OBP and Weighted On-Base Average
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Stat of the Week
by Peter Liubicich
OBP and Weighted On-Base Average
This post was written by Peter Liubicich on February 23, 2012
Posted Under: Stat of the Week

On Tuesday I gave a brief introduction to OBP and explained its effectiveness in explaining why a player is highly valuable when they get on base more throughout the season as it provides their team more opportunities to drive them in.

To start off, in order to get a player’s OBP you need to follow this formula:

It is important to note that SF stands for sacrifice flies and does not include sacrifice bunts, as sacrifice bunts count as an at-bat.

Let’s look at the players with the best 2011 OBP in the American League and National League, Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto.

Miguel Cabrera had an outstanding batting average of .344 with 197 Hits in 572 At Bats.  What is even more outstanding was his OBP of .448 as he drew 108 BBs (22 of which were intentional) and had 3 HBPs.  The last factor needed for the denominator is SFs of which Cabrera had 5.  Cabrera’s elite production this year can be seen through OBP as his ability to get on base for the Tigers nearly 45% of the time he stepped to the plate allowed the batters behind him many opportunities to drive him in throughout the 2011 season.  This was shown as Cabrera’s ability to get on base at such a high clip placed him fifth in the MLB in runs scored, even though he is known for not being the lightest on his feet, behind much quicker players in Curtis Granderson, Ian Kinsler, Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Kemp.  Given these numbers, it is a scary thought that Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder (who had an OBP of .415 in 2011) and 2011 AL MVP Justin Verlander will be starting the season together wearing the same jersey.

Joey Votto has been an extremely productive player for the Reds the past two years as he has led the National League in OBP in 2010 and 2011 (and as MLB Trade Rumors wrote Votto will undoubtedly be in line for a huge contract in 2013 if he continues producing the way he is capable of, especially after the contracts Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder were awarded this past winter).  Votto had a career high 110 BBs in 2011 and although he had a very good BA of .309, his importance to the Reds was shown through his OBP which was over 100 points higher at .416.  Votto scored 101 runs as a result of being on base so often and if he is traded to the Yankees in the next year or two, you can expect those numbers to go up even more1.

While OBP serves as an explanatory statistic for the effectiveness of a player at the plate during a season, sabermetricians over at FanGraphs have evaluated the 2011 season with a statistic called weighted on-base average (wOBA).  You’ll see that the equation for wOBA is similar to last week’s statistic Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), in the use of coefficients in the equation “which are determined using linear weight” (FanGraphs).

It is important that when using linear weights, the coefficients are specific to each season.  Alex Remington offered a great explanation of this advanced way of looking at baseball stats as Linear weights “attempt to properly value a player’s contributions at bat by weighting each possible outcome (walk, home run, single, double, etc.) with regard to the number of additional runs that player’s team can expect to score as a result” (Big League Stew). In essence what wOBA is telling us is how many runs a player is helping their team score throughout the season by their ability to get on base.  It is important to remember that BB in wOBA are unintentional walks.  An interesting point is that in wOBA it appears that stealing bases does not affect the amount of runs a player’s team can expect to score as a result and that a team can expect to lose more runs when caught stealing.  This makes the idea of stealing bases appear even more risky and is something that goes against Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia’s aggressive running game mentality and is more in favor of Athletics’ General Manager Billy Beane “who is famously averse to stolen bases” (NY Times Bats Blog).

Looking at Matt Klassen’s article using wOBA, let’s have some fun and figure the wOBA for Roberto Clemente during his MVP season in 1966.

Clemente had 33 unintentional walks (46BB-13IBB), was not Hit by Pitch once, 131 singles, 31doubles, 29 HRs, 7 stolen bases, was caught stealing 5 times, all during 690 Plate Appearances.

Clemente’s MVP season calculated looks like this:

Clemente 1966 wOBA:

This gives Clemente a wOBA of .377, 74 points higher than the average wOBA in 1966 (.303).  Dick Allen of the Philadelphia Phillies, however, appears to have been more deserving of the 1966 MVP honors as he had a wOBA of .428.  That year Allen also had more runs scored and a higher OBP (.396 versus Clemente’s .360)2

wOBA advances our knowledge of OBP and is statistically heavy, but to see what player on your team is providing the most value to your team scoring runs, look to their OBP rather than their Batting Average to see the true tale.

1 While there have been speculative rumors about Votto being traded, it is not entirely out of the realm of possibility, as the Yankees have resistant to trading away the farm system but have shown that they will if the right player comes along.  With the “Killer Bs” maturing over the next two years in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Nick Swisher being brought back for the final year of his contract on a club option, you can expect to hear these trade rumors to heat up this summer.

2 Further, Clemente beat out Sandy Koufax who was probably the most deserving of the award as Koufax received more first place votes and helped the L.A. Dodgers reach the World Series with a 27-9 record, pitched 323 innings and struck out 317 batters!

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  1. Weighted Runs Created (wRC)  on September 24th, 2012 @ 3:02 pm
  2. Weighted Runs Above Average (wRAA)  on February 11th, 2013 @ 4:01 pm

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