2017 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit

Fantasy Baseball Sabermetric Statistics: Your Not-So-Advanced Guide to Advanced Stats

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Fantasy Baseball, more than any other sport, makes use of advanced statistics to determine player value. Prediction of future performance is based on more than just playing time or quality of teammates. If you’ve ever been in a Fantasy Baseball league, you have no doubt seen statistics like BABIP, FIP and GB% being thrown around. For new players, seeing stats on top of stats can be overwhelming.

Applying all of these measures takes time to get used to. Having to analyze players’ production in depth takes dedication, but can bring plenty of rewards for those who know what to look for. Using sabermetrics can help owners predict a who’s lucky and who can sustain their performance. Some players will defy the logic behind these stats. However, understanding how to use advanced stats will give you an advantage in your league.

This guide will give an overview of the most common sabermetric stats used by the Fantasy community. I will define each statistic and how I use it to evaluate players.

Fantasy Baseball Sabermetric Statistics

Offensive Statistics

Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP)

BABIP is the most common and most used advanced statistic used in baseball. Simply, it measures a player’s batting average on all (non-home run) balls they put in play. BABIP is commonly used as a “luck” statistic. League average BABIP is .300, therefore, players with a BABIP of .340 may be lucky and their performance may regress.

However, BABIP involves much more than just luck. In addition to luck, BABIP involves defensive performance and the talent level of the batter and pitcher.

As I mentioned earlier, some player’s skill sets will lead to a naturally higher or lower “baseline” BABIP. There are several major instances of this happening:

  1. Speedy players will naturally carry a higher BABIP, as they have the speed to beat out ground balls that other players wouldn’t.
  2. Players who hit a high percentage of fly balls will tend to have lower BABIP because:
    • Fly balls are easier outs.
    • Heavy fly ball hitters tend to hit more home runs, which do not count into BABIP calculation.
  3. Players who hit a large number of line drives will have higher BABIP as they falls for hits more often than ground balls or fly balls.

Overall, BABIP can be used to determine the overall sustainability of a batter’s performance. If their BABIP is significantly higher or lower than their career average, regression to the mean can be expected.

Batted Ball Profiles

Batted ball profiles give you an idea of the kind of contact a batter is making. A complete profile includes the following metrics:

  • Fly-ball (FB) %
  • Ground-ball (GB) %
  • Line-drive (LD) %
  • Infield-flyball (IFFB) %
  • Quality of Contact
    • Soft %
    • Medium %
    • Hard %

Generally, you want players to produce a higher LD%, as those lead to more hits and more production. A higher FB% is more favorable than a high GB% because fly-balls produce home runs.

One notable exception for this rule is with speedsters. In the 2016 season, Billy Hamilton, a player known for his speed and not much else, struggled to maintain a decent batting average because he hits a lot of fly balls and doesn’t have the power to do much damage through the air. Therefore, it was no surprise that Hamilton saw a career high batting average (and BABIP) in the second half of the season, which was accompanied by a drastic increase in his GB%.

Quality of contact statistics are incredibly useful, as they give us an idea of the kind of balls a batter is putting into play. Of course, a high hard hit percentage doesn’t automatically translate into production, but more hard hits balls generally translate into more total bases and a better batting line. Owners should use Quality of Contact stats to determine the quality of the swings batters are generating. A higher hard% and LD% mean a higher quality of balls being put into play.

One caveat owners need to consider. There is no perfect profile to predict success. Batter will find success with a variety of batted ball profiles. So don’t go trading Mike Trout because his GB% is increasing.

Weighted On Base Average (wOBA)

wOBA is one of the best all-around offensive statistics out there. It’s used to measure a hitter’s overall value, based on the relative value of each offensive outcome. wOBA takes into account that some hits are more valuable than others.

According to FanGraphs, the formula for wOBA in 2013:

wOBA = (0.690×uBB + 0.722×HBP + 0.888×1B + 1.271×2B + 1.616×3B +
2.101×HR) / (AB + BB – IBB + SF + HBP)

Moreso than OPS, wOBA gives a more comprehensive analysis of a player’s contributions to run scoring. OPS undervalues a player’s ability to get on base, while not properly weighing the value of each extra base hit. WOBA is scaled to league average OBP, so if you’re familiar with what a good OBP is, you’ll know what a good wOBA is. Typically, league average wOBA will sit around .320. 20 points of wOBA generally means an extra 10 runs above average per 600 plate appearances.

Weighted Runs Created (wRC+)

This stat measures exactly what it says: The value of a hitter based on the number of runs he creates. wRC+ is very similar to wOBA in that it is an all encompassing overview of a players prowess at the plate. It goes one step further than wOBA, in that it measures the effects of park factors on a batters performance.

It is measured on a scale where 100 is league average. Meaning a player with a wRC+ of 120 is 20 percentage points better than league average at creating runs.

Pitching Statistics

Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and xFIP

FIP measures what a pitcher’ ERA would look like if they had experienced league average fielding percentage and results on balls in play. Research by Voros McCracken revealed that pitchers have little control over balls in play, meaning that fluctuations in their ERA due to slight changes in BABIP are not attributable to the pitcher.

FIP is a direct measurement of the pitcher’s performance without the influence of defensive performance and luck, making it a more stable indicator of a pitcher’s true performance. It’s a better way of isolating a pitchers true performance than ERA. FIP isolates a pitcher’s performance based on their strikeouts, walks, hit batters and home runs allowed, things that the pitcher can directly control. FIP is a great way to measure future performance of a pitcher, rather than past performance.

xFIP is a regressed version of FIP that replaces the pitchers home run total with the total they should have given up based on the amount of fly balls they gave up. This is done by replacing their HR/FB ratio with the league average number.

Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP)

BABIP may be even more important in evaluating pitchers than evaluating batters. Once the ball leaves the bat the pitcher has little to no control over the outcome. Pitcher BABIP is heavily influenced by defense and luck. Therefore, pitchers that have a high BABIP may be a victim of poor defense or bad luck.

Over the course of a season, an average pitcher BABIP is around .300. If a pitchers BABIP is significantly higher than average, his batting average against will suffer, even if their performance is unchanged.

Most pitchers have a full-season BABIP of around .290-to-.310. If a pitcher is carrying a BABIP too far away from .300 or their carer average, expect some regression to the mean over the remainder of the season.

K/9 and BB/9

Strikeout rates and walk rates are simple stats that are incredibly helpful when evaluating a pitcher’s performance. K/9 represents the amount of strikeouts a pitcher accumulates every nine innings, while BB/9 is the amount of walks per nine innings. Of course, the goal for pitchers is to strike out more batters and walk fewer batters.

Generally, owners will want to find pitchers with a high K/BB ratio. Pitchers with more control and the ability to strike people out will be less at the mercy of BABIP as fewer people will be on base and fewer batters will put the ball into play.


Be sure to check out our Rankings, Position Preview and much more in the 2017 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit.

About Jonathan Chan

Winning fantasy leagues since 2004. Losing them for much longer. Follow Jonathan on twitter @jchan_811 and he'll be ready for all your questions!

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