2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit

Fantasy Baseball Sabermetric Statistics: Quick Math


Fantasy Baseball, more than any other sport, makes use of advanced statistics to determine player value. 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 wOBA being thrown around. For new players, seeing stats on top of stats can be overwhelming.

Knowing what the stats are is one thing, applying them is a whole other ballgame. 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. You will find that some players will defy the logic behind these stats. Overall, 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 around .300, and many use BABIP as a measure of future batting average regression.

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 fall 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. Owners need to be careful not to compare a player’s BABIP directly to the league average, but ot their own career numbers. If their BABIP is significantly higher or lower than their career average, regression to the mean can be expected.
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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) %
  • HR/FB %
  • 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. Speedy players like Jose Altuve and Dee Gordon will hit a higher percentage of ground balls and use their wheels to get on base. Billy Hamilton is a good example in the other direction. Hamilton is probably the fastest player in baseball, but struggles to get on base due to a lack of ground balls. Hamilton has gone through stretches of decent hitting when he puts the ball on the ground more often.

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% are the best indicators of quality balls in play.

HR/FB is the percentage of a fly balls that become home runs. It is a stat I use a lot to determine whether a player’s power outburst is a fluke or a breakthrough. Similar to BABIP, you want to compare this number to a player’s career average, rather than the league average of 13.7%. If a player’s HR/FB suddenly jumps from 15% to 23% it could be a sign of luck or a change in approach. To determine which it is, owners can compare a player’s FB% and quality of contact to previous seasons. If FB% and hard hit% have increased as well, it could be a sign of a legitimate power breakout.
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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 the league average OBP. Therefore, 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.

A wRC+ of 100 indicates a league average score. 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. 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. Defensive performance and luck heavily influence a pitcher’s BABIP. Therefore, pitchers that have a high BABIP may be a victim of poor defense or bad luck.

Over the course of a season, the average pitcher BABIP is around .300. A higher than average BABIP, will result in an inflated .AVG against, despite the same quality of pitching.

Most pitchers have a full-season BABIP of around .290-to-.310. If a pitcher is carrying an abnormal BABIP compared to their career average, expect some regression to the mean over the remainder of the season.
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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 the ability to strike people out will deal with fewer balls in play and are not at the mercy of BABIP.

Owners will also come across K% and BB% when during pitcher analysis. They are similar to K/9 and BB/9 but they measure the number of strikeouts and walks as a percentage of the total number of batters faced.

Left on-Base Percentage (LOB%)

The LOB% is the percentage of his own batters that a pitcher leaves stranded over the course of a season. It can also be considered a “luck” stat as the total number of runners LOB depends on defense as well. LOB% can be a good indication of performance sustainability when compared to the pitcher’s career average

Diamondback’s pitcher Robbie Ray is a good example of how LOB% can effect a pitcher’s ratios. In 2016, Ray had a LOB% of 68% with an ERA of 4.90. In 2017, Ray’s 84.5% LOB percentage (among other things) led to a 2.89 ERA.

LOB% and BABIP are good benchmarks to determine if a breakout performance can continue.

2018 Fantasy Baseball Position Previews
CatcherFirst BaseSecond BaseThird BaseShortstopOutfieldStarting PitcherRelief PItcher

Check out the rest of our great Fantasy Baseball content as the 2018 season approaches.

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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