OBP


How to Win 2014: OPS

Maybe you’ve already drafted and this column won’t be super-useful for you…but maybe you’re like me and you’ve still got an epic weekend packed with as many fantasy drafts as you and your supply of chips, beer, pizza, coffee, diet coke, chicken wings, and whatever else it is you use to power through will hold out. With the real baseball season (if your league doesn’t count the Australia games, neither do I) shockingly close, it’s the best time to draft anyway. Today’s episode of How to Win busts open the standard 5x5 categories with perhaps the most common sixth hitting category: OPS. Chances are this one comes into play somehow in just about every non-standard league, and while I might have drafted for my 6x6 format last week, I’m still here to do the research, just for you.

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that OPS affects pretty much every other part of baseball and can still be informative in standard 5x5 formats—particularly for Runs and RBI.

OPS is an odd stat, insofar as it straddles modern sabermetrics and old-school baseball card stats. Made up of On-Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage (you knew that, I know), it directly reflects what actually happened in ballgames (though it requires some difficult math one instance of addition)…and yet it isn’t terribly luck-based. Basically, OPS is a stat for everyone, in a way that batting average and WAR are not.

Except Alcides Escobar. Sadly, OPS is not for him.

OPS Leaders 2013 (min. 300 PA)

 

Name

PA

OBP

SLG

OPS

1

Miguel Cabrera

652

0.442

0.636

1.078

2

Hanley Ramirez

336

0.402

0.638

1.04

3

Chris Davis

673

0.370

0.634

1.004

4

Mike Trout

716

0.432

0.557

0.988

5

David Ortiz

600

0.395

0.564

0.959

6

Carlos Gonzalez

436

0.367

0.591

0.958

7

Paul Goldschmidt

710

0.401

0.551

0.952

8

Troy Tulowitzki

512

0.391

0.54

0.931

9

Jayson Werth

532

0.398

0.532

0.931

10

Joey Votto

726

0.435

0.491

0.926

11

Yasiel Puig

432

0.391

0.534

0.925

12

Michael Cuddyer

540

0.389

0.530

0.919

 Wow…a stat leaderboard more or less correlated with the players who had the best seasons. Enjoy it for a moment, because we don’t get such things in fantasy baseball very often. It’s worth noting that a certain amount of luck does exist in the stat, in the form of high batting average players. Looking at you, Michael Cuddyer.

Since OPS is a component stat, and being great at both components is just a fancy way of being a great ballplayer, let’s look at each half, then dive into a position-by-position breakdown.

OBP Leaders 2013 (min. 300 PA)

 

Name

PA

BABIP

AVG

OBP

SLG

1

Miguel Cabrera

652

0.356

0.348

0.442

0.636

2

Joey Votto

726

0.360

0.305

0.435

0.491

3

Mike Trout

716

0.376

0.323

0.432

0.557

4

Shin-Soo Choo

712

0.338

0.285

0.423

0.462

5

Andrew McCutchen

674

0.353

0.317

0.404

0.508

6

Joe Mauer

508

0.383

0.324

0.404

0.476

7

Hanley Ramirez

336

0.363

0.345

0.402

0.638

8

Paul Goldschmidt

710

0.343

0.302

0.401

0.551

9

Jayson Werth

532

0.358

0.318

0.398

0.532

10

Freddie Freeman

629

0.371

0.319

0.396

0.501

11

David Ortiz

600

0.321

0.309

0.395

0.564

12

Matt Carpenter

717

0.359

0.318

0.392

0.481

 These guys can be counted on for walks—and therefore runs. At this elite level, most are fuelled by strong averages and high BABIP’s—making Choo look all the more impressive.

SLG Leaders 2013 (min. 300 PA)

 

Name

PA

ISO

AVG

OBP

SLG

1

Hanley Ramirez

336

0.293

0.345

0.402

0.638

2

Miguel Cabrera

652

0.288

0.348

0.442

0.636

3

Chris Davis

673

0.348

0.286

0.370

0.634

4

Carlos Gonzalez

436

0.289

0.302

0.367

0.591

5

David Ortiz

600

0.255

0.309

0.395

0.564

6

Mike Trout

716

0.234

0.323

0.432

0.557

7

Paul Goldschmidt

710

0.249

0.302

0.401

0.551

8

Troy Tulowitzki

512

0.229

0.312

0.391

0.540

9

Yasiel Puig

432

0.215

0.319

0.391

0.534

10

Edwin Encarnacion

621

0.262

0.272

0.370

0.534

11

Jayson Werth

532

0.214

0.318

0.398

0.532

12

Michael Cuddyer

540

0.198

0.331

0.389

0.530

Just take a second and look at Davis’s ISO. Wow. Unlike most of the other leaders, nearly all of his slugging came from extra-base hit power—and you know that wasn’t a bunch of triples. It’s also impressive just how much the two shortstops on this list distance themselves from the rest of their position. It’s almost enough to make me want to draft them early instead of waiting for some fleet-footed steals specialist in the late rounds.

Let’s see what OPS means for each position.

Catcher
OPS Leader: Joe Mauer, 0.880
Top-12 Average: 0.815
Top-12 Range: 0.771-0.880
Worth Noting: There’s a big dropoff from Mauer to the next guy. And a really big drop from the first 12 to the next 12 for those on you in two-catcher formats: their average OPS is just 0.717.

First Base
OPS Leader: Chris Davis, 1.004
Top-12 Average: 0.881
Top-12 Range: 0.819-1.004
Worth Noting: Yeah…the average first base starter is better than the top catcher. And the top catcher is pretty good.

Second Base
OPS Leader: Robinson Cano, 0.899
Top-12 Average:  0.800
Top-12 Range: 0.745-0.899
Worth Noting: The next 10 players after Cano and second-place Carpenter OPS just 0.783.

Third Base
OPS Leader: Miguel Cabrera, 1.078
Top-12 Average: 0.842
Top-12 Range: 0.758-1.078
Worth Noting: The top performers are pretty decent, but it’s a quick slide into numbers that more resemble middle infielders than first basemen. Don’t go looking here for your CI if you can help it.

Shortstop
OPS Leader: Hanley Ramirez, 1.040
Top-12 Average: 0.804
Top-12 Range: 0.736-1.040
Worth Noting: Only three players topped the 0.800 mark in 300 PA. Only one of those players (Tulowitzki) did it in over 500 PA. Without the top two, the next 10 average 0.768. And you thought second base was rough.

Outfield
OPS Leader: Mike Trout, 0.988
Top-36 Average: 0.840
Top-36 Range: 0.776-0.988
Worth Noting: Looked at this way, OF and 3B appear pretty similar—but plenty of leagues require four or five outfielders while allowing you just one third baseman in the starting lineup. The next 24 outfielders OPS average is just 0.748…so still pretty close to the 12th-place 3B, and better than the 12th place player at second and short. Just one more reason not to even consider filling your Util slots with anyone but first basemen and outfielders.

OPS is strongest by far in the traditional power positions. If your league replaces BA with OPS, or just adds the category, you should definitely prioritize either the top two or three players at the infield positions, or go all in on 1B and OF.

OPS is also in opposition to stolen bases. If you're in a 5x5 league with OPS, prioritizing power/speed guys is all the more important, because high-steals guys who may not kill you in average (like Jose Altuve or Elvis Andrus) will tank your OPS. If you're in a 6x6, though, the extra category just downgrades the importance of steals, so feel free to bulk up on power.

Whether OPS (or either of its components) are direct categories in your league or not, keeping OPS in mind when drafting is well worth it. Since it provides a good rough guide to overall hitting contribution, it will affect playing time in real baseball. Since it measures how often a player gets on base and how hard he hits the ball, it will come out indirectly in Runs and RBI as well.

This is the last of How to Win 2014, so hopefully it’ll help you power through the last, glorious weekend of drafting. Baseball is just about upon us, and on Monday RotoAuthority will be in full regular-season mode.



How to Win: On-Base Percentage

I know what you're thinking: OBP isn't a category in traditional 5x5 leagues! I have noticed that (and lamented, being a member of the Moneyball generation), but that doesn't mean On-Base doesn't matter. You know that too, of course, deep down. A hitter with a high OBP will have more opportunities to score runs and steal bases. Also, these hitters can take pitches, which I can imagine leads to more homers and RBI's, and higher batting averages. Or maybe those things drive On-Base up. Either way, they go together. Since OBP doesn't show up among the sortable stats on your fantasy website (unless they're a category in your league), finding players with high numbers here can be a great way to sneakily get slightly-better hitters for your overall team. Finally, hitters who can get on base are much more likely to stay in the lineup, or on top of the lineup. So basically, OBP is great.

Of course, you might play in a league that isn't precisely 5x5--if that's the case then you already love high-OBP hitters, because you directly benefit from them, via walks, OPS, or OBP as a straight-up replacement for batting average. There are many choices.

2012's Top 24 
(Min. 350 PA)

1. Joey Votto, .474
2. Joe Mauer, .416
3. David Ortiz, .415
4. Prince Fielder, .412
5. Buster Posey, .408
6. Andrew McCutchen, .400
7. Mike Trout, .399
8. John Jaso, .394
9. Carlos Ruiz, .394
10. Miguel Cabrera, .393
11. Ryan Braun, .391
12. David Wright, .391
13. Miguel Montero, .391
14. Melky Cabrera, .390
15. Dexter Fowler, .389
16. Edwin Encarnacion, .384
17. David Murphy, .380
18. Matt Holliday, .379
19. Robinson Cano, .379
20. Austin Jackson, .377
21. Ben Zobrist, .377
22. Chase Headley, .376
23. Jon Jay, .373
24. Yadier Molina, .373 

The first thing I notice here is just how much higher Votto is than everyone else. If your league does OBP instead of AVG, he might belong among the top couple draft picks. A couple other guys on this list aren't high at all on most draft boards: John Jaso, Dexter Fowler, David Murphy, and Jon Jay. In anything but a standard league, all these guys could be starters at their positions. In 5x5, their OBP still adds value, but they remain second-stringers. If Ruiz wasn't suspended for PED's, I'd heartily recommend him. As it is, I don't see a lot of reason to stash a catcher you can't use and can't put on the DL.

OBP-AVG

Some players get a big value boost from batting average, which is fine, especially in a standard league. Other players lose value from low averages, but you can find extra-useful players of both types by simply finding the players who get the most of their OBP from walks. Also, these players are the ones most likely to put up high On-Base Percentages next year, even if BABIP treats them poorly. They'll also benefit from extra steals and extra runs, relative to other hitters with a similar batting average.

1. Joey Votto, .137
2. Carlos Pena, .133
3. Adam Dunn, .129
4. Dan Uggla, .128
5. John Jaso, .118
6. Travis Hafner, .118
7. Jose Bautista, .117
8. Mike Napoli, .116
9. Jonny Gomes, .115
10. Mark Reynolds, .114
11. Carlos Santana, .113
12. Carlos Quentin, .113
13. Chase Utley, .109
14. Alex Avila, .109
15. Ben Zobrist, 107
16. Josh Willingham, .106
17. Miguel Montero, .105
18. John Buck, .105
19. Edwin Encarnacion, .105
20. A.J. Ellis, .103
21. Kevin Youkilis, .101
22. Matt Joyce, .100
23. Russell Martin, .100
24. Prince Fielder, .099
25. Rickie Weeks, 0.98 

This list is certainly headlined by two types of player: high power, low average guys, and some of the best hitters in baseball. Notice also, players who had down years last year (Youk, Weeks) and, for some reason, quite a few catchers. Catching runs really deep this year, but there's all the more reason to wait till the end to take your backstop if you play in a league that rewards walks or OBP. Alternatively, you would be more justified in paying the premium price for Mauer, Santana, or Napoli.

OBP + Speed

In fantasy baseball, we love power/speed combos. We really like speedy guys with good batting averages too. Maybe more important than either, however, is the OBP of our speedsters. The more they get on the more they steal. When we draft  someone for steals, especially towards the middle and late rounds, each steal they might add is more important than a homer or two, or a handful of points of batting average.

So here are some high OBP (.340 or above) speedsters (20 steals or more): Mike Trout, Michael Bourn, Jose Reyes, Juan Pierre, Jose Altuve, Ryan Braun, Norichika Aoki, Alejandro De Aza, Jason Heyward,* Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, Andrew McCutchen, Dustin Pedroia, Carlos Gonzalez

*Heyward's OBP was only .335, but he's got a history of high On-Base years, and he's a great bet to top that number next year.

Speed Without OBP

Here are some guys to watch out for: the opposite of the players listed above. They stole plenty of bases (20 or more), but their low OBP's (under .320) kept them from nabbing more. This also limited their chances to bat at the top of the order and score runs, always a nice bonus from a speedster. Here they are: Rajai Davis, Carlos Gomez, Desmond Jennings, B.J. Upton, Jimmy Rollins, Drew Stubbs, Ichiro Suzuki, Jordan Schafer, Cameron Maybin, Michael Saunders, Danny Espinosa, Alexei Ramirez

Some of these guys are great players, and great for fantasy...but remember to discount them for their walk avoidance, and remember that some of them could find themselves sitting next to Davis, their headliner: on the bench.

A Few Final Words

Whether or not your league directly counts OBP, checking this stat is similar to looking at a pitcher's peripheral stats: it tells you a lot about what kind of hitter he is, and what kind of opportunities he'll have to help you in whichever categories your league does score. High OBP hitters are key to maximizing your potential in steals and runs scored. In fact, my Runs Scored article has two sections devoted to the high OBP hitters you might want. If you didn't read it already, check it out. For me, OBP can make a great tiebreaker between two players of otherwise similar value. When comparing similar guys, whether at the top or bottom of a draft, the one who gets on more often is almost always the better choice.


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