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Sabermetrics: What You Need To Know

Sabermetrics has caused some serious controversy in the game of baseball. It causes a swirl of debate that can be just as intense as conversations on Pete Rose or steroids. Major League Baseball general managers, scouts, writers, analysts and even fans all seem to have various opinions on the topic. Whether a GM uses sabermetrics as the heart of his acquisition strategy, or completely ignores this advanced research, one thing will always remain the same; baseball is a sport driven around statistics, and there is no way to avoid that.

Let’s first understand what exactly the word “sabermetrics” means. It comes from the acronym SABR, which stands for Society of American Baseball Research. It is defined as: the application of statistical analysis to baseball records, especially in order to evaluate and compare the performance of individual players. Essentially, sabermetrics is more in-depth stats about players. Pioneered by a guy named Bill James, who was a baseball writer, historian and statistician.

Sabermetrics takes the game of baseball way past the point of batting average and earned run average. These statistics give a wide array of ways to evaluate individual players, their performance and how well they did or didn’t contribute to the overall performance of the team. Below are some of what is considered the more essential of these advanced statistics.

WAR: wins above replacement. This metric tells you how many more wins a player is worth, as compared to the person that would typically replace them (such as AA or AAA players). Look at Mike Trout, for instance. In 2016, Trout’s WAR was 10.55. That means the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim won over 10 more games with Mike Trout than they would have if they started their next guy. There are a lot of calculations that go into figuring a player’s WAR, and these calculations are argued at great length by MLB statisticians. Those arguments aside, this is still a great sabermetric statistic.

RC: runs created. This stat can be mathematically challenging to calculate, but it is incredibly telling. Honestly, Bill James said it best himself, in his book The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract:

"With regard to an offensive player, the first key question is how many runs have resulted from what he has done with the bat and on the basepaths. Willie McCovey hit .270 in his career, with 353 doubles, 46 triples, 521 home runs and 1,345 walks -- but his job was not to hit doubles, nor to hit singles, nor to hit triples, nor to draw walks or even hit home runs, but rather to put runs on the scoreboard. How many runs resulted from all of these things?"

RC is the best way one can tell just how impactful a hitter is to the most essential part of the game, scoring runs. This stat just doesn’t determine how many runs that a single hitter scores, but how many runs that hitter caused to score. It’s a fact that you need runs to win games. If a team can determine which players cause the most runs, they give themselves an advantage in both scouting and signing players. To find a players RC: add together a player’s hits and walks, multiply that by their total bases, take that number and divide it by the sum of at-bats and walks.

WHIP: walks plus hits per innings pitched. Just like it sounds, you take the number of hits and walks that a pitcher allows and divide it by the number of innings pitched. WHIP lets you tell an average of how many batters a pitcher allows on base, for each inning he pitches. WHIP gives you a better idea of how well that particular pitcher performed, versus how the overall game went. I like this stat over the more traditional W-L stat, because a pitcher may have had a phenomenal game but it was spoiled by a bullpen pitcher.

These three sabermetrics are just a few of many interesting ways to see how well your favorite baseball players are. For the hardcore baseball fan, they can be a great way to scout players you think your team should go get, and a great way to figure out who your team should get rid of. While not every team will take sabermetrics as far as Billy Beane, who is notable for using it to steer the Oakland Athletics, every team should at least recognize the significance of these statistics.

You’re going to hear these terms, and many more this offseason. I encourage all baseball fans to dig into sabermetrics, learn more about them, and see just how good or bad your team plays!

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