What Does OPS Mean in Baseball?

Last updated on December 20th, 2023 at 05:01 pm

OPS (on-base plus slugging) measures two things. First, it calculates how often a player gets on base via hits and walks. Second, it measures what type of hit that the baseball player got at the plate. This formula expands upon batting average since batting average does not factor in walks or hits by pitches. Along with that, batting average gives the same value of a single and a home run, which shouldn’t be the case.

For example, let’s say that a baseball player came up to bat four times in a game. They walked once, and they got one single, so they got on base two out of 4 plate appearances. The OBP formula counts the at bats (4) with the HBP (1) to make 5, so the OBP comes out to .400 since you need to take two out of five. Thier slugging for the game would be .250 since it is one base hit out of 4 at bats. Add the two together and you get an OPS of .650.

Next, let’s take another baseball player that had the similar stats, but instead of a single, they had a triple. Therefore, their OPS would be (On base = 2/5 times (.400) + Slg 3 single base hits out of 4 at bats (.750) means their OPS would be 1.15.

What is OPS in Baseball? Why I Think it has Flaws

OPS stands for On Base + Slugging Percentage for a baseball hitter. The idea is to put a number behind the quality of their hits along with giving them a benefit to getting on base via walks. The formula also factors in sacrifice flies. However, I personally feel that this stat has gone a bit too far in evaluating baseball hitters. For example, batting average for a player seems to be not as important as their OPS. In this video example, I share a basic review as to why ONLY looking at OPS will miss the big picture of what a player is able to do at the plate via their batting average. https://thestadiumreviews.com/blogs/info/what-does-ops-mean-in-baseball/

When I look at OPS, I like to combine it with the batting average for a hitter. For example, Yandy Diaz in 2023 had a .3330 batting average and an OPS of .932. That batting average means that Yandy Diaz gets on base successfully via a hit one out of three times, and the quality of getting on base is singles, doubles, triples, and home runs. When you add in his walks, Yandy had a great season at the plate.

The problem that I see with OPS is that too many people only look at that stat. For example, when you only sort a player’s numbers by OPS, you might overlook the batting average. Therefore, you might see a player that gets on base via walks and hits a lot of home runs. but they don’t get on base often enough via hits. Therefore, their batting average might be around .210, which is a problem, even if they have a good OPS.

In the video example above, I share what happens when you only look at OPS for a hitter. One player goes 1-4 with a homerun while the other player goes 2-4 (a single and a double) for the same game. It is a small sample size, but it helps tell the complete story as to why you need to use it as a stat line but not the only stat line.

The Formula

Let’s say a baseball player had four plate appearances in a game where they hit a homerun and walked once. Below is how you get to their OPS for that game using slugging and then on base.

OBP= (Hits + Walks + Hit by Pitches) / (At Bats + Walks + Hit by Pitches + Sacrifice Flies)

Example Player in a Game OBP: (1 Hit (homerun) + 1 walk) / (4 At bats + 1 hit by pitch + 0 sacrifice Flies) = (2/5) .400

SLG= (1*single + 2 * double + 3 * triple + 4 * homerun) / Total AB

Example of a Player in a Game via SLG: (No singles + no doubles + o triples + 1 home run) / Total AB = (4/4) 1.00

Therefore, when you add up their OBP (.400) and their SLG (1.00), they had a 1.4 OPS that game, which is excellent.

How is OPS Calculated in Baseball – More Detail

OPS is one of those statistics that depend on other statistics to make sense. To calculate On-base plus slugging, we’ll first need two statistics:

On-base percentage (OBP)

On-base percentage refers to how often a baseball player successfully gets on base out of their total at-bats. Positive stats that help raise the OBP of a baseball player are below.

• Walks
• HBP (hit by pitch)
• Base hit

Slugging average (SLG)

This stat is a rare formula that evaluates the quality of a player’s hits. For example, a player’s batting average doesn’t tell you what they hit, only that they scored a hit. SLG incorporates the quality of those hits by using the number of bases achieved as part of the calculation.

Theoretically, a player could have a slugging average of 4.000, which means a perfect ratio of home runs to at-bats. In other words, a slugging average of 4.000 occurs when a player has one at-bat and hits a home run. A SLG of 1.000 reflects hitting a single in one at-bat, and so on. The easiest way to understand this formula is that there are four bases on the diamond. If you hit a home run in one at bat, you got 4 bases out of 1 at-bat, which results in a 4.000 SLG average.

What is a Good OPS Number in Baseball?

During the 2022 MLB season, the average OPS of a player was under .700. Typically speaking, a baseball player who had a .800 or higher during the first-half of the season would be in contention for an All-Star game appearance. Anything that was .900 or better would most certainly get the starting position in the All-Star game due to how lethal they were at the plate.

To put the average OPS in 2022 into perspective, Aaron Judge, who hit over 50 home runs in 2022 and won the MLP Award, had an OPS of 1.111. Yordan Alvarez was in second place with a 1.019 OPS, and Mike Trout was in third with an OPS of .999.

Finally, a player that has an OPS of under 600 tends to be struggling at the plate. Their struggles are a combination of getting on base via walks and hitting the ball with authority.

Do Sacrifice Flies Count in OPS?

A sacrifice fly does not impact a player’s batting average, but it will lower their on-base percentage. Since on-base percentage calculates how often a player gets on base from an at-bat, hitting a sacrifice sly will count against that metric. Therefore, a sacrifice fly will count negatively against a player’s on-base percentage, which then will lower their OPS.

How is OPS Different from Batting Average?

OPS measures how often a hitter safely reaches a base via a walk and the power they have when they make contact. For example, a hitter who hits doubles and triples is more valuable than a player who only hits singles. Since walks don’t help a batting average, the On-Base part of OPS credits a hitter for getting to first via a walk.

Meanwhile, the batting average counts every hit as the same. For example, two hitters can both go 2-5 in a baseball game, which comes out to a .400 batting average. However, one of the hitters hit a double and a home run, while the other only had two singles. The batting average counts them both as the same, but the OPS (slugging part of the formula) would give more credit to the double and homerun hitter since those were more quality hits.

Are there Better Stats than OPS?

Baseball WAR tends to be a more complete metric to evaluate a player over OPS. Baseball WAR bundles in the (Wins Above Replacement) to show the value a player has against a regular backup who would play their position. Essentially, the higher the WAR, the better and more valuable you are to a team.

If you want to learn more about this stat, check out the What Does WAR Mean in Baseball article.

There is also OPS+, which takes this statistic and “normalizes” it across the league. OPS+ factors in external issues such as the ballpark in which a player was hitting. This measurement curves so that an OPS of 100 is the league average, which gives people an immediate insight into how a player’s offensive production compares to the entire league.

For this reason, a Cubs player’s statistics might look different from a Dodgers player, who might look different than a Cardinals player or a White Sox player. A player’s OPS with the “+” at the end of it seeks to even the playing field. OPS+ is significant during free agency because a player may benefit from primarily playing in a smaller ballpark where it is easier to hit home runs.

Conclusion: What Does OPS Mean in Baseball?

Overall, taking the on-base average and combining it with the slugging percentage can give insights into a player’s offensive performance. But as with any other sabermetrics in baseball, it’s not always easy to measure everything without seeing it for yourself. One of the best suggestions is to consider using OPS and combining it with additional metrics to help tell a complete picture of a baseball player’s performance.

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