by Kyle Kennett, IBC Director of Scouting.
When staring at the statistics link of a website, one could be overwhelmed with the amount of information being presented to them. There are many magic numbers in baseball that people use to determine how good a player is. Offensively, it is common knowledge in the baseball world that .300 is a good average for a hitter. Those who hit over .300 generally get a reaction of “Wow he must be pretty good”. The same goes for pitchers. If a pitcher has an ERA under 3.00 this means he likely has a good arsenal of pitches and gets batters out. But what about all the other numbers on the stat spreadsheet? By analyzing the entire list of stats, one can determine what type of player they are looking at. And what about the player whose numbers aren’t so glamorous? If say someone hit .265 does this mean he’s not a good player and clubs looking to sign him should back away? Not necessarily if some of his other numbers check out.
Offensively, every club would like to have a lineup full of guys who can knock the ball over the fence and hit over .300. But this is not always the case. Outside of batting average, home runs, RBIs and stolen bases there are plenty of other stats to look at when determining a player’s overall ability. For non power hitters, we first need to look at on base percentage. If a player is hitting .265 but his on base percentage is close to .375 this tells me he probably draws a lot of walks and does not strike out much. Ideally you want a player to have a 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio at the plate. When a player starts to have two or three times as many strikeouts as walks this tell me he has a tendency to be a free swinger and may chase a lot of pitches out of the zone. When a player has more walks than strikeouts that shows they have a great concept of the strike zone and they to go deep into counts, making the opposing pitcher work harder for every out.
When it comes to determining the effectiveness of a power hitter, batting average and OBP tend to take a back seat to slugging percentage and total extra base hits. Obviously a club wants to see numerous home runs and RBIs but when a player is on a team where he gets little protection or there is never anyone on base, we must rely on stats like slugging percentage and extra base hits to figure out if he has power or not. There are only 101 players in MLB history (who were everyday players) to have a career slugging percentage over .500. This being said, when looking at college or minor league hitters, a slugging percentage of over .450 would be a good measure of the players ability to drive the baseball into the gaps or over the fence. You would also like to see a true power hitter have about a 1:3 extra base hit to hit ratio as well.
There are many different stats we can look at to determine what type of pitcher someone may be. Outside of ERA, opponent batting average, WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched), strikeout to walk ratio, and strikeout to inning ratio are all important to measure. If a pitcher keeps his opponents to roughly a .250 average he is having decent success. If a pitcher keeps his opponents to roughly a .200 average he is really dominating batters with either good velocity, good offspeed pitches, a deceptive delivery or any combination of the three. The same can be said for WHIP. If a pitcher has a whip of just over 1, (around 1.25) they are pitching fairly well. Getting some 1,2,3 innings and pitching out of jams in others. If a pitcher has a WHIP of less than 1.00 they are doing very well and not allowing many baserunners. When WHIP starts to creep up toward 1.5 and over is where pitchers start to get into trouble by allowing too many hits and walks. Its hard for a pitcher to find success when baserunners are constantly on base and getting into scoring position.
Strikeout to walk (K:BB) and strikeout to inning (K:IP) can go hand in hand when determining what type a pitcher someone might be. A good strikeout pitcher will average roughly one K per IP. If this is this case, this type of pitcher can get away with allowing more walks since they can rely on getting a K when needed. A true contact pitcher will average a K roughly every two to three innings pitched. These are the kinds of pitchers that need to walk very few batters and rely on good defense to have successful outings. No matter what type of pitcher one may be, a 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio is considered great at any level.
Another thing to remember is that pitching is a day to day aspect of the game. Every now and then even the best in the MLB get roughed up by their opponent. If a college pitcher only has 10 starts on the year and in one of them he gets shelled, this could skew his stats and make him look worse than he is. Checking box scores is a good way to see the overall ability of a pitcher. Look for consist prolonged outings and remember that wins and losses are not always controlled by the pitcher. Sometimes a lack of offensive or defensive support could cause his record to look unappealing.
This article was written to assist clubs in their search for import players. Stats can only tell so much when signing a player. There’s no stat that show’s a player’s character or love of the game and sometimes that can be just as important and flashy numbers on a spreadsheet. Best of luck to all clubs looking to sign players!