Entering play on Thursday night, Kyle Seager owned a .274 batting average. Chris Johnson‘s average was a nearly identical .273. The two third basemen have played in a similar number of games and have come to the plate close to the same number of times. If you use batting average to evaluate these players’ seasons, you’d come to the conclusion that Seager and Johnson are essentially equivalent players this year.
They’re not. In fact, it’s very clear Seager is substantially better than Johnson. Let me rephrase that: It’s very clear Seager is better than Johnson — but only if you’re well-versed in the language of baseball statistics. If you know how to properly value walks, extra base power, baserunning and defense, the difference between Seager and Johnson is impossible to miss.
At FanGraphs, our writers use statistics and metrics like wOBA, wRC+, FIP and WAR to evaluate baseball players and teams. We provide those tools, and more, so others might conduct evaluations on their own. Want to know Miguel Cabrera‘s wOBA against lefties? You can find that on FanGraphs. But what if you don’t know what wOBA means, how it’s calculated or why you should care about it more than batting average?
You can find some of that information on FanGraphs. A well-motivated, self-starter could show up at the site, notice something called wOBA on the leaderboards, go to the glossary and figure out what it means and why it’s important. But it can be intimidating and challenging for people who are just starting out to make sense of everything we offer.
In an effort to make advanced statistics easier, and to understand and to better use the data and features available at FanGraphs, we’re relaunching and promoting the FanGraphs Library. There’s a lot of great information there already, but this revamped library is even better. There’s a steep learning curve, though, so I’ve been tasked with making things a bit simpler.
Read the rest of this entry »