What Is OPS in Baseball

What Is OPS in Baseball?

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Hitting a baseball requires a countless number of discrete skills, from strength and agility to patience and perfect eyesight. Some players are better at hitting home runs, some excel at slapping singles, and others are best at drawing walks. Since there are so many ways for a baseball player to be good at hitting, fans are always trying to find new ways to boil down all those skills into a single comprehensive offensive statistic. One such statistic is OPS.

So, what is OPS in baseball? OPS stands for “on-base plus slugging.” More specifically, it refers to a player’s on-base percentage added to his slugging percentage. It is a broad statistic, meant to sum up a player’s overall contributions at the plate.

OPS measures the two most important things a batter can do: reach base safely and hit for power. Because it measures both skills in one metric, it is considered a comprehensive offensive stat, and it can be used to evaluate a player’s total offensive skill set.

What Does OPS Stand For?

Technically, the initials “OPS” stand for “on-base plus slugging,” but more accurately, OPS means “on-base percentage plus slugging percentage.” However, OBPPSP doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. 

What Is OBP in Baseball?

OBP stands for on-base percentage. It is a statistic that measures how often a player reaches base safely as a percentage of that player’s total number of chances to get on base.

OBP acknowledges three ways of reaching base: a hit, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch. The sum of these three stats is the numerator of OBP. Meanwhile, every time a hitter comes to the plate is considered a chance to get on base, unless the batter (a) records a sacrifice bunt or (b) is awarded first base due to defensive interference/obstruction. The sum of these plate appearances is the denominator of OBP.

Therefore, the formula for OBP looks like this:

  • On-Base Percentage = (Hits + Walks + Hit-by-Pitches) / (At-Bats + Walks + Hit-by-Pitches + Sacrifice Flies)

Or, in its short form:

  • OBP = (H + BB + HBP) / (AB + BB + HBP + SF)

What Is SLG in Baseball?

SLG is a short form for slugging percentage, a statistic used to measure a baseball player’s power hitting. Slugging percentage is a weighted statistic, which means that the more bases a player covers on a hit, the more credit he gets. In other words, a player gets more credit for a double than a single, more credit for a triple than a double, and more credit for a home run than anything else.

To calculate the numerator of SLG, you must add up the total number of bases a hitter reached on all of their hits. That means a single is worth one base, a double is worth two bases, a triple is worth three bases, and a home run is worth four bases. The sum of these numbers is referred to as “total bases.”

  • Total Bases = (1 x Singles) + (2 x Doubles) + (3 x Triples)  + (4 x Home Runs)

The denominator for slugging percentage is a player’s total number of chances to get a hit. This includes all plate appearances except for those ending in walks, hit-by-pitches, interference/obstruction, and sacrifices. This number is called “at-bats.”

Therefore, the formula for SLG looks like this:

  • Slugging Percentage = Total Bases / At-Bats

Or, in its short form:

  • SLG = TB/AB

OBP vs. SLG in Baseball

Both OBP and SLG are useful statistics, but they measure different things. OBP tells fans how good a player is at reaching base and avoiding outs, while SLG sums up a player’s ability to do damage when he puts the ball in play.

However, most experts agree that OBP is the better of the two stats. This is because avoiding outs is the most important thing a batter can do. The marginal value of reaching base as opposed to getting out is much higher than the marginal value of an extra-base hit over a single.

How Do You Calculate OPS?

There are two different methods to calculate OPS, both of which lead to the same answer. The first method is to calculate on-base percentage (OBP) and slugging percentage (SLG) separately before adding them together. Here is what the formula looks like for that method:

  • OBP = (Hits + Walks + Hit-by-Pitches) / (At-Bats + Walks + Hit-by-Pitches + Sacrifice Flies)
  • SLG = Total Bases / At-Bats
  • OPS = OBP + SLG

The second method combines those separate steps into a single equation. Although this method uses only one equation, it is more complicated because it requires you to combine two equations with different denominators into one calculation:

  • On-Base Plus Slugging  = (At-Bats x (Hits + Walks + Hit-by-Pitches)) + (Total Bases x (At-Bats + Walks + Sacrifice Flies + Hit-by-Pitches)) / (At-Bats x (At-Bats + Walks + Sacrifice Flies + Hit-by-Pitches))

Using the short forms for each statistic in the equation, it looks like this:

  • OPS = (AB x (H + BB + HBP)) + (TB x (AB + BB + SF + HBP)) / (AB x (AB + BB + SF + HBP))

Is OPS a Good Stat?

Yes, OPS is a good stat, even if it is not perfect. It is safe to say that players with a high OPS are good hitters and players with a low OPS are poor hitters. Therefore, OPS accomplishes what the main task it sets out to achieve.

OPS is also relatively straightforward to understand and calculate. While other, more complicated stats might be more accurate and have more predictive value, OPS is uniquely useful because it is so easy to comprehend.

That said, OPS has its limitations, and there are a few considerations to keep in mind when using OPS to evaluate players.

First of all, the statistical inputs of OPS are not weighted accurately. Namely, OPS overvalues hits (because they are included in both OBP and SLG) and undervalues walks and hit-by-pitches (because they are only included in OBP). In addition, the standard deviation of SLG is usually bigger than the standard deviation of OBP, so a high or low SLG can have a larger influence on OPS than a high or low OBP.

Secondly, OPS is not adjusted for stadium or time period. Some ballparks are more hitter-friendly, while others are more pitcher-friendly. In other words, it is easier to hit in some stadiums than others, but OPS does not reflect this. Similarly, the average hitter has better stats in some seasons than others, but OPS does not adjust for season-to-season variance.

Finally, OPS is only useful in a large enough sample size. When a player has only taken a few at-bats, his OPS can swing wildly every time he gets a hit or makes an out. OPS becomes more and more useful for evaluating players with the more playing time they accumulate.

What Is a Good OPS in Baseball?

In general, a good OPS is around .800. In any given season, the league average usually ranges from .700 to .750, so a player with an .800 OPS will be comfortably better than average. Building on that point, an OPS above .900 is excellent, while an OPS above .1000 is elite.

However, it is important to remember that what counts as a good OPS varies from year to year and from stadium to stadium, because OPS does not adjust for era or ballpark.

For example, in 2004, the league average OPS was .763. Just ten years later, in 2014, the league average OPS was a mere .700. A hitter with a .750 OPS would have been above average in 2014 but below average in 2004.

Meanwhile, over the last ten years, the league average OPS at Coor Field in Colorado was .833, while the league average OPS at T-Mobile Park in Seattle was .698. Needless to say, that’s a huge difference.

Is a .750 OPS Good in Baseball?

As a general rule, a .750 OPS is right around average. Therefore, a player with a .750 OPS is probably an average hitter.

However, it is important to remember that a hitter with a .750 OPS at T-Mobile Park is probably a much better hitter than one with a .750 OPS at Coors Field. Similarly, a player with a .750 OPS would have been a much better hitter in 2014 than in 2004.

Who Has the Highest OPS in Baseball?

The all-time MLB leader in OPS is none other than Babe Ruth, who finished his incredible career with a 1.164 OPS. He is one of only seven qualified AL or NL players to finish with an OPS over 1.000.

However, another hitter in major league history has a higher OPS than even Ruth: Josh Gibson, who posted a 1.178 OPS in his professional career. Gibson played for the Memphis Red Sox, Homestead Grays, and Pittsburgh Crawfords in the Negro leagues from 1930-39 and again from 1942-46.

Gibson passed away before the integration of the major leagues in 1947, but when MLB officially designated the Negro leagues as major leagues in 2020, he retroactively become the all-time career leader in OPS.

Gibson also holds the record for the highest OPS in a single season, with a 1.474 OPS in 1937. However, he only took 182 plate appearances that year. The player with the highest single-season OPS (min. 502 plate appearances, the modern-day requirement for qualification) is Barry Bonds, who had a 1.422 OPS in 2004. Before Bonds, Ruth held the record for over 80 years.

Related Questions

What Is OPS+ in Baseball?

OPS+ is a more advanced version of OPS that adjusts for stadium effects and era. That means it is more helpful for comparing hitters who played in different ballparks and different time periods.

OPS+ is designed so that the league average is always 100. Therefore, a player with an OPS+ above 100 is better than the average hitter, while a player with an OPS+ below 100 is worse than the average hitter.

What Is wRC+ in Baseball?

wRC+ is an even more advanced version of OPS+. Like OPS+, it is adjusted for stadium effects and era, so that 100 is always the league average. However, the input data (i.e. hits, walks, total bases, etc.) are weighted more accurately.

Instead of using round, whole numbers, the weight of each input is calculated using a complex formula that estimates the relative run expectancy value of each event. In other words, wRC+ provides a more accurate representation of how many runs a player contributed with his bat.

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