What Is OPS In Baseball?

Mike Specter
Mike Specter

When the word ‘OPS’ is mentioned, people might think it stands for something in a foreign language. In reality, OPS is a baseball statistic that calculates the number of times a player gets on base. You’ll find it printed on most baseball cards. Different rules and stats can affect how easy it is for players to get on base, so OPS is often used when comparing players in different leagues.

OPS stands for On-base Plus Slugging. In baseball is the sum of the On-base Percentage (OBP) and the Slugging Average (SLG). Baseball players can use OPS  to compare their power and ability to reach base.

Interesting story: in 1963, Gaylord Perry’s manager in Major League Baseball referred to his skills in slugging by stating man will land on the moon before he hits a home run. A few hours after “Apollo 11” placed its first foot on the moon; Perry hit his first home run.

Pretty crazy, isn’t it? 

Let’s understand the importance of OPS in baseball and why it is used.

Importance Of OPS In Baseball

Before 2000, Major League Baseball (MLB) was divided into two leagues, the National League (NL) and the American League (AL). In 1920, the Commissioner of Professional Baseball took charge of both leagues governing the whole sport.

On-base plus slugging (OPS) is an in-game statistic that is used for empirical analysis. This measures how well the batter gets on base as well as how strong his power-hitting is. This means that it considers the On-base Percentage (OBP) and Slugging Average (SLG). OPS is obtained by adding these two factors.

A player’s OPS is one of the major batting statistics used to measure offensive performance in Major League Baseball. It is derived by adding a player’s on-base average and slugging average together.

How Is OPS Calculated?

The formula for OPS is simple.

OPS = OBS + SLG

The OBS stands for on-base percentage, and SLG stands for slugging average. The calculation for OBS is a fair bit longer.

OBP = {hits + bases on balls + times hit by pitch} / {at bats +sacrifice flies + total bases}

The numerator here gives you the ‘number of trips to first base at least,’ and the denominator is effectively total plate appearances. This way, you can generate the on-base percentage to calculate the OPS.

The Slugging Percentage (SLG) = Total Bases / At Bats is much simpler to derive.

What Is A Good On-base Slugging Percentage (OPS)?

Now that you know how to calculate the OPS in baseball, the next thing you need to know is what actually is a good OPS. For this, we will refer to the essay “The 96 Families of Hitters” by Bill James. In it, he defines 7 categories to assess a batter’s OPS.

It went from A to G, with A being ‘Great’ and G being ‘Very poor.’ The OPS for different categories is measured like this:

A

Great

.9000 and higher

B

Very Good

.8334 to .8999

C

Above average

.7667 to .8333

D

Average

.7000 to .7666

E

Below average

.6334 to .6999

F

Poor

.5667 to .6333

G

Very poor

.5666 and lower

Any good hitter will have an OPS close to 1 and above.

And for some players, their OPS can be exceptionally high or low because of how they hit the ball.

Who Has The Highest OPS Of All Time?

One of baseball’s greatest hitters, Babe Ruth, racked up a 1.164 OPS over a 22-year career. And seven hitters have ended their career with an OPS of over 1.000, with Mike Trout currently just north of that range.

Who Has Highest Single Season OPS?

The 2004 season also saw Barry Bonds break five major league records with a 1.422 on-base plus slugging average and a .609 on-base percentage. He also kept an MLB record slugging percentage with a .812 mark.

What Does Batting Average Measure?

A player’s batting average can be calculated in baseball by dividing his ‘hits’ by his ‘at-bats.‘ You will get a percentage that measures how frequently a player receives hits or would ideally measure his skill at producing hits.

Although a player can influence his batting average somewhat, it is one of the most misused stats in baseball.

The most significant component in determining a hitter’s batting average is the Batting Average on Balls in Play or BABIP. In other words, BABIP measures how often balls that a player hits result in hits.

It is calculated in the same way as batting average: hits minus balls in play, with balls in play taking the place of at-bats. Getting five hits from 10 balls, for example, will produce a BABIP of .500.

What Is The Difference Between Ops And Ops+?

The OPS is On Base Percentage Plus Slugging Percentage, as I’ve already told you. It does not take into account two things: other players and ballparks.

OPS+ is a comparative statistic, which means that the value is adjusted so that 100 is the median value. As a result, if an individual has an OPS+ of 99, then his adjusted OPS is one percent below average, and 101 means one percent above average.

The OPS+ calculation takes several factors into account by normalizing a player’s production by league and park effects.

Essentially, it considers how well a player performed compared to everyone else in the league and his performance compared to everyone else who batted in the same park.

OPS+ has a little different working instead of OPS since everything is considered a league average, which is set to 100.

In 2016, David Ortiz posted an OPS+ of 164, which means that he had a performance more than 64 percent higher than an average batter had he worked in the same park and league.

The Last Inning

The OPS is an important stat for any batter in baseball. But it is not as important as you might think.

Although it is useful, it is not comprehensive. OPS gives equal weightage to both: on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Yet, on-base percentage correlates better with the ability to score runs.

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Mike Specter
Mike Specter
Mike hold's a Degree in Sports Coaching from the University of Minnesota and has held managerial and baseball head coaching roles at the college level. Mike currently consults with several professional athletes and clients in the areas of self-accountability, health, and goal orientation.