Sunday, July 17, 2005

Statisically Speaking What is Average?

Any reader to the blog or PLUG Royals Authority PLUG, or most any baseball orientated column has no doubt been inundated with many statistics. Foremost among those are the old reliable (if not very telling) batting average, Billy Beane's favorite on-base percentage, the manly slugging percentage, and my favorite OPS. Well, it dawned on me the other day that other than a general idea of what was a good number and a bad number, I really had never explored what was the league average.

To start with, the American League as a whole, posted these number for the 2004 season:
BA - .270
OBP - .333
SLG - .433
OPS - .766
So far, and not suprisingly, the numbers so far for 2005 are similar: 269/330/425/755
There is little differential league wide versus left handed pitching: 271/332/427/759
And, contrary to conventional belief, verus right handed pitching: 268/329/424/753

Okay, so the .760 range of OPS is average which is roughly what I always basically considered (actually 750 was always my mark - but I'm doing the writing so I get a break) and above .280 in batting average I have always considered decent. What I did find suprising was that the league average in on-base pct is just in the low .330s.

Now, if we stocked a team with 9 guys posting these numbers, would it go 81-81? Not with Darrel May pitching, but would it end up roughly in the middle of the back in the American League? Doubtful.

If you look at all the players who currently would qualify for the batting title in the American League 50 of the 74 are above .760 in OPS, or in other words better than average. Some teams viewed as being very good offensively have a large percentage above .760 (Baltimore 5-6, Boston 6-9, Texas 6-7). Some that are not very good offensively follow the trend also (Cleveland 3-8, Chicago 3-8, Oakland 1-4). Some defy logic (Minnesota 5-6, Seattle 3-7, Detroit 5-5). The Royals, our favorite offensivly challenged crew, actually have two of three eligible hitters above .760 (DeJesus and Brown) with Sweeney and Stairs above .760 but neither with enough at-bats to qualify.

All this really tells us is that a decent (or better) everyday player must hit above the league average. Less than 33% of regulars currently do not and I would wager that percentage will shrink as the season goes on (Sammy Sosa, Darrin Erstad and Aubrey Huff among others are just below the 760 line). Plus, if you are willing to include Texas and Detroit in the conversation, every team that currently has five or more eligible players above the league average is currently within striking range of the playoff race.

Finally, one final nugget. The league actually hits better across the board with runners in scoring position.
League Overall: 269/330/425/755
With RISP: 276/349/435/784

So, next time we say 'yeah, but he can really hit in the clutch' remember that actually most everyone does a little.

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