There are a lot of new world stats floating around baseball.
Some are minutia and would require a degree in Advanced Nerdology to understand and appreciate them.
Some are downright silly. Like WAR, what is it good for, absolutely nothing. WAR is a well-meaning but totally misguided attempt to codify a player into a single number by means of comparison. WAR has a million problems, chief among them is that every organization has its own equation for figuring out its WAR. Imagine if everyone had a different calculation for batting average, or what an RBI was. That’s why WAR stands for Worthless Ass Research.
But one of the better sabermetric stats that has real meaning is OPS. On-base percentage plus slugging percentage. It is the best statistic to evaluate the total hitter by.
OPS is relatively new so it might not be second nature to you yet. Like a foreign language you’re just picking up, it’s one of those things you have to look at and roll around in your head and try to decipher its meaning.
Hopefully this will help.
As I said, OPS is a hitter’s on-base percentage combined with his slugging percentage. So, naturally, the upper end of this stat identifies the cream of the crop hitters. Not just guys who get on base, and not just power hitters, but guys who are real difference makers.
The highest possible OPS would be 5.000. That’s because the highest OBP anyone could possibly have is 1.000. That’s if you got on base every single time. And the highest slugging percentage anyone could have is 4.000. Slugging percentage is total bases per at-bat. So, the most total bases you could get in one at-bat is four if you hit a home run, and if you hit a home run every time, your slugging percentage would be 4.000.
For reference, the highest all-time career OPS belongs to Babe Ruth at 1.167.
Here is a quick way to interpret OPS.
Elite: Anything 1.000 or higher.
Think elite of the elite. Only seven players in MLB history have had a career OPS over 1.000: Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Barry Bonds’s chemist, Jimmy Foxx, Hank Greenberg, and Rogers Horsby. Last season only one player had an OPS of over 1.000: David Ortiz with 1.021. In the past seven seasons, an OPS of 1.000 or better has happened just twelve times: Ortiz in ‘16; Harper, Goldschmidt and Votto in ’15; Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis in ’13; Bautista and Cabrera in ’11; Hamilton, Cabrera, Votto and Pujols in ’10;
Great: .9000 to .999.
This is mere hall of famer range. Hank Aaron and Willie Mays had career OPSs in the high .9000s. That’s where Mike Trout lives. Thirteen hitters had an OPS in this range in 2016: Trout, Daniel Murphy, Votto, Freeman, Cabrera, Donaldson, Bryant, Blackmon, Arenado, Rizzo, Altuve, Cruz, LeMahieu, J. D. Martinez and Braun.
Very Good: .850 to .899.
This is all-star level. In 2016, players with an OPS at .850-plus included Goldsmidt, Cano, Matt Carpenter and Machado. Two Rangers had an OPS in this range: Beltre (.879) and Lucroy (.855). Beltran was an 850er as well, but he’s not a Ranger now nor was he one for long nor was his OPS 850-plus with the Rangers.
Good: .800 to .849.
Elvis Andrus finished at .800. Others in this class were Carlos Carrea, Kipnis, Harper, Springer and Bautista.
Average: .750 to .799.
Odor was at .798 in 2016. Desmond .782. Others in this range were Justin Upton, Adam Eaton, Eric Hosmer and Adrian Gonzalez.
Below average: .700 to .749.
For Rangers in 2016, think Mazara (.739) and Moreland (.720). For reference, think Nick Markakis, Chase Headley, Jack Cozart. Moreland, by the way, had the lowest OPS of all Rangers with enough at-bats to qualify.
Bench player: Below .700.
Fourth outfielder, utility guy range. No Ranger with enough at-bats to qualify ended up here, but Profar’s OPS was .660, DeShields’s was .588. Gallo’s was .360, just barely nudging out Cole Hamels at .250.
Yu Darvish, by the way, was 1.667.
Just 499 at-bats more at-bats to qualify and Darvish would have beat Ortiz for the MLB OPS title.