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Into the numbers: Breaking down sabermetrics in ASU softball

Advanced stats have become a crucial part of the game of softball and understanding these stats can help paint a picture of how impactful a player is to their team

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"On top of this data, the team will also look at Sabermetrics to help create lineups, even though coaches will not exclusively rely on them to build lineups."

ERA+, FIP, OPS+, wOBA and wRC. What are they, and what do they mean?

These stats are some of the many baseball and softball stats that fall under the category of sabermetrics, a better way to show a player's performance based on their in-game stats, league stats and park factors. 

Bill James created sabermetrics to better represent a player's impact on the game and include stats such as WAR (Wins Above Replacement).

Advanced stats as a whole has become more commonplace in baseball and softball. ASU softball is using these tools to better help the team succeed.

The team incorporates advanced stats by using the tracking technology Yakkertech. 

"Yakkertech breaks down anything from spin rate to velocity to launch angle," assistant coach Jimmy Kolaitis said. "In preparation work, we are able to get some of the spin rate stuff, and as we get better with technology, we will have some machines where we can set up the spin rate on the machines, which will help us in preparation work."

Having the data on where a player tends to hit the ball is important knowledge that is used to help coaches decide what players to use against certain pitchers and in specific situations where it could be beneficial to hit the ball to different parts of the field. 

On top of this data, the team also looks at sabermetrics to help create lineups, but does not exclusively rely on it to build lineups.

"Do I think it is helpful to have a solid understanding of it to help you build lineups?" head coach Megan Bartlett said. "Can it be something to lean back on to help you catch a tendency and help drive your thought process in one way? Sure. But would I completely quit using my instincts? No."

Even though there are many advanced stats in the sport today, not all of them can be used in college softball due to the lack of at-bats and available data. WAR, for example, would be a very difficult statistic to calculate as it needs stats from high school softball players. Even though some advanced stats can't be used in softball, many can be used to the team's advantage. 

Take a look at the current ASU softball statistics here.

The numbers. What do they mean?

BABIP - Batting Average on Balls In Play: This stat measures a player's batting average only on balls put in play. It omits strikeouts and home runs and only looks at how many hits the player gets when the ball is in play. 

Currently, Kelsey Hall leads the Sun Devils in this stat with a .550 BABIP.

ERA+ - Earned Run Average plus: This stat takes the Pac-12 ERA, adjusts it for the park factor, divides it by the player's ERA, and then multiplies it by 100. This stat shows what percent better or worse the player's stats are compared to the adjusted Pac-12 average. 

Since the league average ERA+ is 100, and Mac Osborne has an ERA+ of 124, her ERA is 24% better than the Pac-12 Average.

FIP - Fielder Independent Pitching: This stat is like ERA, but only looks at outcomes the pitcher has direct control over. These outcomes are home runs, walks, hit-by-pitches, and strikeouts. Each result is multiplied by a constant to weigh the impact of each outcome properly, and then the weighted sum is divided by the pitcher's innings pitched. Finally, to put it on a scale similar to ERA, a FIP constant is added. 

Osborne leads the team with a 0.82 FIP.

ISO - Isolated Power Number: This stat looks only at the player's ability to get extra-base hits and is found by subtracting the hitter's batting average from their slugging percentage.

Graduate student infielder Alesia Denby leads the team with a .640 ISO.

OPS+ - On Base Plus Slugging Plus: This stat, like ERA+, shows what percentage of the Pac-12 average OPS a player has. This is found by taking the player's OPS and dividing it by the adjusted Pac-12 average OPS, then multiplying by 100. This sets the league average at 100, so Dendy, who currently has an OPS+ of 265, has an OPS that is 165% better than the Pac-12 average. 

wOBA - Weighted On Base Average: This stat is similar to OPS but was developed by Tom Tango, and instead of weighing outcomes by their base value, they are weighed by their run value. wOBA is calculated by multiplying every outcome by its weight, which Tango determined, then dividing by the player's plate appearances. This stat is on the same scale as OBP.

wRC -  Weighted Runs Created: This stat subtracts the Pac-12 average wOBA from a player's wOBA, divides it by the wOBA factor of 1.15, and then adds the Pac-12 average runs per plate appearance times the player's plate appearances. 

wRAA - Weighted Runs Above Average: Similar to wRC, wRAA is found by subtracting the Pac-12 wOBA from a player's wOBA and dividing by the wOBA scale. Instead of adding league runs per at bat to this, it is only multiplied by the player's total plate appearances, so this stat shows how many runs a player creates when compared to an average Pac-12 player. 

Wins Added: This stat is found by multiplying every outcome a hitter has by the win values of each outcome found in "The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball." The sum of the weighted outcomes is how many wins a player has added or, in some cases, subtracted. 

Edited by Alfred Smith III, Walker Smith and Grace Copperthite.

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