There are many things to like about baseball: the nice spring weather, the relaxed pace of the game, the family-friendly atmosphere and many other things. Statistics are one of the things to love about baseball, as baseball is chock-full of them (a stat junkie’s paradise). Through the use of statistics, people are always trying to predict what will happen next in baseball; the obsession with statistics in turn created fantasy baseball.
While many in today’s era use statistics mostly for fantasy baseball purposes, I believe they can also be used to judge a player’s value to his team. For years, I have debated with fans who were adamant that Ozzie Smith did not belong in the Hall of Fame (they believed he lacked the bat); I pointed out that although he will never be mistaken for Ty Cobb, Smith was a much better offensive player than he was generally given credit for.
Rather than waiting for somebody to produce a statistic that would measure the “small ball” or “inside baseball” efficiency of a player, I took the liberty to create such a statistic. Displayed below is the formula for my Inside Baseball Rating.
The formula (pictured above) displays a player’s efficiency via hits (that are NOT home runs) along with steals, sacrifice hits, sacrifice flies, walks and hit-by-pitches in plate appearances that did not result in home runs. I created this formula with the belief that every base-reaching or runner-advancing action contributes to a team’s success and its probability in scoring runs. My formula does not take into account a hitter reaching base via error (nor should it). My formula also punishes players for striking out and being caught stealing.
After creating the formula, I then decided to research the career numbers of a handful of players whose names randomly popped into my head from different eras. Here are the results of said research:
.367 (Tony Gwynn)
.352 (Tim Raines)
.348 (Wade Boggs)
.346 (Rickey Henderson)
.340 (Ozzie Smith)
.316 (Ichiro Suzuki)
.306 (Dustin Pedroia)
.300 (Albert Pujols)
.281 (Don Mattingly)
.256 (Sean Casey)
.255 (Chipper Jones)
.250 (Derek Jeter)
.246 (Jimmy Rollins)
.168 (Kirk Gibson)
.056 (Adam Dunn)
.042 (Ryan Howard)
In all honesty, I was surprised to see Smith score as highly as he did with my formula. I always considered Smith to be a very underrated offensive player; however, I never expected his IB Rating to be higher than the likes of Ichiro Suzuki or Albert Pujols. I was also under the impression that Derek Jeter and Kirk Gibson would have higher IB Ratings than they actually scored.
I expected low IB Ratings from sluggers like Dunn and Howard, but nowhere nearly as low as their actual marks. The low numbers by Dunn and Howard make the .300 IB Rating by slugger Albert Pujols all the more impressive!
I expected a higher IB Rating from my favorite player (Sean Casey). Casey was a career .302 hitter who did not strike out much in his career. To say that I was surprised by how high or low some of these IB ratings were by specific players would be a great understatement. I would like to take this opportunity to remind my readers that a low IB Rating does not mean that a player is a waste of a spot in the offensive lineup; a low IB Rating merely means that player has not done enough of the positive things and/or done too much of the negative things that affect his rating. No matter how poor a player’s IB Rating may be, sluggers like Dunn and Howard will always be needed in baseball.
Does my formula have merit in the baseball world? That is not for me to decide; however, I like to believe it does have merit. I believe that my formula may help teams figure out which players they want in the 1-2-3 and 6-7-8 slots in their batting orders (leave the fourth and fifth slots to the sluggers). I believe that a team who stacks the top third and bottom third of their order with as many players as possible with high IB Ratings will have a greater chance of creating chaos for opposing defenses and producing runs on a more frequent basis.
My rating may not indicate who the best hitters or base-runners are. I believe they indicate who the most complete offensive players are when they are not striking out or hitting home runs, hence the title “Inside Baseball Rating.” Gwynn’s IB Rating was aided by his very high level of productivity as a contact hitter (and his refusal to strike out). Smith’s IB Rating was aided by not only his stolen bases, but his many sacrifices as a hitter.
The IB Rating might not be the most useful tool for you in fantasy baseball leagues, but I like to believe it may help a team win a World Series.