Key Stats to Consider when Modelling MLB

Without question, baseball is the one sport in the world where stats are talked about more than anything else regarding player and team performance. Rarely do you hear a conversation about baseball where a statistic or group of statistics is not involved. There are hundreds of stats available for each individual player or team regarding hitting, fielding and pitching. We will discuss some of the more common ones here.


1. Batting Average

Obviously one of the more basic statistics, a players’ batting average will tell you how many times he reaches base safely by way of a safe hit divided by total number of At-Bats. This is the most basic form of determining how a hitter is doing, but can often be unreliable as to how valuable that hitter is. Take for example 2 players have a similar BA (batting average) of .250 and .255 (this number shows how many times a player will reach base by way of a safe hit, i.e. .250 means that 250 times out of 1000 they will hit safely, 1 out of every 4). Now although at first look they hit for a similar average, one player may have many more home runs, RBI’s or stolen bases. All these things would make that hitter much more valuable than the other, even though their batting averages are all but the same.


2. RBI’s

An RBI (Run Batted In) is a stat that shows how many times a player scores a run during there at bat. This can come via a base hit when there are runners on base and those runners score because of that hit, via a Home run in which case the hitter and all on base are counted as RBI’s, a sacrifice fly ball or bunt in which case the hitter gives himself up to score a run for the team or even a fielder’s choice where the hitter is safe but another runner gets out but a run scores in the process. This stat is particularly useful for showing which players are producing the runs when the pressure is on, not just hitting safely to get the average up for example. Obviously, those in the heart of the batting order are usually going to be the ones with the highest RBI numbers, as they will have the most opportunities with runners in scoring position in front of them.



3. ERA

The classic stat for a knowing a pitchers’ worth is an ERA (Earned Run Average). This is measured by calculating the amount of earned runs a pitcher gives up per nine innings. It gives us an indication if this pitcher were to pitch a complete 9 inning game, how many runs on average they would leak. Pitchers are quite often judged on their win/loss record but an ERA gives a more accurate picture of how dominant a pitcher is. For example. A pitcher can have a 20-win season which is outstanding, but they may also play for the best offensive team creating many runs for him each game he pitches. On the flip side a pitcher may have a 10-win season but have the lowest ERA in the league, no offense to go with his pitching means it is harder for him to win. A pitcher can give up 8 runs and still get a win, and similarly they give up only 1 run and get a loss. The ERA gives us a better take on which pitcher is more dominant.

These would be three of the most common stats when discussing yesterday’s ball game around the water cooler. There are plenty of other basic stats to consider such as HR (Home Runs), SO (Strike Outs) BB (walks), SB (stolen bases) and the list goes on.

Now we will look at three more in depth stats that are important when modelling and what bet types they can be used in.


4. GO/AO

(this is how it is allotted on the official MLB website).

This is a very useful stat I find when assessing total run markets. What it measures is a team’s pitching and how they match up regarding getting outs on the ground (GO) as opposed to outs in the air (AO). Teams in ballparks such as Colorado where the ball flies out of the park regularly because of the altitude, will not be suited if their air outs are larger than there ground outs. Keeping the ball low and getting ground balls is paramount in situations like this. Try and find match-ups with teams that have a high ratio of outs in the air playing out grounds that are hitter friendly. Quite often these grounds are smaller or the ball carries further and are more conducive to home runs and higher score lines.


5. OPS

This stat has become more popular over the last decade, it records the On-Base Percentage+Slugging Percentage of a player or team. Players and teams that have a high OPS are usually going to get involved in higher scoring games. Find teams with a high OPS, matched up against starting pitchers that give up a lot of walks and/or home runs.


6. IS% – Inherited Score Percentage.

One of the most overlooked things when people are assessing baseball games is the Bullpens and relief pitching. We can easily find out how many runs the relief pitching gives up pre-game, but this is a stat that doesn’t show up in those numbers. When a reliever comes into a game for a starting pitcher, and there are runners on base, if any of those runners score they are credited to the previous pitcher’s statistics. Example. A starting pitcher is pulled out of the game with 2 out in the 7th inning with runners on 2nd and 3rd base. The reliever comes in, gives up a base hit and 2 runs score. He gets the next hitter out and the side is away. Now although this will show up as the reliever coming in and giving up no runs in the stats column, those two runs will be credited to the starting pitcher. So, the reliever has actually done a poor job, but his stat sheet will read okay!

Teams that have a low IS% can be sure that the middle relief pitching is reliable and can get through to the star relievers at the back-end of the game. This stat can be quite useful when betting live as these sticky situations come up where the relievers come into the game in a pressure situation. Quite often you can find a team go from 1 behind to in front with one crack of the bat (outsiders to clear favourites), all because of how unreliable a relief pitching staff is when coming into the game with runners in scoring position.

Obviously these three stats are for the advanced models only, but can be very useful in betting totals, head to head and live betting. There is a myriad of stats available online these days that you can search and sort for what you think works for your model. The key sites to use are for the beginner www.mlb.com which has a good number of stats available or for the more advanced handicapper, www.baseball-reference.com breaks down all the individual and team stats into far greater detail.


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