For years and years and years, and to this day, the standard stats to quote when talking about a player are home runs, RBI and batting average for hitters, and wins, losses and ERA for pitchers. Here are a couple of examples. From MLB.com’s Player of the Month section where Carlos Lee was named NL Player of the Month last September, “Overall this season, Lee batted. 306 with 35 home runs and a career-high 111 RBIs.” From today’s Chicago Tribune, “With his victory Sunday, John Danks is 7-2 with a 1.73 earned-run average in 11 April starts.”

More and more, however, we are starting to see usage of OPS (On-base plus Slugging). From ESPN.com today: “David Ortiz (.549 OPS this season) reportedly wants to play “2 or 3″ more season in the big leagues.” Hmm, not with that OPS. The trend toward using OPS is excellent. As we all know by now, OPS is a much better stat than batting average to understand a hitter’s overall effectiveness, and all that’s left is for fans and media to gain that frame of reference that we all know about batting average (.300 is good. 200 is horrible). For OPS, a corresponding frame of reference might be .900 is good, .600 is horrible. Looking at this, a quick rule of thumb might be “Divide by three”. If you take a guy’s OPS, divide it by three, and it looks like a good batting average, it’s a good OPS.

Over on the pitching side, by comparison, ERA is a much better indicator of effectiveness for pitchers than batting average ever was for hitters. The need for an alternative hasn’t been as great. Nevertheless, there are a couple of alternatives, favorites of mine, that I think are better that I’d like to share with you.

One is Opposing OPS. I find it very surprising how infrequently this is used. If it’s a good stat for hitters, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be a good stat for pitchers. Maybe people simply don’t like the acronym that falls out of this one (OOPS). However, in terms of overall performance, it is a better indicator than ERA. Let’s look at this year’s top five ERA leaders and top five OOPS leaders

ERA Leaders
Pitcher ERA OOPS
Mike Pelfrey 0.69 0.565
Ubaldo Jimenez 0.79 0.510
Livan Hernandez 0.87 0.518
Francisco Liriano 0.93 0.485
Brad Penny 0.94 0.565
OOPS Leaders
Pitcher ERA OOPS
Barry Zito 1.32 0.419
Adam Wainwright 1.69 0.466
Jonathan Sanchez 1.85 0.482
Francisco Liriano 0.93 0.485
Carlos Silva 1.73 0.487

ERA is subject to a lot of variables that make it a much more volatile statistic. When the starter leaves the game with men on base, his ERA is in the hands of the relief pitcher. Not so with OOPS. ERA is subject to random timing of when hits take place. If a pitcher happens to give up a bloop single with a couple of men in scoring position, that hurts his ERA big time while having a much smaller effect on his OOPS. In the long run and especially in the short run, OOPS is a much better indicator of pitcher effectiveness than ERA.

One other pitcher stat I’d like to point out is Pitcher Runs Created. This was invented by David Gassko over at the Hardball Times (www.hardballtimes.com) a couple of years ago. This is a stat meant to correspond with Bill James’ Runs Created for hitters. Here are the Pitcher Runs Created leaders for the current season, and for 2009. I like this stat as well. In fact, Pitching Runs Created predicted both Cy Young Award winners in 2009, 2008, and 2007. Neither ERA nor OOPS got more than one right each year.

Pitching Runs Created leaders — 2010
Pitcher ERA OOPS PRC
Roy Halladay 1.80 0.593 33.9
Ubaldo Jimenez 0.79 0.510 29.8
Adam Wainwright 1.69 0.466 27.0
Johan Santana 2.08 0.605 26.5
Ricky Romero 1.80 0.516 25.5
Pitching Runs Created leaders — 2009
Pitcher ERA OOPS PRC
Zack Greinke 2.16 0.609 191.4
Felix Hernandez 2.49 0.603 157.5
Tim Lincecum 2.48 0.557 155.3
Roy Halladay 2.79 0.667 154.1
Adam Wainwright 2.63 0.643 143.5

“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week™, www.statoftheweek.com.”

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers as well as host of VFTB Radio. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail