An Introduction to Advanced Stats


In my opinion, baseball statistics are the greatest collection of data known to man. For the purpose of understanding and discussing the value of each player, baseball stats have gone from simple (Batting average), to complex (Wins and Saves), to advanced (WAR). Every team has its own SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) friendly geek to break down those values of players. I assume each team has their own methodology and formulas to come up with these values. For the sake of brevity and simplicity, we will rely on fangraphs as the source of our data collection.

Henry Chadwick was among the first statistics record keeper in baseball and used the most primitive of stats: Batting average, runs against, and runs for. Over the course of time, baseball stats have developed much like their on-field contributors. At the moment there are over 40 different batting events for which a stat can be measured, at least 6 different base running stats, almost 60 different pitching stats, and 12 different fielding stats. Some of these events can be combined and measured together in formula to create player values. Sometimes these values are created to represent how many wins the player would contribute to the team, while other values would represent what percentage the player is against average, better or worse.

None of this means anything unless we can put it to practical use. After discussing some key stats that have been overlooked in the mainstream baseball community, we can discuss what it means to the Dodgers and how applying this methodology can help the team.

One of my favorite stats to view daily is, WPA/LI. WPA is “Win Probability Added”. As described at fangraphs, WPA is literally the contributions you made to your team on any single given play. Simply put, WPA is calculated from WE (team win expectancy). Win expectancy is the calculation determined by the situation of the game to estimate the probability if your team will win or not. If you increase your teams win expectancy, your personal win probability added (WPA) is adjusted accordingly. In short, any positive number is appreciated and any negative number is frowned upon.

LI is short for leverage index. This is a measurement of the importance and difficulty of any situation. Where WPA calculated the probability of winning, LI calculates the importance of success. Simply dividing one by the other we can get a firm grasp on some of the most important plays of the year and those who regularly added wins in high leverage situations.

The Dodgers leader this year in WPA/LI was Andre Ethier at 3.69. The leader for all of baseball was Miguel Cabrera at 6.34 (further solidifying his MVP caliber season) followed closely by Mike Trout at 6. Clayton Kershaw followed Ethier with a 3.12 WPA/LI. It should be noted that it is much more difficult for starting pitchers to accrue WPA/LI since leverage index usually spikes later in games. When leverage gets tighter in later games, the starter is usually pulled for a reliever.

It is also fun to look at WPA/LI on individual plays over the course of the season and find which plays added the highest win expectancy in highest leveraged situations. Lets do that…

10. 14 September – Luis Cruz –  With the Dodgers down 3-2 in the 9th, Andre Ethier had a two out single off Jason Motte to right field. Dee Gordon came in to pinch run and promptly advanced to second base on “defensive indifference”. Then Luis Cruz doubled to center field to tie the game up. Even though Juan Rivera would then knock in Cruz for the game winner, the pivotal point in this game was Cruz’s double to tie it. .471

9. 3 September – Andre Ethier – Again the Dodgers are down 3-2 in the bottom of the 9th against the Padres this time. With one out Andre Ethier deposits an 83 mph slider into the right center field seats from Luke Gregerson to tie it up. Eventually A.J Ellis would knock in the game winner. .476

8. 5 August – Andre Ether – Against James Russell and the Cubs, Andre strikes again. Down 5-4 in the 7th, Ethier doubles to right center scoring Mark Ellis from third and Matt Kemp from first. This was also Joe Blanton‘s debut in Dodger blue. Ethier’s double turned the tide of the game, as Hanley Ramiez would later single in the winning run in the ninth to win it 7-6. .478

7. 17 April – Andre Ethier – With still something to prove Ethier comes up big for a third time. Against Francisco Rodriguez, Andre would hit a two run tater to give the Dodgers the 4-3 lead in the top of the 8th. Sadly, this was still when Don Mattingly was wasting Kenley Jansen in the 8th and playing grip lock with Javy Guerra in the 9th. George Kotteras would trump Ethier’s performance with a walk off double and .648 WPA/LI for hiimself. .487

6. 27 July – Hanley Ramirez – Nothing like beating the GIants in San Francisco! Especially when you are beating them with your brand new shiny toy! In the top of the 10th against Sergio Romo, Hanley went deep, scoring Andre Ethier to give the Dodgers a commanding 5-3 lead and eventual win. .494

5. 14 Sept – Luis Cruz – If you look closely at the dates, you’ll notice that #10 is day 2 of Luis Cruz heroism! However on day one, we have Cruuuuuz hitting a 3 run shot scoring Ethier and Ramirez and thus giving the Dodgers a 6-4 lead which they would not surrender winning 8-5. .504

4. 5 June – Elian Herrera – In the top of the 8th with two on and two out, Elian Herrera doubled to center off Cliff Lee to score two runs. Which is all the Dodgers would need to win 2-1. .516

3. 20 May – Scott Van Slyke – In the bottome of the 7th, on a 3-0 count, SVS was given the green light against Mark Alphabetsoupski and took him deep over the left center field wall to give the Dodgers the 6-5 lead and eventual win. .611

2. 22 May – Ivan De Jesus Jr. – In Arizona, in the top of the 9th IDJ2 doubled to center off JJ Putz, scoring Elian Herrera and Bobby Abreu to give the Dodgers an 8-7 lead from which they would never look back .673

1. 2 Sept – Adrian Gonzalez – Bottom of the 9th against JJ Puts again. With two outs Adrian doubled to right and scored Mark Ellies and Shane Victorinoto give the Dodgers the win 5-4. .699

Adrian walks off!