FIRE JOE MORGAN: Glossary Of Terms


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Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Glossary Of Terms

Ever since Fire Joe Morgan was founded back in 1881, FJM readers have been clamoring for a glossary of the statistical terms, acronyms and abbreviations we toss around here. Such a thing already exists, but we're going to write a new one anyway.

FJM is far from a comprehensive or even occasionally accurate source of sabermetric information, but we will mention OPS+ from time to time, and if you don't know what that is, our site won’t be as informative or amusing. If you do know, the site is nearly always balls-to-the-wall genius, so it’s really in our best interests to help you all learn our terminology. A lot of sites, like’s MLB stats page, and’s stats page, keep up-to-date records of many of the stats we use here, if you want to go and look up stuff for yourself.

So, here's a glossary of terms, statistical and otherwise, that you might encounter from time to time while reading the site. Like the Constitution, the FJM Glossary is a living document that will be updated as necessary, but unlike the Constitution, its contents can be used to befuddle the greatest second baseman of all time if you happen to run into him.

Let's get started.

BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play)

Exactly what it sounds like -- a player's batting average on the balls he puts into play. BABIP doesn't include strikeouts or home runs because those balls aren't in play. Make sense? This stat is helpful to show the effect of luck on a player's batting average. For instance, if two weeks into the season, Yuniesky Betancourt is hitting .573 and John Kruk is proclaiming him the next Honus Wagner, you can calmly point to the fact that his BABIP is an astronomical .494 (along with the two facts that it's two weeks into the season and John Kruk has never been right about anything). One way to calculate BABIP is (H - HR) / (AB - HR - SO + SF).

This stat can also be applied to pitchers. There's a guy named Voros McCracken who was, a few years ago, literally like living in his mom’s basement, and he was noodling around with a computer and he discovered something that made people freak out in re: pitchers, which is: pitchers can’t really control much of what happens when a ball is put into play. In other words, pitchers can basically control their Ks, BBs, and HR, but even the best pitchers in the world cannot really control how many hits they give up year-to-year. One year Greg Maddux will give up a ton of hits, the next year very few, the year after a ton again. It’s counterintuitive, but true. (If you want to read his article, here’s the link.) This is why the pitchers who are really good over a long period of time are guys who are good at the few things they can control: they strike a lot of guys out, don’t walk very many people, and give up few HR.

What does this all mean? Well, if your favorite pitcher gets off to a terrible start, but he is striking out roughly the same number of guys per 9 innings that he has in the past, and he’s walking about the same number of guys he usually has, and he’s giving up HR at the same rate he usually has, but he’s allowing a BABIP of like .390, do not despair – he has gotten a little bit unlucky, probably, since the league is not going to have a .390 BA overall for the whole year. His BABIP will probably regress a little over time, and his ERA will “magically” go down. And then Kevin Kennedy will attribute the decrease in ERA to “getting his confidence back” or something, and you will smile knowingly.

For some reason, by the way, ESPN uses “BIPA” instead of “BABIP.”

In 2008, the MLB leader for BABIP was Dave Bush, at .231. The average BABIP is about .290, which is what Johnny Cueto put up last year. The worst in the league was Kevin Millwood, who had a BABIP of .346.

BA (Batting Average)
Hits divided by at-bats; also, perhaps the stat that makes Ken Tremendous' blood curdle the quickest. Okay, maybe that's wins. Batting average is the backbone of traditional hitting metrics, and amazingly, is still looked upon as a good way to determine whether someone is good at hitting baseballs. It is not a good way to determine this. Why? Well, you already know why. You know it intuitively, and you always have. Because a guy who hits .250 but clubs 40 HR and 40 doubles and walks 100 times a year is way way way more valuable to his team than a guy who hits .310 with 2 HR and 19 doubles and 15 walks. That’s kind of obvious, isn’t it? I agree. So why should we keep talking about batting average, ever? We shouldn’t? Okay, we won’t. But Tim McCarver will, and that’s why he should be selling cookware door-to-door instead of talking to the country about baseball every Saturday.

In 2008, the MLB leader for BA was Chipper Jones, at .364 (Pujols was 2nd). The median BA for players eligible for the batting title was about .280 last year, or what Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson were able to produce. Jack Hannahan and Nick Swisher took the Doodoo Bat Awards, given to the players with the lowest batting averages (.218 and .219 respectively).

Nothing more than a popular way of presenting a player’s 3 most oft-cited hitting averages. If you see three averages split up by forward slashes, chances are you’re looking at their Batting Average, On-Base Percentage, and Slugging Percentage, in that order.

DERA (Defense-adjusted Earned Run Average)
A pitching metric that attempts to be a defense-independent – in other words, it uses things a pitcher can actually control, like his BB-rate and HR-rate and stuff that doesn’t involve defense, and tries to calculate what his ERA is absent the influence of defense. 4.50 is average.

EqA (Equivalent Average)
I'll just quote Baseball Prospectus here: "A measure of total offensive value per out, with corrections for league offensive level, home park, and team pitching." EqA incorporates baserunning but not defense. EqA is derived from something called Raw EqA, which is calculated by (turn away, Rob Dibbles of the world) the following formula:

(H + TB + 1.5*(BB + HBP + SB) + SH + SF) divided by (AB + BB + HBP + SH + SF + CS + SB)

And you thought things weren't going to get that nerdy around here. EqA is basically like what you used to think BA was – a true measure of how good a hitter is. EqA is purposely formulated to be on a similar scale to BA so it won't scare off the normal people. .260 is average – which, as a point of comparison, is what Kevin Kouzmanoff sported in 2008. The league leader for '08 was Albert Pujols, at .372. He played the entire year with arthritis in his elbow.

LOOGY (Lefty One-Out GuY)
A left-handed reliever usually called upon to retire just one batter, usually in a critical situation. See Neal Cotts (actually, don't, there's no entry for him here), who led all pitchers in 2008 with a LOOGY raw index of 137/133. (Yes, sorry, this is a fake stat).

OBP (On-Base Percentage)
1. Read Moneyball.
2. OBP is the difference between Kevin Youkilis and Jeff Francoeur.
3. It's also the reason Adam Dunn is vastly underrated.
4. Very simply, OBP is a way to tell how good someone is at not making outs. It’s the total number of times a guy gets on base without being responsible for making an out (except for reaching on errors), divided by his plate appearances -- which are simply times a guy comes up to the plate and tries not to make an out. See why it’s valuable? (Plate appearances in this case are defined as At Bats + Walks + Sacrifice Flies.)

In 2008, Chipper Jones led all players with a .470 OBP (Pujols was 2nd). Michael Bourn held down the cellar (for league lead qualifiers) with a tight .288. That’s really bad. The league median among eligible batters in ’08 was .349 (Miguel Cabrera; Akinori Iwamura; Jimmy Rollins; and Kelly Johnson). And for historically ridiculous reference, in 2004, Barry Bonds’ OBP was .604; in 2002, it was .581.

OPS (On-base percentage Plus Slugging percentage)
It's not perfect. But on the plus side, it's not batting average. OPS gives you at least some idea of how patient and how powerful a hitter is. Unless, of course, you're a hidebound 263-year-old who enjoys ridiculing any advancement in human knowledge. In that case, OPS is your three-letter way to sneer at anyone who dares question the value of batting average, which was good enough for George Sisler and will be good enough for you, dammit.

Hard-core nerds will snivellingly tell you that OPS is stupid because OBP is way more important than SLG – Bill James himself, the king of all things stat-related in baseball, thinks that it is four times as important. Nonetheless, OPS has achieved some small toe-hold in popular parlance, so it’s important to know what it is and when to use it. If you really want to know how good a hitter is, however, EqA is way better. OPS is often cited with a “.” and sometimes without. Don’t be confused – if you see a number between like 700 and 1000, with or without a “.”, chances are it’s a player’s OPS.

Pujols was MLB’s 2008 OPS champ at 1.114; Michael Bourn posted the lowest OPS at .588. Jason Kubel wore the OPS Median crown at .805. The OPS Median Crown, by the way, is one of those Burger King crowns for young children.

Anytime you see a “+” sign in front of a stat, it means that the stat has been adjusted for the specific season(s) to which that stat applies. OPS+, for example, is simply OPS measured against the league average OPS for that year/years, and adjusted for park factors (see below). 100 is defined as average. So, an OPS+ of 115 means that the player in question was 15% better than the average player who played in his league during the time he played. It’s a quick and dirty way of comparing hitters on a level playing field, because it accounts, obviously, for the general offensive trends that mark baseball history. In 1968, Carl Yastrzemski hit 23 HR and had a .922 OPS, which is very good. But his OPS+ was 171, which is excellent, because offense league-wide in 1968 was hard to come by. For contrast, Mark McGwire hit 65 HR in 1999, but his OPS+ was “only” 178, because the whole world was juicing balls into the stratosphere that year, so compared to his peers McGwire was roughly the same amount as awesome as Yaz was when he hit only 23 in ’68.

Albert was also the 2008 OPS+ champ at 190. Milton Bradley was your AL champ at 163. To give a little more cross generational perspective, your career OPS+ leaders are: (1) Babe Ruth (207); (2) Theodore Ballgame (190); (3) Barrold Bonds (182). Those guys were all really good at baseball.

See OPS+. Same deal, but for ERAs.

Cliff Lee led eligible pitchers in MLB last year with a 175 ERA+. Timmy Lincecum took the NL title at 167. The all-time ERA+ champ, is, would you believe, Pedro Martinez at 166. (Think of all the ridiculously low ERA’s he posted in a hitter’s ballpark at a time when balls were flying out of the park.) [Note: since this was first written, Pedro's career ERA+ has dropped to 154...and Mariano Rivera is now the all-time ERA+ leader at 199. He met the requisite minimums to be considered a career leader, at least according to]

Park-Adjusted or Park Factors
Baseball is a funny sport where human men play on fields that aren't all exactly the same. That's why it may not always be useful to compare raw statistics accrued in vastly different spaces. Say you have 16 HR and I have 1000 HR. I am a better hitter, right? Well, maybe not. Because you play for the Mariners in spacious SafeCo Field, and I play for the InterGlobal Moon Pirates, and we play in the MoonCo Moonadium, where there is no gravity, and so every ball hit into the air is a home run. You are probably a better hitter than me. Park-adjusted stats will help us figure that out.

It is important to look at things like Park Factors if you are a GM, because if you don’t you will trade for the entire Colorado Rockies offense and then they will come to your stadium and stink it up because their numbers were artificially inflated at Coors Field, and you’ll be like, “What the hell?!” and they’ll be like, “I don’t know, dude – we were awesome at Coors!” and you’ll be like “Ugh! I forgot to include Park Factors in my analysis!!!!!!!” And who wants that?

There are different ways to calculate Park Factors. According to ESPN, Rangers Ballpark was furthest on the Hitters’ Park end of the spectrum, while PETCO Park anchored the Pitchers’ Park side. Sounds about right to us. (Park Factors also vary from year to year more than you might think.)

Pythagorean Record (or “Expected Win-Loss”)
Remember the old Pythagorean Theorem? X squared plus Y squared = Z squared? Same idea, but instead of sides of a triangle, it uses runs scored and runs allowed. It turns out that this is a pretty good way to predict what a team’s record will be. The formula is RS^2/(RS^2+RA^2). If a team is 50-35 but has allowed the same number of runs that it has scored, you can bet that its wins have been a little flukey, and that it will cool off pretty soon. The Pythagorean did a bang-up job, for example, at predicting the precipitous decline of the 2005 Washington Nationals.

In 2008, the Chicago Cubs had the highest Expected Win-Loss of .619; the Mighty Nats were last at .376.

VORP (Value Over Replacement Player)
An offensive stat only, VORP attempts to calculate the number of runs a player is contributing above what a replacement-level player at the same position would if given the same percentage of team plate appearances. VORP is a counting stat, not a percentage stat – so, for example, as of July 22, Andruw Jones has a VORP of 31.0. That means that he has created 31 more runs for his team than the average AAA call-up guy would have by this point in the season. It also turns out that every ten runs a player creates is worth roughly one win, so Andruw’s offense alone has earned the Braves three wins. (There are other stats, like Fielding Runs Above Average [FRAA] that do the same thing as VORP, for defense.) See WARP below for more.

Old Baseball Men, this is another good one to bandy about if you're interested in tearing down a nerd's argument. Because it sounds funny. VORP. Please. What's that doing in baseball? Forget VORP, let's come up with a stat for the size of a guy's heart, am I right, people? We'll call it the Eckstein Quotient. No, wait, that sounds too nerdy. Eckstein Number. Nope. Still too smart. Eckstein Thing. How about just Thing? The highest Thing in the majors? You guessed it: David Eckstein. That's why they almost named it after him.

Once again, Albert Pujols was your VORP leader in 2008 at 98.7. Hanley, Chipper, Lance Berkman, and David Wright rounded out the top 5. Tony Pena was dead last at –24.9. Micah Owings (SP-Ari), by the way, had a VORP of 7.3 (as a hitter), which was better than, like, Kosuke Fukudome at 6.1.

WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player)
Sort of like VORP, but with a defensive component, as well. And it's calculated in terms of wins. It uses VORP and FRAA and all of those things to figure out how many wins a player is worth to his team, by himself, from all phases of his game. There are also WARP-2 and WARP-3, which adjust for various historical factors and stuff like that.

WHIP (Walks plus Hits allowed per Inning Pitched)
Pretty self-explanatory. Way way way way way better measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness – especially a relief pitcher’s effectiveness – than ERA or wins or anything that you’ve ever heard Steve Lyons talk about during FOX Saturday Baseball broadcasts.

Roy Halladay was best in 2005 (among eligibles, which basically means starters) with a WHIP of 1.05. Brandon Backe was last at 1.67. The median was 1.32, represented by the likes of Gil Meche, Paul Byrd, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Javier Vazquez. Sometimes you’ll see WHIP go into the thousandths, which in this case would have been helpful to avoid writing out four names of average-ish pitchers.

1. The only stat that matters. The only way to pick a Cy Young winner. The thing Billy Beane can't get in the playoffs, no matter how many fancy computers he hires to play baseball for him.
2. A simply awful pitching statistic that should be swallowed up by the earth itself, personified, given ears, and forced to listen to a tape loop of Bermanisms for all of eternity. The reason being – and again, you know this, intuitively, even if you have never quite expressed it to yourself – if Carl Pavano gives up nineteen runs in five innings but the Yankees score 20 runs, and they hold on to win, and Pavano gets the win, is Pavano a good pitcher? No he is not. (This scenario is assuming he ever comes back and actually pitches, btw.) If Francisco Liriano throws 9 innings of no-hit ball, but gives up a run on four consecutive errors by Terry Tiffey and gets a loss, is Francisco Liriano a bad pitcher? No he is not. Wins stink to high heaven as a way to value pitchers because they are in very large part dependent on the actions of the other guys on the team.

Of course, according to Joe Morgan, "Wins and losses are how you measure pitchers" (Baseball For Dummies, p. 289).

Cliff Lee and Brandon Webb led all pitchers with 22 Wins last year. Good for them. And, obviously, there were about 140 pitchers who tied for last with zero wins.

>>>>Some other terms you might find helpful:

True Yankee
A leader. A guy who’s full of intangible qualities that help him triumph – with class. Derek Jeter. A guy who has a certain look in his eye, like he knows what it means to don the pinstripes with some motherfletching pride. Bernie. Mantle. Joe D. Jeter. A guy who you want in the trenches with you. Mattingly. Joe Girardi. Derek. Jim Leyritz. Posada. Derek Jeter. A guy who stares adversity in the face and says, “I play for the Yankees, and that means something, and I am going to hit a HR off BK Kim in this World Series Game because I am a New York Yankee." Scott Brosius. Tino. Dave Justice. Derek Jeter. A winner. Derek Jeter.

Here are some people who are not True Yankees: Alex Rodriguez, Mike Mussina, Jason Giambi, Alfonso Soriano, Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, and every other New York Yankee who has never been on a Yankees’ World Series winning team.

If you ever – ever – hear someone use the phrase “True Yankee,” for any reason, I want you to find the nearest exit, form an orderly line, and leave the premises quickly and calmly. Seek shelter. Cover head. Report the incident to your nearest FJM representative immediately. You are in great danger, because the person you are talking to is an idiot.

HatGuy is Mike Celizic, who writes a column for He is a very bad man who wears an old-timey fedora in his official staff picture and does not know anything about anything, least of all baseball.

Joe Morgan does live chats with his admirers every Tuesday on You have to be an ESPN Insider to view/participate in these chats. If you do not wish to be an ESPN Insider, you can check in with FJM weekly for a breakdown of all of the indecipherably weird things Joe writes when responding to perfectly innocuous questions about the game he claims to have loved for many years, but in reality has clearly never actually seen played.

Do not go to unless you are a gay man looking for other gay men.

David Eckstein
David Eckstein is 4'10" and appears to suffer from borderline albinism. Despite this, he is a mediocre MLB shortstop. After he throws the ball to first base, it looks like he needs to lie down from exhaustion. He also runs hard to first base, as most baseball players do.

Baseball analysts have interpreted this data to be somehow indicative of something more powerful than mere "tangible" baseball skills, perhaps residing somewhere deep in the (non-human?) DNA of David Eckstein.

In fact, a new wave of baseball genetic experts believes that there may be a mutant patch of genetic code on chromosome 11 in some major league ballplayers. In most cases, this causes True Yankeeism. Eckstein, they claim, was born with a mutation of a mutation; the resulting phenotype features not only acute and heightened True Yankeeism, but stunted growth and fair skin and hair.

The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) is like the sort of father organization for all of the stat-based stuff we use, and thousands of other forward-thinking people use, when we talk about the statistical side of baseball. Sabermetrics is a neologism that refers broadly to their/our brand of statistical analysis.

Moneyball is a very good book by Michael Lewis, which chronicles the ways in which Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane tries to keep his team competitive with a small payroll. The clunky and incorrect understanding of the Moneyball philosophy is that it simply involves getting players to walk a lot and hit home runs. In reality, what Moneyball deals with is the search for inefficiencies in the complex world of evaluating baseball players. At the time the book was written, Billy Beane and his crew had determined that there were players who weren’t fast runners, maybe, or were fat, or short, or otherwise had some kind of superficial thing “wrong” with them that made other GMs dismiss them as not good baseball players. But these players were actually good at baseball, and because other people had undervalued their skills (skills like walking a lot, for example) Beane was able to draft them or trade for them and not pay them a lot of money, because no one else wanted them.

These days, enough people have caught on to the idea that on-base percentage is important that such players are not undervalued anymore, and so GMs like Beane, who have to put a team together with a $50 million payroll instead of, say, the Yankees’ $200 million payroll, are looking elsewhere for value.

The book rubbed a lot of traditionalists the wrong way, because it takes the obvious and yet somehow controversial position that the massive amount of observable data we can collect from a baseball player’s performance is more important than that player’s like physical strength or speed in the 40 yard dash. Beane, and others like him, believe that it doesn’t matter if a guy looks like he should be awesome at baseball – it matters if he is actually good at baseball. It doesn’t matter if some crusty old scouts who have been in baseball for seventy years look at a guy and say, “He’s fast, he’s got a cannon for an arm, he’s got a strong jaw line – dadgummit, that thar boy’s gonna be a star!” It does matter if the guy walks a lot and can hit well or is an awesome fielder or something. Seem obvious? Try telling fans of Darin Erstad. They will tell you that he is awesome because he is intense and used to play football at Nebraska. You will blink, confused, and say, “But he can’t hit well,” and they will say, “HE WAS A PUNTER AT NEBRASKA! HE IS INTENSE AND A LEADER!” and you will slink away because they are spitting on you.

Moneyball is also famous because Joe Morgan rails against it constantly, even today, and on numerous occasions has pronounced it hogwash, despite freely admitting that he has never read it, and also for a long time believing that the book was actually written by Beane himself. When his error was pointed out to him, Morgan apologized profusely, admitted his mistake, rethought his stance, read the book and has now completely changed the way he thinks about statistical analysis. Oh, no – wait. I’m sorry. He didn’t do anything of the kind. He just dug in his heels and continued to claim that the book was hogwash.

Darin Erstad
A former punter at the University of Nebraska who had one good year for the Angels, signed a huge contract, and stinks at baseball, despite the strident arguments of hundreds of sportswriters who continue to talk about how important he is to the Angels and how he’s intense and a leader and the Angels would be nowhere without him. Trust us: he stinks at baseball.

A hodgepodge of brief reader e-mails cobbled together when the blogger is feeling too lazy, tired, or preoccupied with Turner Classic Movies to write a proper post. It's a true fact: "gallimaufry" was a word received by one of Junior's competitors in his sixth grade county spelling bee. The dude totally missed it.

“Not Hot-Dogging”
Something that ESPN Baseball Tonight commentator and 11-time Philadelphia Metro-Area Pie Eating Champion John Kruk once said should be a criterion for Baseball Hall of Fame Induction. I swear to God.

Fremulon Insurance
Fremulon Insurance is the employer of one Ken Tremendous. They currently hold offices in Partridge, KS; Los Angeles, CA; and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Tim McCarver
The Fox Network’s #1 color commentator. And, without question, the worst color commentator in the history of the world, in any sport. By my estimation, Tim McCarver has said 94 of the 100 dumbest things anyone has ever said about baseball, and worse, he tries constantly to be poetic and witty in his speech, a skill I assure you he does not possess, so what you end up getting is a lot of weird puns and aphorisms spewing forth in a lackadaisical Southern drawl. His broadcasts remind me of a bad wedding toast given by a drunk family friend who’s a high school English teacher.

"Clogging up the basepaths."
In a now infamous episode of Baseball Tonight, Harold Reynolds and John Kruk accused players like Frank Thomas of taking too many walks when they should be driving in runs. In their words, "clogging up the basepaths.” We shit you not.

Many Cubs fans have written us to point out that the phrase might more accurately have been coined by Dusty Baker, and there seems to be ample evidence to support their claim. Regardless, it belongs in the Pantheon of Dumb.

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