Advanced Baseball Statistics
MLB Advanced Statistics
Baseball is the oldest sport in America. The league was founded in 1869, just four years after the Civil War ended. The game has changed drastically since that time and has gone through many different eras. The dawn of computers and the internet age has changed baseball more than any other sport. In baseball, advanced metrics have changed America’s Pastime over the past decade.
The game, more than any other sport can be explained using different statistical analysis. Other sports are starting to catch up, but baseball has indeed led the way with analytics. Not only are these statistics valuable to handicappers when betting baseball, but front offices and managers around baseball have taken an interest as well.
The elite minds of the game use them on a daily basis for talent evaluation and batter vs. pitcher matchups and vice versa. Those who bet baseball regularly are at a severe disadvantage if they don’t understand and utilize advanced statistics.
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FIP & SIERA In MLB Baseball
FIP and SIERA are advanced pitching statistics. They both go much deeper than ERA (Earned Run Average) when it comes to analyzing a pitcher’s performance. We will briefly go over each advanced metric and how bettors can use these to look for plus matchups in the betting lines when evaluating pitching.
Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP)
FIP stands for Fielding Independent Pitching. It’s one of the most popular stats on FanGraphs.com, a site we’ll mention quite a bit in this article. Here’s the FanGraphs’ page for FIP. You can view the mathematical formula for FIP on that page, but that isn’t necessary to understand the metric. FIP measures what a pitcher’s ERA would like if a pitcher had a league average results on balls battled into play and league average defense behind him.
One of the main issues with ERA is that it doesn’t take into account other factors. FIP measures what pitchers can control on their own, which is walks, hit by pitches, home runs, and strikeouts. Often, pitcher’s ERA and FIP will be vastly different. Understanding FIP is pretty straightforward if you have a basic understanding of ERA. FIP is measured on a similar scale. Again, borrowing from FanGraphs, here’s a chart that estimates ranges for FIP:
FIP vs ERA – Baseball Betting Odds Analysis
As you can see, FIP ranges are remarkably similar to ERA. How can we use FIP and ERA in when analyzing betting odds? Well, it can help us predict if a pitcher is not pitching well or if he’s likely running into some bad luck. For instance, if a pitcher has an ERA of 4.50 that season, but his FIP on the year is at 3.40, we can likely assume that he’s had a bad run of luck so far. The same can be said for a pitcher that has an ERA in the 3.40 range, but has a FIP of 4.40. We can guess that this pitcher is likely due for some regression.
FIP isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t account for other factors like ballpark or weather conditions but is a metric that is much more advanced than ERA. Bettors can use it to spot value in the lines with pitching where many others with miss out.
Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average – Advanced Baseball Metrics
SIERA stands for Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average is another advanced stat that measures pitching. SIERA builds on FIP and xFIP by taking a deeper look at what makes pitchers better.
“SIERA tells us more about the how and why of pitching.”
In terms of being predictive, SIERA seems to have the edge over other pitching metrics. Strikeouts are highly valued, and walks don’t hurt pitchers too much provided they don’t walk too many hitters. Like FIP, SIERA is on a scale similar to ERA, once again we’ll borrow FanGraphs’ table to show the ranges of awful to excellent.
SIERA can be used in the same way that we utilized FIP. If a pitcher has an ERA of 2.90 but has a SIERA of 4.20, we can expect regression. Likewise, if a pitcher has an ERA of 4.50 but has a SIERA of 3.25, we can guess that he may bounce back. Of course, similar to FIP, SIERA is relative to other factors, such as the ballpark, weather, etc. The sample size is also important, for both FIP and SIERA. Looking at a pitcher’s track record in addition to his in-season stats is important.
If the pitcher has been in the league for a few years, you will have a great baseline to judge his ERA and level of talent. For rookie pitchers or those with a smaller sample size, it can be tougher to gauge their numbers. It’s probably best to wait till 10-12 starts to draw any conclusions, but there are other factors to consider as well.
MLB Baseball Stats – Weighted On-Base Average
After a crash course on the best pitching metrics, we move onto one of the key offensive stats. Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) is one of the most popular offensive statistics in the game today. Again, FanGraphs provides us with an analysis on their wOBA page.
wOBA comes through where many other statistics fail and is the best metrics to determine the value of a player in terms of run production. wOBA is quite similar to OPS in terms of determining a player’s overall offensive value. However, OPS doesn’t value getting on base enough compared to hitting for power and is outdated in the way it values extra base hits. Like other metrics, wOBA’s scale is similar to on-base percentage. Take yet another look at FanGraphs’ chart below:
These numbers are nearly identical to the scale of OBP. Since that scale is familiar to most baseball bettors, wOBA immediately becomes easier to comprehend. wOBA can be used to evaluate an offense versus a pitcher and vice-versa. Splits are of particular importance when using wOBA. Major League hitters, for the most part, hit the opposite of their batting stance. Righty batters hit lefty pitchers better than right-handed pitchers, and lefty batters hit righty pitchers better than left-handed pitchers. Using FanGraphs tools, we can narrow down individual players’ and teams’ effectiveness against left-handed or right-handed pitching. We can do the same for pitchers that are facing a lineup.
Batter vs Pitcher Baseball Stats
For example, if a team or group of hitters has a .350 or better wOBA vs. right-handed pitching, you might give them a bump. Similarly, if a pitcher has wOBA against vs. right-handed batters of .330 or lower, that starter may be worth considering against a right-handed heavy lineup. You get the idea. Much of the betting line on a baseball game is weighted by the starting pitcher, a factor that should be highly considered by bettors. wOBA works right into this and is an excellent way to break down pitching and hitting matchups further than the traditional stats that most others use.
Ground Ball To Fly Ball Ratio (GB/FB) – Baseball Metric
The more a player hits the ball in the air, the more home runs he will hit. This seems obvious when plainly stated, but it is something that many bettors fail to take into consideration when evaluating team versus pitcher matchups. Not only is the data not heavily utilized by the oddsmakers, but it can be helpful to all kinds of baseball markets, not just sides and totals. Player props and team props are excellent markets to attack using individualized stats like ground ball to fly ball ratio.
When it comes to batters, we want to target those with low ground ball to fly ball ratio. Fly ball batters are basically the filet mignon of hitters. They dominate every type of pitcher, especially ground ball pitchers, but they perform well against both fly ball pitchers and those who would fall into the neutral category.
G/B To F/B Ratio And Power Production
One of the best aspects of GB/FB ratio is that is highly predictable and coincides with power production. Since it measures the rate of ground balls to fly balls hit into play, we can correctly assume that batters who hit more fly balls will hit for more power. Ground ball to fly ball ratio is a statistic that begins to normalize rather quickly. Several hundred at bats should give us a fairly decent idea where a hitter stands when it comes to power numbers.
Anything under 1.00 when comes to GB/FB rate is impressive. Most of these players will have fairly decent power numbers. However, there may be instances where fly balls may not correlate with power or home run production, depending on the hitter’s rawer power numbers. If you take a look at the leaders in GB/FB ratio, there is no doubt that you will see a list of elite players at the top of that list. However, it’s important to note that not every player with strong GB/FB ratio is an elite talent.
Advanced Baseball Metrics – Putting The Puzzle Together
As with all statistics in baseball, they usually tell just one piece of the larger puzzle. GB/FB rate is an excellent resource and one that most bettors are not considering. However, it is best utilized in conjunction with other data. We can also use GB/FB data to evaluate pitchers. Ground balls to fly balls allowed for pitchers measures the rate of ground balls hit off a pitcher compared to fly balls he’s given up. Compared to GB/FB ratio for hitters, the higher the ratio, the better the pitcher is at inducing ground balls.
Pitchers that have little ability to strike out hitters won’t likely have a strong GB/FB rate. Even though they may be inducing a lot more ground balls when compared to balls put into play, their inability to produce strikeouts will still manufacture a noteworthy number of fly balls. Pitchers who rely on cutters, sinkers and curveballs usually produce more ground balls. Those Pitchers who rely more on fastballs and sliders typically produce more fly balls. Those with the highest rates of ground balls compared to fly balls will be the toughest matchups for opposing offenses.
Fly Ball Hitters vs Ground Ball Pitchers Baseball Metrics
As I mentioned above, fly ball hitters can have success against any type of pitcher, but it gets a bit more difficult when we have ground ball hitters facing ground ball pitchers. Even those who are middle of the road hitters when it comes FB/GB ratio will have a tough time facing a pitcher who specializes in ground balls and/or strikeouts. However, hitters that are more prone to hitting ground balls will have a better chance against most fly ball pitchers. Their chances of getting the ball into the air and out of the park increase significantly when facing a fly ball pitcher compared to one who induces a lot of ground balls.
We can go deeper into the numbers here and pull out more advanced statistics, but the bottom-line here is that players or teams that hit the ball into the air often are going to offer more offensive production than others. As far as pitchers, they benefit from facing lineups with ground ball hitters compared to fly ball hitters.
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Advanced Baseball Statistics – In Summary
The above stats are an excellent starting point to begin looking at baseball’s advanced metrics. They’re valuable for almost all MLB markets, including straight wagers on sides and MLB totals, but also team totals, MLB team props, and player props. Using archaic stats like ERA and batting average is not the way to gain an advantage against the bookmakers. These statistics, while still widely used and valued, are deeply flawed compared to today’s advanced metrics.
The above statistics and explanations are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other advanced stats for measuring defense, pitching and hitting that you can use in order to decide what type of baseball bets best represents the edge from which you can profit.
Bettors don’t need to be a baseball expert to start utilizing these statistics. They just need a basic understanding to start seeing some results in their handicapping. As always, these statistics are excellent tools, but that doesn’t mean they’re a substitute for line shopping. Use them in conjunction with your normal handicapping routine. Don’t settle for a bad price just because the advanced stats point to a strong matchup.