Take Me Out to the Ball Game for Math Awareness Month
From Hall of Fame statisticians to fantasy baseball fanatics, millions of fans use math to enjoy America’s greatest pastime! Statistical analysis is such an important aspect in baseball today that many major league teams seek out baseball math experts who can calculate Sabermetrics analytics in an instant while they’re at the ball park.
In honor of Math Awareness Month, DreamBox Learning is finding out how managers and fans use baseball math to understand and calculate what it means to be an all-star hitter.
Summing up Offensive Production
When it comes to baseball, home runs are great, hits are good, and outs are… the opposite of good. In fact, the last thing a hitter wants to produce when he’s up to bat is an out. With that in mind, it’s in the best interest for players, analysts, managers and sometimes even fans to find out how to calculate offensive production.
Totaling a “hitter’s production” is a way of saying “How much power does this hitter have?” or more specifically, “What is the likelihood that a hitter will not produce an out at any given plate appearance?” One of the most efficient ways of understanding a hitter’s production throughout a season is by calculating the slugging percentage.
The slugging percentage is the sum of total bases divided by at bats:
In this formula, 1B represents singles, 2B is doubles, 3B is triples, and HR is home runs. This formula does not take into account walks, batters hit by a pitch or sacrifice fly outs.
Looking at Babe Ruth’s 1920 season with the New York Yankees, Ruth totaled 172 hits, with 73 singles, 36 doubles, 9 triples and 54 home runs out of 458 total at bats.
Using the above formula 73 + (36 x 2) + (9 x 3) + (54 x 4) = 388 total bases. Divide the total bases number (388) with total at bats (458) for a slugging percentage of .847.
WOW! That’s really smacking the yarn out of the ball. Based on 2008 Major League statistics, the median slugging percentage was .414, which is less than half of Babe Ruth’s offensive production in 1920!
Parents and teachers, work with your students to calculate their favorite player’s slugging percentage for Math Awareness Month using the formula above.
Adding to the Slugging Percentage
Slugging does represent a large chunk of the offensive production pie, but it doesn’t explain the whole story. Remember that the worst outcome a hitter can produce in a plate appearance is an out. So what about a walk? Baseball analysts did the math and they realized that the potential to reach first base safely is an important aspect to offensive production. As a result, statisticians now combine the slugging percentage and the on-base percentage to create OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging.)
The OPS represents the On-Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage divided by total plate appearances:
In this formula, AB represents at bats, BB is base on balls, HBP is hit by pitch, TB is total bases, and SF is sacrifice fly outs. Base on balls (aka: walks), sacrifice flies, and batters hit by a pitch are not statistically counted as at bats, but are totaled in overall plate appearances.
Why is OPS important?
By calculating the OPS, you can understand how likely a hitter will smack an extra base hit and how likely that player will reach base safely. An OPS rating of .900 in the Major Leagues means that player is likely to be an all-star hitter.
How do you use math in sports? Help DreamBox Learning celebrate Math Awareness Month by sharing your sports math facts in the comments box below!
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