No matter if you are new to baseball or you’ve been watching for decades like my pops, baseball has changed. There is no question that what the game was like just ten years ago is entirely different than it is today and what it will be in years to come—the main reason for this change; is Sabermetrics.
Sabermetrics is a term used to describe the advanced statistical analysis of baseball, focusing on objective and evidence-based evaluation of player performance. It involves using various metrics and statistical models to assess player contributions and team performance beyond traditional statistics like batting average or ERA. Sabermetrics provides a more nuanced understanding of the game and allows for more accurate player evaluations.
No longer can you look at a player’s batting average and base your opinion on their performance. Average is basically a dead stat as we now care more about homerun production, how often the player is getting on base, including walks, and what type of value the player is bringing to the field, like WAR (Wins above replacement).
Here are some commonly used sabermetric statistics and concepts in baseball analysis:
- On-Base Percentage (OBP): OBP measures a player’s ability to reach base, considering hits, walks, and hit-by-pitches. It is regarded as a better indicator of a player’s offensive value than batting average alone.
- Slugging Percentage (SLG): SLG measures a player’s power and ability to hit for extra bases, incorporating singles, doubles, triples, and home runs. SLG is often combined with OBP to calculate OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging), which provides a more comprehensive view of a player’s offensive performance.
- Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA): wOBA is a comprehensive offensive metric that assigns different weights to various outcomes (e.g., singles, doubles, walks) based on their run-scoring value. It provides a more accurate representation of a player’s offensive contribution.
- Wins Above Replacement (WAR): WAR is a cumulative statistic that quantifies a player’s total value compared to a hypothetical replacement-level player. It combines both offensive and defensive contributions into a single number and is often used to compare players across different positions.
- Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP): FIP evaluates a pitcher’s performance based on factors they can control, such as strikeouts, walks, hit-by-pitches, and home runs allowed. It removes the influence of defense and aims to assess a pitcher’s true ability.
- Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR): These metrics measure a fielder’s defensive contributions by evaluating their ability to convert batted balls into outs. They provide insights into a player’s defensive value beyond traditional fielding percentage.
Sabermetrics allows analysts and teams to dig deeper into player performance, identify undervalued players, assess the impact of different strategies, and make more informed decisions. However, it’s important to note that while sabermetrics provides valuable insights, it should be used in conjunction with other traditional scouting methods and qualitative observations to get a comprehensive understanding of player performance.
All this to say, let’s look at the #1 player I’m expecting to bounce back to form and help lead this team as we progress towards the summer months.
On the surface, Phillies fans would say Zack Wheeler is struggling and not looking like himself. He currently sits 3-3 after 9 starts, with a 4.06 ERA in 51 innings. However, when we look at Wheeler’s FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), he is currently sitting at an elite 2.42. In contrast, Wheeler’s 2021 season, when he came in 2nd in the NL Cy Young voting…. His FIP was 2.59. Zack has a career era of 3.45, and I expect his 2023 era to come back toward that number. Not only is his FIP indicative of positive regression, but Wheeler’s Baseball Savant graphs also show improvements in almost every category.
He has lowered his Exit Velocity against (how hard people are hitting the ball off him), he’s lowered his barre; rate to an elite 2.9%, and raised his K Rate to 25%, above league average, currently sitting just under 21%. Two of the main statistical models, ZiPs and Steamer, showed big bounces back for Wheeler in multiple categories, including Walk Percentage (BB%) and ERA. Wheeler has been unlucky with the play in the field behind him, and metrics point to him bouncing back soon.
Phillies will need him to be ace-like as we continue to look for dependable starting pitching that we have lacked from Taijuan Walker and Bailey Falter.