Those geeks who live in their mothers’ basements have done it again. They’ve gone and made another stat, which clearly makes everyone enjoy the game less. Plus, they don’t even watch baseball! They just play with their Excel spreadsheets. What happened to the days when men were men? We judged baseball players on what we saw, not on what some computer told us. Someone get Billy Beane on the line. I have to give him a piece of my mind for writing Moneyball.

Silliness aside, I just got through reading this article by Dave Cameron explaining wOBA. Before you dismiss this statistic, I suggest you read it as well. Then read this article by Tom Tango, the dude who developed the statistic.

At this point you might find yourself saying that the last thing the baseball world needs is another statistic. I’ve heard plenty of people, including a beat writer or two, say the same thing. However, I think that’s missing the point. If we find a better way to measure baseball production, why shouldn’t we use those stats when making our arguments? You might not like Baseball Prospectus and their not-so-up-front formulas, but wOBA is spelled out pretty clearly. So is its intention:

OPS, as you probably know, significantly undervalues the ability of a hitter to get on base. It treats a .330 OBP/.470 slug as equal to a .400 OBP/.400 slug, when the latter is more conducive to scoring runs. wOBA gives proper weight to all the things a hitter can do to produce value, and is a more accurate reflection of a hitter’s value.

Of course, getting people on board with this is the problem. Many are comfortable saying Nick Swisher had a .219 batting average, therefore he sucks. No argument, no matter how well articulated, could bring this type of person around. We’ve always used batting average, so why change now? wOBA is for the fan who understands that just because things used to be done a certain way does not mean they should always be done that way.

What makes wOBA easy is that it’s scaled to OBP. League average is usually .335, plus or minus 5. So you know if a player is doing well or not without comparing him to other players. The average is already set to the league average OBP. Here is the 2008 Yankees leaderboard. As you can see, A-Rod wins by a mile.

We’re not going to shove this stat down your throat. Not by any means. But when we get into an argument over player performance and stats come into play, I’m probably going to defer to this.

Categories : Analysis


  1. A.D. says:

    Someone should come out with a better stat to weigh stolen bases. Guys like BG or Juan Pierre etc, are going to have pretty low OPS since they don’t hit for power, when their real extra base ability is in their ability to steal bags.

  2. dkappelman says:

    A.D. : The wOBA stat on FanGraphs does include stolen bases and they are weighted properly, so a guy like Juan Pierre would be properly valued in his base stealing ability along with his actual hitting ability.

  3. Glen L says:

    Only problem I have with this stat is that it doesn’t take position into account … so i’m not exactly sure how this is better than VORP

    • Eric says:

      I love VORP, but at the same time I think the argument can be made that the position adjustments “weaken” it to some extent. I actually had an argument like that in my mind over the weekend, I just can’t remember it now. Dammit.

  4. DonnieBaseballHallofFame says:

    When I first saw that there is a new stat. Glad to see you use the appropriate picture at least :)

    I did not read about this new stat yet as I am struggling understanding the ones that currently exist or at least
    some readers here think I am.

    Just wrote an E-book on the Don Mattingly post that should get at least half the herbs on here angry.


    • This made me smile. I hope all had a Happy Thanksgiving, including you, buddy. Glad to see that you (apparently) are willing to read about this new stat to see if it’s an effective way to evaluate players.

      BTW, Don Mattingly’s career wOBA: .361
      Bernie Williams’s career wOBA: .371

      • Eric says:

        Jorge’s got a career .370 wOBA.

        I think people are going to have to consider Jorge for the HOF a lot harder than they think they are.

        Since 95 (his first PA), he has the most HRs, RsBI, TB, BB among all catchers. He has been one of the best hitting catchers of the last decade and if Jeff Kent is going to get into the HOF for being the best hitting 2B, shouldn’t Jorge get some love?

      • DonnieBaseballHallofFame says:

        When a new stat comes out that I have not heard of I usually read up on it for a few minutes if I do hear if it (I am sure there are many that I am not aware of)

        Usually they are just a combo plus or minus what we usually already have and use in baseball. I never let a stat mean anything that it should not. Stats are just that statistics, and statistics are sometimes helpful in baseball but in no way the be all end all of a way to make a a move in baseball. I trust a good baseball mans gut over raw stats 9 out of 10 times.

        Every stat, even the good ones leave something unseen. So if you gather them all up and can use them in an efficient manner you still do not see the whole picture (or shall I say Pie)

        • Donnie, the problem with this constant monologue of yours that stats shouldn’t be trusted over the “eye” (or “gut”) of a “good baseball man” is that all those “good baseball men” still use STATS, just not the “new” ones.

          The baseball men who scouted Mattingly used stats, stats like batting average and home runs and such. The baseball men who scout the players of today also use stats, stats like wOBA and EQA. Every baseball man uses stats, because stats are simply ways of quantifying what you have seen with your eye and felt in your gut.

          Your constant railing against stats is just plain silly, because nobody has ever not used some stat of some sort to explain/quantify/crystallize a player and his abilities. And the modern sabermetric revolution is simply looking at the stats that the “good baseball men” have been using for a century and asking if they effectively measure real baseball ability and performance.

          Ironically, your crusade against stats as being unable to truly capture a players effectiveness is precisely the impetus behind sabermetrics: the stats we had didn’t truly explain who was good and who was bad, thus, good baseball men (including a great many of whom actually look at players and scout them with their eyes and their gut) attempted to look at the game with a more critical eye and create a new, smarter set of stats that more closely correspond with what goes on in the field.

          I understand why you would be skeptical of statistics from previous eras, but modern, sabermetric stats have fewer flaws and more accurately match up with good old fashioned scouting.

          • Eric says:

            I think I’m in love.

          • DonnieBaseballHallofFame says:

            This is the first time I think you made a post that has some merit in response to what I said.

            I use stats, everybody uses stats but my point is that JUST using stats is a crutch. It would be like if every painter did paint by numbers. It would be like if every great Chef ONLY used the same reciepes.

            Yes all good baseball men use stats. That is correct. But a true baseball man does not JUST use them. They also know that all truths are not in them.

            I have a couple of serious questions for you that is not meant to be rude or a joke in any way.

            1) When you played baseball as a kid (or if you still do as an adult), did you find statistical information of the game more interesting and rewarding than the actual play of the game? (I do not think you are a bad guy if you do, and I know people and know of people that have felt that way about many sports)

            2) When you watch a major league game do you keep a score card? Look up things on your laptop during a game in regards to the stats of said game?

            I joke about stats on here a lot because for some reason based off of my first (and it was going to be only one on the subject until it got so much response) post about Bernie being over rated (nothing about Donnie, people like you took cheap shots instead of debating the Bernie issue on Bernie alone) people acted as if I only liked Donnie because I liked him and had no basis for believing what I do in fact know.

            I am trying to understand your general feel for the game and reason and need to attack whatever I say. I swear my opinion is not important enough for all the bellyaching.

            • Eric says:

              I’m going to answer these because I feel like it, haha.

              1. Obviously not. I was playing–and now I play softball–because it’s something incredibly fun and fulfilling for me. However, when I’m outside of the game, I like to take a step back and let some objectivity blend with the subjectivity. I could watch baseball on mute, with no stats, no announcers, no graphics, whatever, for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and get the same exact enjoyment out of it. Just because I use stats to analyze the game after it’s over or after the season is over or what have you, doesn’t mean I don’t have an appreciation for the non-numerical, “organic” beauty of baseball.

              2. When I go to games, I always keep a score book. I learned how to do it when I was little watching my dad’s softball games and I think it’s a great way to stay engaged in the game. When Im’ watching fro home, I do check stats and numbers while watching the game to supplement what the announcers/graphics are telling me, or to find anything on the contrary.

              As for scouting and stats, I’d say a good argument is summed up best at the end of the BP book “Between the Numbers.” Both scouting and stats tell you tons of information about a player and can definitely inform each other. There doesn’t need to be an “either/or” approach.

              • DonnieBaseballHallofFame says:

                I appreciate your full and thought out honest answers. I appreciate that very much.

                Thank you.

                “Both scouting and stats tell you tons of information about a player and can definitely inform each other. There doesn’t need to be an “either/or” approach.”

                I agree with that 100 percent. I just think that some people tend to be too much on the other side and personally know and know of people who really do not know baseball but they know the numbers. The sort of kids who did not watch too many games but watched highlites and read the back of baseball cards (now i was glued to ESPN when it first got baseball tonight and games as a teenager, and as a lil kid I knew everybody’s stats off the back of the cards but I just did not feel that was the only way to judge how good a player was or is)

                “I could watch baseball on mute, with no stats, no announcers, no graphics” I actually prefer that if most people are the talking heads. If it is Buck and McCarver I HAVE to. The ESPNization of the game has gotten to me in the last ten years. Fox took it to a whole new level as well. Sometimes I just want guys to shut up and let me watch the game without telling me that a guy is hitting .342 with a runner on third on wednesday night games from the third inning on at home while wearing their alternitive jerseys.

                Thanks for answering my questions. Gives me a clue that there is a human guy over there that is different from me in some respects but still enjoys the same game in mostly the same way.

            • To answer your questions first,

              1) No, I didn’t find statistical information “rewarding” while playing because statistics aren’t for playing, they’re for analyzing and diagnosing. Two separate arenas.
              2) No, I don’t keep a scorecard, but yes, I often do look at stats during/after a game, or purposes of analysis and diagnosis. Again, two different arenas.

              Here’s the problem with your post, and with your larger narrative:
              I use stats, everybody uses stats but my point is that JUST using stats is a crutch.

              You accuse me, and others, of only using stats. None of us have ever claimed we only use stats, or demonstrated through our writing that we only use stats, but you constantly attribute this to us and others. In the Donnie v. Bernie discussion, you said over and over again that you actually have to watch people play and not just use stats, but I, and others arguing with you, actually saw Donnie play. Your accusation that I, or others, only use stats curiously began after we began using stats to back up our assertions that Bernie may have been a better ballplayer than Donnie.

              When I said that I witnessed, firsthand, the careers of both Donnie and Bernie, and I thought that Bernie had the better, more impressive career (including a better peak), and then gave you statistical evidence that backed up that anecdotal analysis, you immediately attacked both my adherence to stats (as nerdy, dorky, etc.) and claimed that I couldn’t possibly have watched both players and not come to the same conclusion as you, because I’m not old enough. So, your claim that I (or others) are just using stats is a bit disingenuous, I think, because you’re conflating the argument. I’ve never done what you claim I have, that is, use a wholly statistical argument, but I do use a lot of statistics, because statistics don’t contain emotion. We both watched both men’s careers firsthand, and drew two different conclusions. In situations like that, stats serve as a handy tiebreaker, as they merely state what actually happened on the field, without favor, bias, or false memory. And, the stats here favor Bernie, pretty handily BTW.

              But, rather than simply admit that Bernie was also a great player, perhaps as great as or greater than Donnie, when presented with my argument you chose to A) impugn me as unable/unworthy to comment on the Donnie v. Bernie discussion since I cited stats and thus only used stats, which isn’t what I did, and B) demean me as not old enough to have accurately accumulated anecdotal evidence, even though I did.

              That’s why I keep responding to you, and keep at it, even though I try not to: because you don’t disagree with people disagreeably. I feel differently with many of the other commenters on here on a great number of topics, but we tend not to claim analytical high ground over one another or slander/libel each other’s abilities to perceive/witness/understand what’s going on. You do, and have, on this matter. You have continually claimed that people who disagree with you somehow are too young/inexperienced/unintelligent/obsessed with stats to truly understand what’s happened and what’s going to happen.

  5. thisisthedavid says:

    Great stat.

    But I hate the internet hard at the moment!

    I m sure I aint the only one !

    bring on DEC 8th

  6. Capital T says:

    I guess this means Ransom is our new super Utility guy.

  7. Chris C. says:

    Juan Pierre? Are you kidding? His basestealing is NOT an asset!

    Over the past 4 seasons, he’s averaged a .327 OBP. For a guy who has a career .300 BA, that’s aweful.
    He also has a career SB% of 66%, which is even worse. Anything lower than 75%, and you’re hurting your team by attempting to steal.

    So Pierre doesn’t work a count, doesn’t draw walks, doesn’t hit for hit for power, and gets thrown out trying to steal 1 out of every 3 tries. That means as low as his OBP already is, he actually erases himself even more from the basepaths by being a low percentge base swiper.

    This is why Juan Pierre is on the bench.

  8. Eric says:

    Looking at the data quickly, there seems to be an almost direct correlation between wOBA and RC/27.

  9. E-ROC says:

    Uh, where do you find the league average of any statistic?

  10. Matt says:

    Oh, I realize this isn’t an open thread, but what would everyone think about trading for Eric Byrnes?

  11. Mike A. says:

    ZOMG y did thye sell Rasner to China if he led teh team in this new stat i just learned about!?!?! $man is teh suck!!111!!

  12. Jamal G. says:

    Wait, this is new?

    • Eric says:

      I definitely remember hearing about it a few months ago but I think now that fangraphs is adding it to their repertoire it’s going to gain some popularity.

    • steve (different one) says:

      SG used it a while back to do an analysis of how the Yankees hit with RISP.

      i’ll give you a hint: someone we think is the suckiest suck who ever sucked, looked pretty good according to wOBA.

  13. Heck says:

    Michael Lewis wrote “Moneyball”…

  14. [...] player, but those of us unafraid of funny acronyms and spreadsheets point to his sky high wOBA (.383 career), EqA (.301) and VORP (37.4) and say “hey, this dude is a really good [...]

  15. [...] aggregate output during the dormant winter months. This winter in particular we saw the introduction of another useful statistic, and a reminder of a more efficient way to judge pitcher [...]

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