that the Braves aren’t looking for starting pitching, that Jurrjens is pencilled in as the fourth starter, and the fifth from a group including Hampton (ha!), James, Bennett, and Reyes.

  53. Mac’s right, it’s one thing to have a bad attitude (Kenny Lofton), it’s another thing to be legally insane like Bradley (injured too!) or Elijah Dukes. I think there are better options out there.

  54. I don’t think any CF available could have the upside of Bradley. I believe Bradley can hit for power and average – something none of the other CF’s discussed can boast. Not saying he’d be my first choice, I’m just saying I wouldn’t dismiss the idea outright – I think he could be really good.

  55. I thought that the year after Furcal’s rookie year, the umpires were very explicitly told to start calling higher strikes. After that, there was no point in Furcal continuing to crouch down to create the appearance of a 12-inch vertical strike zone which had previously boosted his walks.

  56. That may be the case. Marcus Giles never walked as much in the majors as he did in the minors, and Luis Castillo’s walks dropped the same year. They and Furcal may be the three shortest regulars in the major leagues.

    Who should be on the All-Insane Team with Bradley and Dukes? There are usually some crazy pitchers around, but middle infielders and catchers can be a problem to find.

  57. Sorry for the multiple posts, but I love when you Google “insane baseball players” the first entry is about Milton Bradley.

  58. Back to the topic at hand, I was under the impression that 1.4 OBP plus SLG correlated much better with RS, which was why OPS bcame widely acceptd in the first place over BA. This factor clearly shows the value of Rickey vs Armas

  59. I cant believe that James wouldnt be considered #4 or 5, have we improved our rotation that much from last year that our previous #3 for the last two years is no longer good enough for the rotation?

  60. I agree that he is undervalued now, and that he has clearly been our #3 the last 2 years. But the fear is that if he does not learn a new pitch, he will only get worse – not better. ML hitters are smart and will soon enough find it easy to decifer what is being thrown, if they haven’t already. The kid needs a new pitch. There is a reason why most (if not all) 2 pitch pitchers reside in bullpens.

  61. Mac — I got the same email about ESPN the magazine. Not a good magazine. I hardly even look at it anymore. But I like getting the Insider subscription along with it. Only way to get anything interesting / worthwhile on espn.com

  62. I would take Milton Bradley, but there’s a 0% chance the Braves will.

    Patterson would suit me just fine.

  63. steve phillips is reporting talks between the cubs and orioles on brian roberts for rich hill and sean marshall.

    i generally disregard most anything phillips says. but that can’t be legit, can it? can we make some offers for rich hill? let’s stock up on lefties! heh heh

  64. Steve Phillips has the credibility and baseball knowledge of a dead chipmunk. Even the Cubs aren’t stupid enough to trade two young pitchers with 3.92 ERAs in Wrigley Field for an expensive second baseman who put up virtually identical numbers to the second baseman (DeRosa) they already have.

  65. Willits Not On Braves’ Radar
    UPDATE, 12-4-07 at 6:50pm: O’Brien corrects himself – Willits is not on the Braves’ radar. Nor is Josh Hamilton, in case you were wondering. They’ve got some mild interest in Chris Duffy.

  66. I can’t imagine that the Braves are particularly interested in a player who in the last two years has hit .255 .317 .338 and .249 .313 .357 and can’t even play regularly for the Pirates. Though at his current rate of adding one home run a year, he should be a 20-homer man in 2024.

  67. Fasano, meanwhile, is a fine example of the law of catcher defense, in that the worse of a hitter you are the more praise your defense will draw. I remember when he was a power-hitting prospect in the Royals organization, but they couldn’t stand his defense. Now that he’s been around awhile and hit .219/.293/.394 in 1063 major league ABs, he’s a defensive guru. He won’t hurt or help the team unless McCann gets hurt, and if McCann gets hurt we’re screwed anyway.

  68. It just seems like no matter what happens, the Braves are going to have a speedster who can’t hit in center next season.

  69. Mac, you’re forgetting Fasano’s and every other catcher’s “veteran presence” that grows with every year that they get worse at hitting.

    How many wins did Todd Pratt’s “veteran presence” account for. Don’t you pay coaches how to teach catchers to call a game, don’t they learn that in the minors ?? Is McCann going to need a veteran catcher every year of his career ?

  70. CSG, I dunno dude. This is the second manager Rolen has had problems with. At what point could, not necessarily is, this on Rolen? This is the second manager he’s had issues with, and I wonder if it could be Rolen, and not Bowa and LaRussa. Don’t get me wrong; both are grade-A jack-in-the-boxes, but could this be because of Rolen?

  71. Rob, maybe so, but he’s putting all the blame on Rolen. He has to know there are two sides to every problem. However, a good manager would have this talk in private. Just my opinion

  72. Oh, we were talking about crazy baseball players. Sorry, should have specified. Farnsworth loves to fight people, and anyone crazy enough to take less money after taxes to set-up instead of class for a better baseball city has to be crazy.

  73. The Rolen-LaRussia conflict seems to have started during the ’06 World Series when LaRussa benched Rolen because of his bad shoulder. It seemed to me to be an eminently sensible thing to do since Rolen was having trouble raising his arm but Scott apparently got deeply offended. Now, to be fair, Rolen did end up getting some big hits later in the Series, but it seemed to me he was being rather selfish. Clearly, however, airing this in the media is incredibly stupid if for no other reason than it takes leverage away from the Cards if they do want to trade Rolen. One problem with trading him is that he pretty much has to play in the Midwest (or someplace like that) because he couldn’t handle the Northeast.

  74. new it couldnt happen

    Willis/Pudge Spinoff To Mets?
    UPDATE, 12-5-07 at 9:21pm: Danny Knobler says the Tigers did briefly consider a three-way scenario that sent Willis and Pudge to the Mets. That permutation was dismissed before anything went public and won’t be revisited.

  75. this makes more sense

    UPDATE, 12-5-07 at 9:39pm: ESPN’s Amy Nelson says Hill is not part of the Roberts talks. Marshall, Gallagher, Felix Pie, and Donald Veal may be in the mix though.

    I doubt Pie is either

  76. one more, so much for trading for Figgins

    Jerry Crasnick spoke of the Cubs’ interest yesterday, but said the Angels could ask for Aramis Ramirez in return.

  77. it would take a lot of undeniable evidence to swing me to the side of larussa in just about any argument. i wonder if he’s a likable guy in person, because he sure doesn’t seem to be from afar.

    i read that the angels were asking for ramirez in return for figgins too. they sure seem to love them some figgy puddin’ in LA. he’s good, but they’re certainly overvaluing him.

  78. Back around 2000, I got into it with some Phillie fans who claimed Rolen would soon usurp Chipper as the best 3B in the NL, and would go on to have a superior career. I wish I could find them now — Rolen did have a couple of years superior to Chipper, but he appears to have come and gone. He sure was a large fellow, there for a while….

  79. Rolen’s been a very good player, and before his recent injuries seemed headed to Cooperstown. But he’s only had one year (2004) that approaches Chipper’s best years. In fact, that season is the only one in which his offensive winning percentage has exceeded Chipper’s career OWP. Now, when defense is added in it’s not that clear-cut.

    At Rolen’s current age, Chipper had 49 more homers and 147 more hits than Rolen has — 37 more games played, but actually fewer seasons.

  80. Past off-kilter pitchers would include Mark Fidrytch, Pascual Perez and Al Hrabosky. Farther back, even before my time, the Gas House Gang had some strange birds, not to single out Ducky.

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