Why Advanced Metrics Are the Future of Baseball

The MLB is constantly evolving and growing, we started off with home runs being a rarity in the deadball era, to everyone hitting longballs. Sports are constantly changing as humanity does. With new innovations come new technology, and with new tech comes new stats in baseball. These stats can seem complex and full of crap, with these stats starting to replace the traditional batting average, home run, and RBI format we’ve been accustomed to our whole life. I remember my ways of projecting players were through by estimating how many home runs they’d hit, their batting average, and their RBIs because for me those seemed like the best stat. This philosophy is flawed though, and by studying the beautiful game that is baseball, I’ve thrown away batting average, win-loss record, RBIs, and other traditional stats in favor of advanced metrics: and you should too.

Which Stats Are Outdated?

Stats Win-Loss records used to matter a ton, but why exactly should they matter?  Can you as a pitcher control how well your team’s hitters can do? These should be seen as team stats, not stats to determine how good a player is. An example is in 2019 with Domingo German winning 18 games, which is better than Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Charlie Morton, and Clayton Kershaw, despite all of them performing much better. Wins don’t always equal good, and if you want to measure their contribution to winning, use Fangraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) as a value system for players.

RBIs and Batting Average are also stats that are really outdated. Runs Batted In can fluctuate depending on how often runners are on base, which is a factor outside of a batter’s control. Batting Average is a stat that doesn’t even factor walks or hit by pitches and doesn’t differentiate between a dinger and single. For people interested in easier stats to understand, OBP is better than Batting Average, and SLG is better than using just home runs and RBIs. wRC+ is also a fantastic stat that’s easy to understand, with 100 being average and anything above being something like 110, meaning 10% above average or 90, meaning 10% below average.

Letting Go of the Past

Yes, you grew up on these stats, and they look like things that you should value because of the clutch or counting hits, but ask yourself this: If you gave Mike Trout 100 PAs in October, do you think anything would change? Studies show that given enough opportunities a player will succeed in the postseason, so they won’t perform too high or low from their norm barring a hot streak in October. Getting RBIs isn’t impressive, Albert Pujols drove in 101 runs with a 77 wRC+, meaning he was 23% below average.

These are relics of our past, and we should let go of them, just like we should let go of things like the Triple Crown. Don’t believe me? Well let’s look at why it’s overrated:

Player A:
.326/.399/.564, 30 HR, 49 SB, 167 wRC+, .409 wOBA, 21 DRS, 13.1 UZR/150, 10.1 fWAR

Player B:
.330/.393/.606, 44 HR, 4 SB, 166 wRC+, .417 wOBA, -4 DRS, -1.8 UZR/150, 7.3 fWAR

Out of the 10 stats listed there, Player A won 6 of those 10 stats and was arguably on par offensively with similar wOBA and wRC+ totals, but much better speed and insane defensive abilities. Player A was Mike Trout, and Player B was Triple Crown-winning Miguel Cabrera, both in 2012. Somehow Trout didn’t win MVP, and it was because of the triple crown. See how it doesn’t reflect a player’s overall abilities though? See how it was outdated and flat out deceiving? Traditional stats are outdated and most of them have lost their place in baseball.

What About the “Eye test”?

Let me quote Aristotle for how I feel about the Eye Test that is often referred to by people who are faced with advanced metrics that they don’t like: “our senses can be trusted but they can be easily fooled”. This means that while yes Derek Jeter did make that flip play, it doesn’t mean he was as great of a defender as it seems. One of the worst DRS totals ever belongs to the captain, but your eyes would tell you he looked great defensively. that’s because looks are deceiving and while advanced metrics aren’t a substitution for watching baseball, it’s a way of quantifying objectively what you’re seeing.

Advanced Metrics aren’t ruining baseball, they’re what GMs use to not give Manny Machado $30 million a year for 10 years but instead give DJ LeMahieu $12 million for 2. I’m pretty sure Yankee fans are quite happy they saved $18 million dollars on a 3rd baseman with worse numbers offensively than Gio Urshela (even a lower fWAR per 150 games). It’s what helps the Rays win 96 games, with low payrolls.

Do you know what traditional stats get you? It gets you trading Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows for Chris Archer, forcing Sonny Gray to throw pitches he doesn’t want to throw (thanks a lot Rothschild), and it gets you Chris Davis’ and Jacoby Ellsbury’s nightmare deals.

These numbers are for the best, and if you want to love baseball and truly understand it then open up to new stats and knowledge and don’t push it away because it does not always agree with you.