Statistics are very important to baseball, perhaps more than any other sport. The practice of keeping records of the achievements of the players was started in the 19th century by Henry Chadwick, who devised the predecessors of statistics like batting average, runs scored, and runs allowed based on his experience of cricket. Statistics have been kept for the Major Leagues since their creation. A fine history of baseball statistics appears in the various editions of "Total Baseball" and the "ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia," both of which are primarily edited by Pete Palmer.
General managers and baseball scouts study player statistics to decide what players to try to get for their team. Managers, catchers and pitchers study statistics of batters on opposing teams to figure out how best to pitch to them and position the players. Managers and batters study opposing pitchers to figure out how best to hit them. Managers often base their personnel decisions during the game on statistics, such as choosing who to put in the lineup, or which relief pitcher to bring in.
Traditionally, statistics like batting average for batters (the number of hits divided by the number of at bats) and earned run average (approximately the number of runs given up by a pitcher per nine innings) have governed the statistical world of baseball. However, the advent of sabermetrics brought an onslaught of new statistics that better gauge a player's performance and contributions to his team from year to year.
Some sabermetric statistics have entered the mainstream baseball world. Among statistics that measure a batter's overall performance, On-base plus slugging (OPS) is one of the easiest to calculate. It adds the hitter's on base percentage (number of times reached base -by any means- divided by total plate appearances) to his or her slugging percentage (total bases divided by at bats). Some argue that the OPS formula is flawed and that more weight should be shifted towards OBP (on base percentage). Regardless, OPS still stands as the most direct means of evaluating a hitter's performance using readily available statistics.
OPS is also useful when determining a pitcher's level of success. 'Opponent On-base Plus Slugging' (OOPS) is becoming a popular way to evaluating a pitcher's actual performance. When analyzing a pitcher's statistics, some useful categories to consider are: K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings), K/BB (strikeouts per walk), and HR/9. WHIP (walks+hits per inning pitched) and OOPS (opponent on-base plus slugging) are popular statistics; however, if DIPS theory is correct, a pitcher has little control over these statistics. When viewing all these categories together, you gain a much clearer picture of the pitcher's success level (as opposed to simply considering W-L and ERA). Though not widely used, statistics like FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) can be used as a predictor of a pitcher's "true" success, with the impact of his fielders removed.
Since 2001, more emphasis has been placed on Defense-Independent Pitching Statistics. These statistics, such as Defense-Independent ERA (dERA), attempt to evaluate a pitcher solely according to those events governed solely by the pitcher's performance, regardless of the strength of the defensive players behind him.
Also important are all of those statistics in certain in-game situations. For example, a certain hitter's ability to hit left-handed pitchers might cause his manager to give him more chances to face lefties. Other hitters may have a history of success against a given pitcher (or vice versa), and the manager may use this information to engineer a favourable matchup.
Comprehensive, historical baseball statistics were difficult for the average fan to access until 1951, when researchers S.C. Thompson and Hy Turkin published "The Complete Encyclopedia of Baseball", the first modern baseball encyclopedia. In 1969, MacMillan Publishing printed its first Baseball Encyclopedia, using a computer to compile stats for the first time. "Big Mac" became the standard baseball reference until 1988, when Total Baseball was released by Warner Books, using even more sophisticated technology. (This led to discovery, and expulsion, of several players who didn't belong in the record books -- "phantom ballplayers", like Lou Proctor and Al Olsen (1921-1994), who because of a scorer's error, was erroneously listed for more than 35 years as having 1 pinch hit plate appearance for the 1943 Red Sox.
Commonly used statistics
Most of these terms also apply to softball. Commonly used statistics with their abbreviations are explained here. The explanations below are for quick reference and do not fully or completely define the statistic; for the strict definition, see the corresponding article for each statistic.
- 1B - Single - hits on which the batter reached first base safely without the contribution of a fielding error.
- 2B - Double - hits on which the batter reached second base safely without the contribution of a fielding error.
- 3B - Triple - hits on which the batter reached third base safely without the contribution of a fielding error.
- AB - At bat - Batting appearances, not including bases on balls, hit by pitch, sacrifice hits (bunts), sacrifice flies, & catchers' interference, or obstruction
- BA - Batting average (also abbreviated AVG) - hits divided by at bats
- BB - Base on balls (also called a "walk") - times receiving four balls and advancing to first base
- BBP - Walk percentage (also abbreviated BB%, W/AB) - number of base on balls divided by plate appearances
- BB/K - Walk-to-strikeout ratio - number of base on balls divided by number of strikeouts
- EBH - Extra base hit (Sometimes EB or XBH) - doubles plus triples plus home runs. This statistic is sometimes referred to as long hits.
- FC - Fielder's choice - times reaching base when a fielder chose to try for an out on another runner
- G/F - Ground ball fly ball ratio - number of ground balls divided by number of fly balls
- GIDP - Ground into Double play - number of ground balls hit that became double plays
- GS - Grand Slam - a home run with the bases loaded, resulting in four runs scoring, and four RBI credited to the batter.
- H - Hit - times reached base because of a batted, fair ball without error by the defense
- HBP - Hit by pitch - times touched by a pitch and awarded first base as a result
- HR - Home run - hits on which the batter successfully touched all four bases, without the contribution of a fielding error.
- K or SO - Strike out - number of times that strike three is taken or swung at and missed, or bunted foul
- LOB - Left on base - number of runners not out nor scored at the end of an innning.
- OBP - On base percentage (also abbreviated OBA for on base average) - times reached base (H + BB + HBP) divided by at bats plus walks plus hit by pitch plus sacrifice flies (AB + BB + HBP + SF). The official calculation does not include catcher's interference/obstruction, even though that is a plate appearance and a time on base.
- OPS - On-base plus slugging - on-base percentage plus slugging percentage
- PA - Plate appearance - number of completed batting appearances no matter the result (at-bats + walks + hit-batsmen + sacrifice hits (bunts) + sacrifice flies + catcher's interference/obstruction
- R - Run - times reached home base legally and safely
- RC - Runs created - statistic that attempts to measure how many runs a player has contributed to his team
- RBI - Run batted in - number of runners who scored due to a batters's action, except when batter grounded into double play or reached on an error
- SF - Sacrifice fly - number of fly ball outs which allow another runner to score
- SH - Sacrifice hit - number of ground outs which allows another runner to advance
- SLG - Slugging percentage (also abbreviated SP%) - total bases divided by at-bats
- TA - Total average - total bases, plus walks, plus steals, divided by plate appearances plus caught stealing
- TB - Total bases - one for each single, two for each double, three for each triple, and four for each home run
- TOB - Times on base - times reaching base as a result of hits, walks, and hit-by-pitches (times reached base on defensive interference or obstruction, mainly catcher's interference often are included in the totals).
- RP - Runs produced - a statistician's statistic figured by adding the runs scored plus the runs batted in, minus the home runs (which are counted in both columns). This statistic is sometimes referred to as net runs.
- EBLH - Extra bases on long hits - number of bases advanced beyond first base on player's hits (1 for double, 2 for triple, and 3 for home run); can also be calculated by taking total bases minus singles. This stat has been less in vogue in recent years.
- CS - Caught stealing - times tagged out when attempting to steal (includes pick-offs when player is thrown out at the next base)
- SB - Stolen base - number of bases advanced other than on batted balls, walks, or hits by pitch.
- A or G - Appearances or Games (also abbreviated GP, for Games Pitched) - number of times a pitcher pitches in a season
- AVG - Opponents batting average - hits allowed divided by at-bats faced
- BB - Base on balls (also called a "walk") - times pitching four balls, allowing runner to advance to first base
- BB/9 - Base on balls times nine divided by innings pitched (also known as BB/9IP - Bases on balls per 9 innings pitched)
- BK - Balk - number of times pitcher commits an illegal pitching action or other illegal action while in contact with the pitching rubber, thus allowing baserunners to advance
- BSV - Blown save (also abbreviated BS) - number of times entering the game in a save situation, and being charged the run which ties the game.
- CG - Complete game - number of games where player was the only pitcher for his team
- dERA - Defense-Independent ERA - a measure of a pitcher's effectiveness that doesn't include balls hit within the field of play
- ER - Earned run - number of runs that did not occur as a result of errors or passed balls
- ERA - Earned run average - earned runs times innings in a game (usually nine) divided by innings pitched
- GIR - Games in relief - number of games pitched where player was not the starting pitcher for his team
- GF - Games finished - number of games pitched where player was the final pitcher for his team
- G/F - Ground ball fly ball ratio - ground balls allowed divided by fly balls allowed
- GS or S- Games started or starts - number of games pitched where player was the first pitcher for his team
- H/9 - Hits per nine innings - hits allowed times nine divided by innings pitched (also known as H/9IP - Hits allowed per 9 innings pitched)
- H or HA - Hits Allowed - total hits allowed
- HB - Hit batsman - times hit a batter with pitch, allowing runner to advance to first base
- HLD (or H) - Hold - number of games entered in a save situation, left in save situation, recorded at least one out, and not having surrendered the lead (unofficial statistic)
- HR or HRA - Home runs allowed - total home runs allowed
- IBB - Intentional base on balls
- IRA - Inherited runs allowed - number of runners allowed to score who were on base when pitcher enters the game
- IP - Innings pitched - number of outs recorded while pitching divided by three
- K - Strikeout - number of batters who received strike three
- K/9 - Strikeouts per nine innings - strikeouts times nine divided by innings pitched (also known as K/9IP - Strikeouts per 9 innings pitched)
- K/BB - Strikeout-to-walk ratio - number of strikeouts divided by number of base on balls
- L - Loss - number of games where pitcher was pitching while the opposing team took the lead, never lost the lead, and went on to win
- P or PC - Pitch Count
- P/GS - Average number of pitches thrown per game started
- R/9 - Runs per nine innings - number of runs allowed times nine divided by innings pitched
- SHO - Shutout - number of complete games having allowed zero runs
- S or SV - Save -
- SVO - Save Opportunities - number of chances to earn S
- TBF - Total batters faced - opponent's total plate appearances
- W - Win - number of games where pitcher was pitching while his team took the lead and went on to win (also related: winning percentage)
- W+S - Relief wins plus saves - wins plus saves
- WHIP - Walks plus hits per inning pitched - bases on balls plus hits divided by innings pitched
- W/9 - Walks per nine innings - bases on balls times nine divided by innings pitched (also known as BB/9IP - Bases on balls per 9 innings pitched)
- WP - Wild pitches - charged when a pitch is too high, low, or wide of home plate for the catcher to field, thereby allowing one or more runners to advance or score
- A - Assists - number of outs recorded on a play where a fielder touched the ball, except if such touching is the putout
- DP - Double plays - one for each double play during which the fielder recorded a putout or an assist.
- E - Errors - number of times a fielder fails to make a play he should have made with common effort, and the offense benefits as a result
- FP - Fielding percentage - flawless chances (putouts + assists) [also called chances accepted] divided by total chances (putouts + assists + errors) [also called chances offered].
- INN - Innings - number of innings that a player is at one certain position
- PB - Passed ball - misplay charged to the catcher that occurs when the ball is dropped and one or more runners advance
- PO - Putout - number of times the fielder tags, forces, or appeals a runner and he is called out as a result
- RF - Range factor - ([putouts + assists]*9)/innings played. Used to determine the amount of field that the player can cover
- SB - Stolen bases - number of times a runner advanced on the pitch without being thrown out by the catcher
- TC - Total chances - assists plus putouts plus errors
- TP - Triple play - one for each triple play during which the fielder recorded a putout or an assist
- G - Games played - number of games where the player played, in whole or in part (appearances in the official boxscore.
- WW - "Wasn't Watching" - used by non-official scorekeepers when their attention is distracted from the game - said to have been invented by Phil Rizzuto
- Triple Crown in Major League Baseball
- MLB Most Valuable Player Award winners
- Cy Young Award winners
- MLB Rookie of the Year Award winners
- Gold Glove Award winners
- List of baseball jargon
References / Resources
- Curveball - A book on new statistics for Baseball
- madstatter.com MLB Win/Loss and Scoring statistics
- Strike zone