Is there a better measure than Adjusted OPS+?

Adjusted OPS+ is widely considered to be the best measure of a baseball player’s offensive prowess. It takes a player’s OPS and adjusts for ballpark variances, all relative to all other players. Here is a list of the highest career adjusted OPS+ players:

You’ll find Alex Rodriguez down at #39. In my opinion, he should be quite a bit higher on the list, but gets punished for playing at Yankee Stadium. Yankee Stadium is a hitter’s park…but only for lefties.

Is there a better measure?

Adjusted OPS+ is more a quick and dirty measure than the be-all and end-all (see VORP, WARP, Win Shares, etc. for other stabs at a grand unifying statistic of a player’s offensive value). That being said, however, who above A-Rod is he definitively better than at the plate? (Recognizing that one of the things that OPS+ does not adjust for is differences between eras and the resulting variance of distribution in standard deviation of talent.)

I obviously can’t say for sure, but I’d put him above Berkman, Bagwell, Thome and Frank Thomas.

Are you giving A-Rod a positional bonus? If not, I’d think that Thomas, at least, outshines him in their respective primes. (All three, needless to say, are historically elite hitters.) His seven-season stretch from 1991-97 arguably betters every one of A-Rod’s seasons but 2007.

Bagwell and Rodriguez seem to have very similar value, offensively, and Berkman, while underrated, hasn’t been playing long enough to really be able to make the comparison.

What aspects of A-Rod’s offensive game do you think Adjusted OPS+ doesn’t fairly reflect (other than baserunning and positional scarcity)?

  1. Yes. OPS+ is just quick and dirty. A really complicated analytical stat like EQA is probably better. You’ll likely be disappointed to hear Thomas beats A-Rod in that regard, too (looking just at offense, not defense.)

  2. Your assessment of its effect on Rodriguez, however, is misguided. If Rodriguez is getting fewer hits and homers at home than a lefthanded batter of equivalent skill would, that’s relevant to an assessment of Rodriguez’s value. Park effects have to be judged by how they affect all players, not one player. If one player is unusually able to take advantage of his home park, or is unusually DISADVANTAGED by his home park, that is a real thing that will cause his team to win more or fewer games. You can’t adjust that fact away.

Rodriguez is certainly NOT a better hitter than Frank Thomas was. He is a much better overall baseball player, because he’s so much more valuable with the glove. But judged purely by his ability at the plate, Thomas was every bit Rodriguez’s equal and then some; he was a ridiculously great hitter. Thomas’s career on base percentage is significantly better, which makes an awfully big difference.

Although you can certainly speculate that a player’s value would be higher if their home park was better suited to their skillset.

You are certainly allowed to speculate that Pete Gray would have better stats had he played in a park better suited for one-armed hitters. There were still the 77 ball games in other parks to consider.

Of course. But a left-handed extreme pull hitter will have more actual value if his home park has a 250’ porch in left field than if he plays his home games in a more neutral or unfavorable stadium.

I love how Albert Pujols is, at the moment, #9 all-time. That guy has never been short of amazing in his major league career, has he?

Yeah, Pujols is awesome.

Maybe I’m missing something, but isn’t the point of Adjusted OPS+ to determine who truly is the better overall hitter?

Let’s assume that MLB is comprised of an equal number of lefties and righties, with equivalent aggregate OPS’s. Now, if you reversed the dimensions of Yankee Stadium (mirror image of what it is today), Rodriguez would clearly have a higher slugging % and probably a higher on-base %, while the ballpark adjustment to OPS would stay the same. This would move him higher up on the all-time list.

My point was that Adjusted OPS+ punishes him for being a righty in a leftie-friendly home ballpark. What’s wrong with my logic?

I think what RickJay is saying is that Adjusted OPS+ measures actual, park-neutral value at the plate relative to a player’s contemporaries, and that it doesn’t measure who is a better overall hitter in some theoretical vacuum, except to the extent that the two concepts converge.

If that makes sense.

But Yankee Stadium isn’t built that way. It’s built the way it is.

The word “punishes.” OPS+ measures the value that a player actually had relative to his peers, not the value he WOULD have had had he played elsewhere, or if Yankee Stadium had been designed differently.

As Gadarene points out, you can speculate that Rodriguez might have better stats if he’d played in a different sort of park. Knowing that righthanders have a slight disadvantage in the Bronx is useful to know for future reference - if, for example, a righthanded fly ball hitter were to move from Yankee to Fenway. But in terms of determining A-Rod’s actual performance to date, his OPS+ is an accurate picture of the value of those facets of his offense.

That Yankee Stadium might push his career OPS+ down (by one point, maybe) might strike you as being unfair, but it’s a real picture of what his relative value has been.

The purpose of park effects is to adjust away illusions that affect everybody. If the league batting average is .270, but Great American Ballpark raises batting average by 10 points, a player who hits .280 is just keeping up with what everyone else in the league is doing; the 10 points have no value, they’re park effect. But if there’s something about a player that prevents him from taking advantage of that and he doesn’t get than 10-point boost, that reduces his value. It might not be fair; it might go away if he signs with Chicago. But it still reduces his value by the equivalent of 10 points of batting average, whatever that is (it’s not a lot.)

So it is with A-Rod. Maybe Yankee Stadium costs him a few homers a year. If it costs EVERYONE a few homers a year, then his OPS+ will reflect that. If it costs A-Rod a few more homers than the league average, his OPS+ will go down a little, but that’s simply a reflection of his real value.

And as I said, the effect of this is pretty small anyway. Yankee’s not as bad as it used to be, and A-Rod has only played there for about a third of his career. If you were to assume that he lost four homers a year every year he’s played there, that landed as fly outs - which is a lot, really - the effect on his OPS+, if I’m doing the math right, is just one point. You’re going to have a lot of difficulty building a convincing case that Yankee Stadium hurts him to any greater degree than that, because

  1. He has, in fact, hit just as well in New York as he has on the road - in fact, this year he’s one of the most extreme HOME hitters in baseball, and
  2. His two best OPS+ years have been in a Yankee uniform, and this year he’s on a pace to have his third best.

It is interesting to note than Frank Thomas, in his first eight years in the majors, put up a better OPS+ every year than any season A-Rod had ever had prior to joining the Yankees.

I follow you RickJay. I still wonder how a list that calculated Adj. OPS+ separately for righties and lefties would look.

(beaten to the point by RickJay)

Only by slightly over 22 hours! :smiley:

Yeah, so what’s your point! Can’t a guy fall asleep at the switch anymore? :smiley: