MLB Betting: 4 Most Important Baseball Hitting Statistics

With the popularity of sabermetrics along with the more traditional baseball statistics, one may feel overwhelmed when analyzing MLB players (batters) due to the vast amount of hitting statistics. However, some statistics provide a better measure of a player’s contributions while other statistics are more relevant for assessing a player’s past performance and predicting future performances. Below are the four most important MLB hitting statistics:

Weighted On Base Average (wOBA)

wOBA is a catch-all statistic that is used to determine the exact value of each offensive outcome. In a sense, wOBA is able to value certain hits more than others as opposed to batting average (BA), which weighs all hits equally – a single is better than a walk and a triple is better than a double. wOBA is scaled to on-base percentage plus slugging (OPS) and in turn, is a more accurate statistic than OPS. The league average wOBA is .320 – anything higher is above average and anything lower is below average. wOBA sums up a player’s offensive performance nicely into one number and provides a good picture of a player’s overall offensive value. From 2008-2013, the average wOBA for each position is as follows – DH .336; 1B .338; 2B .306; 3B .310; SS .302; C .306; OF .324. As a result, if a second baseman has a wOBA of .330, he is considered an elite offensive hitter whereas a first baseman with the same wOBA is actually below average offensively.

Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+)

Although the aforementioned statistic, wOBA, is paints a solid picture of a player’s offensive abilities, it fails to account for the changing style of play and ballparks played in. As a result, wRC+ provides a solution to this problem – it takes the ballparks and ERA of pitchers played against into consideration. The league average wRC+ is always 100 and every point above or below is a percentage point above or below league average. A 110 wRC+ indicates that a player’s runs created were 10% above league average, whereas a 90 wRC+ indicates that a player’s runs created were 10% below league average. Obviously, the league average wRC+ for a second baseman will be different from the league average wRC+ for a first baseman.

Batting Average On Balls In Play (BABIP)

BABIP measures how many of a batter’s balls in play end up being a hit, excluding home runs. Balls in play tend to result in a hit based on how well the ball was hit, the quality of the opposing team’s defense, and luck. The league average for BABIP is generally .300 but BABIP for individual hitters may vary from year-to-year. However, any BABIP change of more than 15 points should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism. If the change can be linked to something meaningful, such as a mechanical adjustment to the batter’s swing or an increase in line-drive percentage, the BABIP increase will likely be sustainable. On the other hand, if the batter does not seem to have changed much in terms of his approach and mechanics, the change in BABIP is likely due to luck and will not be sustainable over the long run.

Strikeout Percentage (K%), Walk Percentage (BB%), and Home-Run Percentage (HR%)

K%, BB%, and HR% are the percentage of plate appearances that result in a strikeout, walk, or home run respectively. These statistics are relatively consistent from year-to-year and provide an idea of the effectiveness of a hitter at the plate. A hitter with a high K% is less valuable due to the fact that strikeouts tend to put a stall to the team’s offensive momentum and when a hitter is expected to try and put the ball into play, a high K% indicates that this expectation will be tough to achieve. A hitter with a high BB% is valuable due to the fact that he is able to work the pitch count and drive the pitcher’s pitch count up while getting a better feel for the pitcher’s arsenal and allowing his teammates in the dugout to do the same. A hitter with a high HR% is also valuable since a high percentage of his plate appearances will result in run(s) scored and he is able to change the game with one swing of the bat at any point in the game.