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In Baseball, What Is OPS?

A baseball player just after hitting the ball.
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  • Originally Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Revised By: A. Joseph
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 02 April 2014
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On-base percentage plus slugging percentage (OPS), also called on-base plus slugging, is a statistic that attempts to measure a hitter's performance in baseball. It combines on-base percentage (OBP), a statistic that measures the player's ability to get safely on base, with slugging percentage (SLG), which measures the player's ability to get hits, especially extra-base hits. Many people look at OPS as a valuable tool for assessing the offensive skill of a player, but some critics say that it undervalues on-base percentage and over-values extra-base hits, so it misrepresents a hitter's value to his team.

Formulas

A player's on-base percentage is the sum of his or her hits (H); walks, or bases on balls (BB); and times hit by a pitch (HBP) divided by the sum of his or her official at-bats (AB), walks, sacrifice flies (SF) and times hit by a pitch. The formula looks like this:

OBP = (H + BB + HBP) / (AB + BB + SF + HBP)

The other part of OPS is slugging percentage, which measures the total bases (TB) a player achieves on hits. A single (1B) is one base, a double (2B) is two bases, a triple (3B) is three bases, and a home run (HR) is four bases. The formula for slugging percentage is simple:

SLG = TB / AB

The formula also can be written this way:

SLG = (1B + (2 x 2B) + (3 x 3B) + (4 x HR)) / AB

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On-base plus slugging is simply the player's on-base percentage plus his or her slugging percentage. The formula can be written simply as OPS = OBP + SLG, or a longer version can be written with all of the components included:

OPS = AB(H + BB + HBP) + TB(AB + BB + SF + HBP) / AB(AB + BB + SF + HBP)

Useful Statistic

Many people consider OPS to be useful for measuring a batter's skills. Getting on base without an out being recorded correlates well with helping a team score runs. This is true no matter how the player gets on base, which is why on-base percentage is often considered a better measure of a batter's contributions to the team than simple batting average, which is calculated by dividing the number of hits by the number of at-bats. Batting average, for example, doesn't give the batter credit for drawing a walk.

OPS also rewards a batter's ability to get hits, especially extra-base hits, by including slugging percentage as a component. A double typically is more valuable to a team than a single, and this is reflected in the formula. Home runs are the most valuable type of hit, and the formula gives them the most weight.

Typical Numbers

In Major League Baseball, the average OPS in the early 21st century was about .750. The average in the American League (AL), which uses a designated hitter (DH) except during interleague games played at National League (NL) ballparks, was about .757 — 12 points higher than in the NL, which does not use a DH except in interleague games at AL ballparks.

An OPS of 1.000 is considered excellent for a major league player. Only a few players who have batted more than 500 times achieve this mark in most seasons. As of 2012, just seven players in major league history had retired with a career OPS of 1.000 or better. The record is held by slugger Babe Ruth, who had a career OPS of 1.164 from 1914 to 1935.

At lower levels of baseball, such as in high school or youth leagues, highly skilled players often are able to achieve much higher averages in various batting statistics, including OPS. This is because there is a wider range in the skill levels of batters and pitchers at this level than there is in the major leagues. For example, a great high school hitter might often face lesser-skilled pitchers, whereas a major league hitter usually will face very talented pitchers. Therefore, at lower levels of baseball, players can be measured more accurately measured by comparing their statistics to those of their peers than to those of major league players.

Criticisms of OPS

Although many people consider OPS to be a useful tool, critics point out several flaws in this statistic. These typically relate to precisely how valuable the various outcomes for a hitter are to the team and how well certain statistics correlate to a team's success. For example, on-base percentage is more highly linked to team success than slugging percentage, but the OPS formula gives the two statistics equal weight.

Another criticism of OPS is based on the formula for slugging percentage. According to the formula, a double is worth twice as much as a single, a triple is worth three times as much, and so on. In terms of value to the team, however, the difference between the types of hits has been found to be much less. Depending on the method used to calculate the value of each type of hit to the team, a double has been found to be worth only about 40% to 60% more than a single, with a triple being worth about 70% to 130% more and a home run worth about 120% to 200% more — or no more than three times the value of a single. As such, slugging percentage — and therefore OPS — is considered by critics to overvalue extra-base hits.

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Discuss this Article

anon336284
Post 32

I can see it being useful to have one or two guys that can do it all, but a lineup needs role players too. I wouldn't really care about my lead-off or second hitter's SLG.

I do like that it weighs singles more heavily than walks, which is relevant for a producer. A single is certainly better with runners on base. But again, this doesn't really apply to a lead-off hitter.

The 1987 Cardinals were a good example of a well built offense that only needed one strong OPS guy (Jack Clark at 1.055, everyone else under .800) and they made it to game seven of the World Series. As a team, they led the National League in OBP, and all teams in SB. They were ninth out of 12 National League teams in OPS, but second in runs. And it doesn't hurt to have the best fielding percentage in the National League, and the greatest shortstop ever.

anon220731
Post 31

Stat categories will have their fans and their critics. It's kind of pointless to argue about it. Either you like it or you do not. Personally, I like OPS and use it in place of AVG when playing fantasy baseball.

anon196897
Post 30

TB / AB supposedly equals slugging average. Total bases were determined by the accumulation of recorded hits. And four bases are possible for every at-bat. And hits divided by those at-bats determines the batting average. And total bases reflect the number of bases negotiated.

So, Ruth had a SA of almost .690. How? Hits and the batting average have not been used in the formula. Neither is the fact 4 bases are possible in a hit. So, total bases divided by 4 x at-bats, and the divided by the batting average reflects a true SA. 5,793 / 33,596; then divided by .342 equals .504. .690 means he averaged 69 percent of a bases per at-bat -- it does not reflect the average size of a hit. .504 means he averaged 50.4 percent of four bases possible per at-bat bases -- or 2.016 bases of four bases possible, meaning it was slightly greater than a double. What size hit does 69 percent of an at-bat reflect?

anon181487
Post 29

Slugging average used in OPS is a flawed statistic. For instance, Babe Ruth's traditional SA is .690.. It is actually .504.

anon180946
Post 28

OPS has no meaning. It is the sum of a flawed SA and OBP. The values could be .500 and .300 or .300 and .500, both totaling .800 but one emphasizing slugging and the other OBP. However, SA is actually the measure of an a-bat in terns of bases negotiated; whereas OBP is the measure of plate appearances in terms of hits, walks and HBP. the

summing of the two is not only incompatible there is also a partial duplication pertaining to hits and total bases.

A more sensible formula would be extra bases plus the numerator for the formula for OBP, all divided by the denominator for OBP. But it still is incompatible.

anon178996
Post 27

SA is a flawed statistic. Consequently so is OPS and a number of other stats.

anon163439
Post 26

To anon105929: I like your idea for BG-Rate as a measure of a player’s probable value. Didn’t look at it real close, but it’s balanced, sort of a combination of RBIs (without requiring a run to be scored) and slugging percentage, with a bonus for speed (stolen bases) and a negative for overreaching (caught stealing). Certainly it’s an improvement on slugging percentage, and it seems to be an improvement on OPS, although Bill James could probably prove statistically why it isn’t.

The method of giving credit for clutch-hitting makes sense, too. Now if you have a few years to put into it, you could validate its usefulness by running it for every Major League player since 1900 and comparing how it ranks them with how we intuitively rank them. Oh, you might also have to group hitters into eras to account for low mound/high mound, dead ball/live ball, steroid/non-steroid play. Also, I don’t think you can practically find the information about to reconstruct historical numbers. Not easy to know how often Ty Cobb singled with two men on base, or doubled with the bases loaded. I think this could only be used prospectively.

I’ve been away from baseball and Bill James for several years, so I wasn’t familiar with OPS or OPS-plus. Personally, I think your method makes more sense, although it’s true that both (and also slugging percentage) count each extra base as the same value as a single, which intuitively doesn’t seem to be right. A grand slam is also probably not worth 10 singles, either, which is what your method suggests. A dedicated statistician could do the math and figure out what the relative values are. I wonder why Bill J.

Still, as a tool for comparison/evaluation of players, that may be trying to cut things too finely. Once the scale is set (maybe 4.000 is a great player?) then the hot stove league and young player comparisons/evaluations should still be relevant. I would guess that power hitters would get a boost over singles hitters, and power hitters who hit for average, too, would move even further ahead.

George Brett would lead Tony Gwynn in BG-Rate, and it looks like Barry Bonds and Mike Schmidt would finish ahead of both of them. Babe Ruth is going to come out on top of any list where power is given a bonus.

anon110845
Post 25

The most important number in batting is the ability of the hitter to pop the ball between the legs of a fielder, and other seeing eye batting techniques. Think Bill Buckner's experience against the Mets, on Mookie Wilson's seeing eye grounder. Also important is a batter's ability to crunch the Baltimore Chop, hit a pebble, and make fielding difficult.

Think Carl Furillo pounding the ball into the ground, Felix Mantilla not being able to come up with the ball properly in order to make the throw. As Vin Scully called it, "...we go to Chicago!"

The Braves didn't get to go to the Series in '59. The Dodgers did, all because Carl Furillo had good bat control. The stat should be called BCSE--Baltimore Chop Seeing Eye.

When a batter sprays the ball behind an infielder rushing in to grab an anticipated bunt, wow. Fabulous BCSE!

anon105929
Post 24

Here's an idea. Have a new metric called BG-Rate defined as bases gained/plate appearances.

This accounts for clutch hitting which isn't accounted for in the OPS but is accounted for in the RBI.

The idea is that you get credit for moving runners. If you hit a single with a runner on first and second you add three to your BG-Rate. It also solves all the ugly math with sacrifices. So if you bunt those same runners over you add two to your BG-Rate. You can even add steals into the mix easily since a single and a stolen base can count two, just like a double.

There still should be some way to score the number of pitches that a batter typically makes a pitcher throw. For instance, I would say a player with an OPS of 900 whose made the pitchers throw 1000 pitches is better than the player who made the pitcher throw 100.

anon100862
Post 23

DEF. On base P-lus S-lugging (OPS) is a sabermetric baseball statistic.

anon94700
Post 22

The only stat that counts is how many zeroes are at the end of your paycheck.

anon90468
Post 21

"Two offensive stats really matter: runs and RBI. The rest is complication. "

I completely agree with this statement.

anon89906
Post 20

It makes me laugh that people think the article does not explain what OPS stands for when it is the very first sentence of the article. why oh why did the author hide the answer in the first sentence? please explain.

anon85242
Post 19

Anon35678: Yeah, anything can happen in baseball, just like any other sport, but the point of numbers is to get a sense of the odds that you have and the odds that are against of something happening.

Would you want a no name player who has low numbers or (let's say) Alex Rodriguez who has a history of power numbers? Odds say that you're more likely to perform better by having someone that has performed in the past.

Numbers will never tell you that a person will get injured, will start stinking or any other concept detrimental to a winning season but they do give you a range of odds of it happening and one manages from that point. That's why baseball isn't about coaching; it's about managing.

anon79703
Post 18

the guy who said "Two offensive stats really matter: runs and RBI. The rest is complication" could not be more wrong. RBI is the most useless statistic in baseball.

anon79003
Post 17

You guys are all crazy. It's all about fantasy baseball. Who cares about OPS in my league. My league cares about all the stats that are taken or counted in a game. Not the averages that are statistically made with the stats that are counted in the game though. We than give a value to the stats:

Batters Stat Category Value

Games Played (GP) 0

At Bats (AB) -1

Runs (R) 5

Singles (1B) 6

Doubles (2B) 11

Triples (3B) 16

Home Runs (HR) 21

Runs Batted In (RBI) 5

Sacrifice Hits (SH) 3

Sacrifice Flies (SF) 3

Stolen Bases (SB) 10

Caught Stealing (CS) -5

Walks (BB) 3

Intentional Walks (IBB) 0

Hit By Pitch (HBP) 3

Than you add them all up for each player and divide them by the amount of games played. You will than get a batter's offensive fantasy worth per game.

Albert Pujols is pretty much the best fantasy player offensively and what do you know? He does have the best ops as well. Well maybe ops isn't that bad of a measurement, but fantasy points per game is all us men at home care about.

anon77294
Post 16

edhones (6) asked what OPS means, not for the equation. OPS is an acronym for what? Overly Preoccupied Statistician?

anon57667
Post 15

I coach high school baseball and I use a system of rating my hitters with three averages.

Batting average plus On base percentage plus Runs produced pct. divided by total at bats.

Runs produced pct. is total runs scored plus runs batted in, divided by total at bats.

It works really well for our program.

anon51027
Post 14

Two offensive stats really matter: runs and RBI. The rest is complication.

anon47409
Post 13

there is only one statistic that has any true impact on the outcome of the game and that is total runs. As long as score is measured in runs this will be true.

anon45433
Post 12

you guys crack me up, but i enjoyed reading all the comments and math problems. but i think just the basic stats like ab's, hits, runs, rbi's, etc. say the most. and the players who get into the hall of fame sometimes get there because of their popularity and stats sometimes don't really matter for an in-between player. So going crazy with OPS if it's better or worse will just drive you all crazy. just go by the raw numbers.

anon40589
Post 11

An at bat doesn't include BB or Sacs so why are these included in the statistics?

anon40347
Post 10

Thanks for explanation.

I am a "statistician" and would like to point out that you are missing some parenthesis in your formulas. Also, a more transparent way to write your master formula might be

OPS = OBP + SLG

= (H+BB+HBP)/(AB+BB+SF+HBP) + TB/AB

anon36625
Post 9

Another factor is whether there are men on base when the batter is up. The pressure factor of driving in runs (after all, runs are what winning is all about)plays into the greatness of a player.

anon35678
Post 8

this is the first i've actually found out what ops means, and on face it seems like a very effective way of evaluating a hitter. i, by all means, don't claim to be a statistician (spelling), but it does seem slightly flawed, particularly after reading anon17198's article. i would sum it up in a short sentence: There is truly no way to evaluate how well any one player can hit. there are too many factors that go into it, granted many of these factors can be put into statistics, such as obp versus left handed and right handed hitters, and one can even break that down to curveballs, fastballs, changeups, sliders, etc. that the hitter faces and winds up connecting, getting walked, or getting hit by. it comes down to the fact that anything can happen in baseball, or all of sports for that matter, and there is no absolute way of evaluating how well one particular hitter can perform.

anon25831
Post 7

It is true that the article on o.p.s. does not tell us what us what it means (it doesn’t even make clear what the initials o.p.s. stand for: On-base pct. Plus Slugging pct.?)

The o.p.s. is based on the fact (at least I accept it as fact) that the basic unit of offense is the base; that’s why an error is charged for giving a runner a base. Two bases are worth more than one base , though not twice as valuable (a mathematician or statistician could figure out the precise value in terms of run production very quickly). The o.p.s., then, tells us how many bases a player will earn, on average, each time he walks to the plate.

The batting average tells us what pct. of his at-bats will produce hits; the slugging pct. tells us how many bases he will produce with those hits. The o.p.s. tells us on what pct. of at-bats he will get to first or beyond, all together.

It is therefore a good and telling stat. However, its weakness is that it does not factor in other methods of advancing around the bases: stolen bases and, possibly, balks (often induced by the runner). Ricky Henderson and Lou Brock are quite a bit more valuable than their o.p.s. suggests.

edhones
Post 6

I read the article on OPS and still can't figure out what it stands for. It tells me how to figure it out, but not what it means.

Moderator's reply: On Base percentage plus Slugging percentage (OPS).

anon17198
Post 5

I would like to comment about a few of the assumptions. The article states "Generally the OPS of a good player is considered to be around .900 to .950." A lot of analysts feel an OPS of 800 or over is a good player, and that 900 or higher is a very good, very-high impact kind of player. Very few players can consistently produce at 900 OPS or higher year in and year out, though some obviously do.

There are only a handful of players who eclipse an OPS of 900 in a given year yet there a "good" offensive players who are more consistently in the 800s.

For example, Wade Boggs, a Hall Of Famer, had a lifetime OPS of .858. Are we saying he wasn't a "good" ball player since he wasn't a 900 or 950 player?

Another example is Tony Gwynn, another Hall of Famer who had a lifetime OPS of .847. Tony was also a perennial star who could not consistently produce an OPS above 900.

One last comment about some of the known flaws of OPS:

1- It is correctly pointed out that slugging and OPB are given equal value in OPS but it has not been demonstrated statistically that this is a valid way to measure these 2 components of OPS

2- Slugging percentage is by itself viewed as a suspect measure of hitting prowess due to the way total bases are counted. Is a home run really worth 4 times a single, and is a double really worth twice a single, in terms of how each type of hit affects a team's likelihood of scoring runs and/or winning games? This ratio of impact for singles, doubles, triples, and home runs and not been clearly proven statistically. Some players with limited power can have a rather high slugging percentage due to a high batting average. For example, would we generally think of a player who hits 7 home runs as a power hitter? Tony Gwynn had a .511 slugging average in 1987 with .500 generally considered the benchmark of a good power hitter- yet Tony hit only 7 home runs in 1987 (but he did bat .370).

3- When calculating OPS, some items are counted once and some items are counted twice or more. For example, a single counts towards both OBP AND Slugging, so all singles are counted twice in the final OPS. How can you count the result of 1 AB twice in any statiscal measure? Walks are counted once in OPS, only counting towards OBP but not counting towards Slugging. So, are we thus saying a single is worth twice as much as a walk? How has this been proven in terms of true impact. Is a double worth 3 times as much as a walk (doubles count twice in Slugging and once in OBP vs. walks counting once - only in OBP)? Again, this has not been elucidated.

OPS is useful as a general measure of a player's ability to get on base by hits or walks and to have impact hits (doubles, triples, and home runs). Just some thoughts on the pros and cons of OPS

anon16195
Post 4

Could have simplified the formulas and called them plate appearances. AB's don't include SAC, SAC fly, BB, HBP. Plate Appearance is anytime a player goes to bat.

dudla
Post 3

I don't understand why OPS wouldn't be used more. I know some people say that it's flawed and OBP is more valuable, but OPS is the easiest to calculate a hitter's performance.

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