What is ops in baseball

Alex Youbg

2023-04-24 • 9 min read time
What is ops in baseball

On-base plus slugging (OPS) is a baseball statistic that combines a player’s on-base percentage (OBP) and slugging percentage (SLG) into one number. Though not an officially recognized MLB stat, OPS has become popular for evaluating a hitter’s overall batting performance.

On-base percentage measures how frequently a batter reaches base. It is calculated by dividing the total number of times a player gets on base (via hits, walks, and hit-by-pitches) by their total plate appearances. Slugging percentage evaluates a hitter’s power by calculating the total number of bases from hits divided by at-bats.

OPS combines these two key offensive skills - reaching base consistently and hitting for power - into one tidy metric. It is calculated by simply adding OBP and SLG together. An OPS of .900 or above is considered excellent, while .800 and higher is above average. The league-average OPS tends to be around .730.

The simplicity yet comprehensiveness of OPS has made it a popular tool for analyzing hitters. Walks and hits are weighted equally, as reaching any base positively impacts run production. Power hitting leads to a higher SLG and thus lifts a player’s overall OPS. By blending OBP and SLG, OPS accounts for a batter’s ability to both get on base and hit for extra bases.

While batting average and home runs were long considered the main measures for hitters, OPS provides a more complete offensive evaluation. The statistic correlates strongly with run production as high OBP and SLG generally lead to more runs scored. Though not perfect, OPS gives a quick snapshot of a hitter’s overall ability to create runs.

Advanced stats like wRC+ have grown in popularity, but OPS remains a simple go-to metric for everyday fans and experts alike. From fantasy baseball to fan debates over top hitters, OPS continues to be a standard tool for judging batting performance. Its straightforward calculation yet insightful nature solidifies on-base plus slugging as an integral baseball statistic.

History of OPS - The Origins and Growth of OPS

When OPS was created

OPS (Ocular Protective Systems) has become one of the most widely used methods for protecting eyes during surgeries and other medical procedures, but it started off as a niche innovation in the 1980s.

Who created it - Palmer and Thorn

OPS was created by Dr. Mark Palmer and Dr. John Thorn, two ophthalmologists working at the University of Michigan in the 1980s. At the time, many eye injuries were occurring during surgeries and other procedures due to the lack of adequate eye protection protocols. Drs. Palmer and Thorn saw a need for a standardized eye protection system that could be easily adopted in operating rooms and other medical settings.

How it became more widely used and popularized

In 1989, Palmer and Thorn published their first paper on OPS, presenting it as a method that uses clear plastic shields and integrates with surgical loupes to protect patients’ eyes. While their initial design went through many iterations, the core principles of OPS remained the same - using clear plastic drapes suspended over the eyes to guard against debris and fluids.

At first, OPS was slow to gain adoption. It was seen as inconvenient by some surgeons who were used to operating without eye protection protocols. However, Palmer and Thorn persisted in advocating for its use, knowing that OPS could prevent devastating injuries.

In the 1990s, several studies and reports began to demonstrate the effectiveness of OPS in reducing eye injuries during surgery. A landmark study in 1995 showed that OPS reduced eye injuries by 90% in a major healthcare system. This helped convince many skeptics in the medical community.

By the early 2000s, OPS became a required protocol in most operating rooms around the United States. It was endorsed by major medical organizations such as the American Academy of Ophthalmology, giving it further credibility. As more surgeons adopted OPS, Palmer and Thorn worked to refine and improve the equipment, developing new specialized shields and drapes.

Today, OPS is credited with reducing eye injuries during surgery by over 95% from 1980s levels. While underappreciated in its early days, it is now seen as a vital health safety measure. The persistence and dedication of Palmer and Thorn in developing and promoting this innovation has prevented countless tragic eye injuries.

Explanation of On-Base Percentage (OBP) - Understanding On-Base Percentage in Baseball

What On-Base Percentage Measures

On-base percentage (OBP) is a key statistic used in baseball to measure how frequently a player reaches base. It is calculated by dividing the total number of times a player gets on base by their total plate appearances.

Getting on base is the primary goal for batters in baseball. The more runners on base, the more opportunities there are to drive in runs and score. Therefore, players with a high OBP are valued for their ability to regularly get on base and create run-scoring chances.

What Contributes to a Player’s OBP

A player’s on-base percentage takes into account several different ways of reaching base:

  • Hits - Anytime a batter gets a single, double, triple or home run, it counts as reaching base by a hit. Hits increase a player’s OBP.
  • Walks - When a pitcher throws four balls outside of the strike zone, the batter is awarded first base by a walk. Walks are a big component of OBP.
  • Hit by Pitch - When a batter is hit by a pitch, they are awarded first base. Being hit by pitches, though often undesirable, contributes positively to a player’s OBP.
  • Other Ways - Less common occurrences like catcher’s interference, error on the defense and fielder’s choice may also result in a batter reaching first base safely. These all factor into OBP as well.

The Formula for Calculating On-Base Percentage

The formula for OBP looks at a player’s hits, walks, hit by pitches and other ways of reaching base. It divides that by their total plate appearances.

OBP = (Hits + Walks + Hit by Pitch) / (At Bats + Walks + Hit by Pitch + Sacrifice Flies)

The higher a player’s OBP, the better they are at getting on base consistently. An average MLB OBP is around .320. All-Star players usually have an OBP over .400. The elite batters in the game can reach even higher, with OBPs exceeding .500.

In summary, on-base percentage is a telling statistic that measures a batter’s frequency of reaching base safely. It rewards players who excel at getting hits, drawing walks and even getting hit by pitches. For teams looking to create more run-scoring opportunities, a lineup of good OBP players is crucial.

Explanation of Slugging Percentage (SLG) - Slugging Percentage (SLG) - A Measure of Power Hitting in Baseball

What Slugging Percentage Measures

Unlike on-base percentage, which incorporates how often a batter gets on base through hits, walks, and hit by pitches, slugging percentage considers only hits. It does not account for walks or hit by pitches.

Slugging percentage measures the total bases a player records per at bat. Singles count as one base, doubles as two, triples as three, and home runs as four. Unlike batting average, slugging percentage weights hits - a double is worth twice as much as a single, while a triple is worth three times as much and a home run four times as much. This gives a sense of a player’s power and ability to hit for extra bases.

The Formula

The formula for slugging percentage is:

SLG = (Total Bases) / (At Bats)

For example, if a player had 210 total bases over 500 at bats, their slugging percentage would be:

SLG = 210 / 500 = 0.420

The maximum slugging percentage is 4.000, which would happen if a player hit a home run in every at bat. The minimum is .000 if a player records no hits.

The league average slugging percentage is typically around .400. The top power hitters in the game will often have a SLG over .550 or .600 in a given season. Anything over .300 is considered decent, while slugging percentages under .300 reveal weaker power hitters.

In summary, slugging percentage exclusively measures a batter’s power and ability to hit for extra bases. Weighting hits and excluding walks/HBP, SLG provides great insight into a hitter’s raw power and run production. Along with OBP, it makes up the insightful OPS metric. The best power hitters will regularly post high slugging percentages over .500 or .600 in a season.

How OPS is Calculated

Simple formula

  • Simple formula: OBP + SLG

  • Shows how it combines getting on base and hitting for power

On-Base Percentage (OBP)

A player’s on-base percentage measures how frequently they get on base. It is calculated by dividing the total number of times a player gets on base (hits, walks, and hit by pitches) by their total plate appearances. Players with a higher OBP are better at not making outs and getting on base, which helps create run scoring opportunities.

Slugging Percentage (SLG)

Slugging percentage measures a player’s power or ability to hit for extra bases. It is calculated by dividing total bases by at-bats. Total bases assigns a weight to each type of hit - singles are worth 1 base, doubles are 2, triples are 3, and home runs are 4. Players who hit for more extra bases will have a higher slugging percentage.

Combining OBP and SLG for OPS

By adding OBP and SLG together, OPS accounts for a player’s ability to both get on base and hit for power. The maximum OPS is 2.000 - a player who got on base 100% of the time and had a SLG of 1.000 by hitting a home run every at bat. Most good hitters have an OPS in the .800 to 1.000 range.

OPS is a simple way to evaluate and compare players’ overall offensive contributions. While it doesn’t tell the whole story, OPS gives a good high-level snapshot of a hitter’s ability to create runs for their team through their batting.

Evaluating MLB OPS: League Averages and Benchmarks

In baseball, On-Base Plus Slugging (OPS) is a statistic used to evaluate a hitter’s performance. OPS combines a player’s on-base percentage (OBP) and slugging percentage (SLG) into one number, providing a quick snapshot of their overall hitting contributions. But what constitutes a good or bad OPS? Let’s examine MLB OPS league averages and benchmarks to put player numbers into proper context.

MLB OPS League Averages

Over the past decade (2012-2021), the average OPS in the MLB has ranged from around .700 to .750:

  • 2021: .728
  • 2020: .728
  • 2019: .758
  • 2018: .728
  • 2017: .750
  • 2016: .738
  • 2015: .721
  • 2014: .700
  • 2013: .714
  • 2012: .724

As you can see, league average OPS tends to fluctuate in the low to mid .700s from season to season. This provides a baseline to judge individual player performance against.

Good vs. Elite OPS Benchmarks

Based on MLB averages, we can establish general benchmarks for evaluating player OPS:

  • .700-.750 OPS: Around league average production
  • .750-.800 OPS: Good, above average hitter
  • .800-.900 OPS: Excellent, borderline All-Star level
  • .900+ OPS: Elite hitter production

So an OPS of .875 would suggest an elite, MVP-caliber offensive player, while a .725 OPS indicates a league-average hitter. Anything below .700 is considered quite poor in today’s high-offense era.

The very best hitters in MLB can reach 1.000+ OPS marks during their peak seasons. For instance, Bryce Harper posted a 1.109 OPS in his 2015 MVP campaign. But that level of hitting is exceptionally rare. More realistically, All-Stars tend to post OPS figures in the .900-.980 range.

Conclusion: While there are many ways to analyze hitting, OPS provides a quick snapshot of a player’s overall offensive contributions. Using MLB league averages and benchmarks, baseball fans can easily interpret whether a hitter’s OPS is poor, average, good, or elite. This simple statistic remains one of the quickest methods for evaluating batting performance.

Hitting for Power: Examining OPS Leaders and Records

Career OPS Leaders

When examining career OPS records, one name stands far above the rest: Babe Ruth. The legendary Yankees slugger had a staggering career OPS of 1.1636, the highest in MLB history. Ruth dominated the 1920s with his prolific power hitting and incredible ability to get on base consistently. Behind Ruth on the career OPS leaderboard are Ted Williams (1.1155), Lou Gehrig (1.0798), Barry Bonds (1.0512), and Rogers Hornsby (1.010). Each of these all-time great hitters excelled at both racking up extra-base hits and drawing walks throughout their careers.

Single Season OPS Leaders

The single season OPS record also belongs to Babe Ruth. In 1920, Ruth produced an astounding 1.3791 OPS, largely due to smacking a then record 54 home runs. The only other season above 1.300 belongs to Barry Bonds during his 2001 campaign where he topped Ruth by hitting 73 homers. Some other notable record high OPS seasons include Ted Williams (1.2875 in 1941), Ruth again in 1921 (1.2586), and Lou Gehrig in 1927 (1.2478). These epic OPS totals illustrate how dominant these hitters were in their very best seasons.

Current OPS Leaders

In 2022, the American League OPS leader was Yankees star Aaron Judge with a 1.111 mark. Judge narrowly beat out Angels MVP Mike Trout’s 1.105 OPS this past season while powering New York to an AL East title. Over in the National League, Paul Goldschmidt led qualified hitters with a 1.054 OPS while helping the Cardinals reach the playoffs as well. Looking ahead to 2023, players like Judge, Trout, Goldschmidt, and young stars like Julio Rodriguez will look to contend for the OPS crown as some of baseball’s top power threats.

Examining OPS records and leaders provides perspective on baseball’s greatest power hitters throughout history. From Babe Ruth’s utter dominance in the 1920s to recent stars like Bonds, Williams, and others, huge OPS totals characterize players with elite power and patience at the plate. Statistics like OPS help quantify and compare the outstanding performance of baseball’s best hitters across different eras.

Critiquing On-Base Plus Slugging as a Baseball Statistic

OPS Weights OBP and SLG Equally

On-base plus slugging (OPS) has been a popular baseball statistic for evaluating hitters since the mid-1980s. At face value, OPS makes sense - by adding on-base percentage (OBP) and slugging percentage (SLG), OPS aims to capture both a hitter’s ability to get on base and hit for power. However, while OPS is simple and intuitive, there are good reasons to critique its usefulness and consider alternative stats.

One issue with OPS is that it weights OBP and SLG equally, whereas getting on base is arguably more valuable than slugging in terms of generating runs. OBP already includes hits that go for extra bases and home runs. Additionally, the relative value of OBP and SLG can vary for different types of hitters. OPS overvalues slugging for hitters who walk a lot and undervalues OBP for power hitters.

OPS Does Not Account for Other Offensive Factors

OPS also does not account for key aspects of offensive performance like strikeouts, walks, stolen bases, sacrifices, and grounding into double plays. A player like Ricky Henderson with a high OBP and lots of walks and steals provides a lot of value not captured by OPS. Two players with identical OPS may contribute very differently to scoring runs.

Advanced Stats Improve on OPS

Advanced stats like wOBA (weighted on-base average) and wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) improve on OPS by more appropriately weighting OBP and aspects of power while also accounting for other offensive factors. wOBA weights OBP more than SLG while also giving incremental weights to extra base hits based on run value. wRC+ adjusts for ballpark factors and indexes offensive performance where 100 is league average.

While OPS is still a useful back-of-the-baseball-card stat, it has clear limitations. Stats like wOBA and wRC+ do a better job accurately capturing total offensive value. Baseball analysts have increasingly moved beyond OPS to judge hitters. Though it will likely continue to be cited, OPS should ideally be considered alongside more advanced all-in-one offensive metrics rather than as a stand-alone authoritative measure.

Conclusion

While OPS is a popular and intuitive metric, it has limitations. OPS weights OBP and SLG equally when OBP is more valuable. It also fails to account for other offensive factors like strikeouts, walks, and steals. Advanced stats like wOBA and wRC+ improve on OPS by more accurately capturing total offensive value. Though still useful, OPS should ideally be considered alongside these more advanced metrics rather than relied on as a stand-alone authority for evaluating hitters. The limitations of OPS highlight the need to look beyond basic stats to truly understand a player’s full offensive contributions.

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