Softball Notebook

The Softball Channel’s Fastpitch Blog

14  05 2008

Numbers Game

A Guide to Softball Statistics

One of the best parts about softball is its many statistics. Softball has a special connection to statistics that differentiate it from all other sports (except baseball of course!). One reason for this special relationship is that, as far as statistics are concerned, there are only two positions in softball: batter and pitcher. So all batters regardless of their position in the field can be compared against each other with a single set of statistics, and all pitchers can be compared against each other as well. Another reason softball shares a special connection with statistics is that there are so many! There are lots of different stat categories, and they all work together to give an accurate picture of what kind of softball player a particular batter or pitcher is. One final reason is that different players can have many different combinations of statistics and still be a valuable part of their team.

That being said, there are so many different categories and so many different abbreviations that softball statistics can look like an unbreakable code. That’s why this Guide to Softball Statistics is here to help!

Note: There are many more statistical categories; I have only included the major ones.

Batting Statistics

At-Bat (AB): An at-bat is when the batter makes an appearance at the plate and the appearance ends in a hit or the batter being out but there are some exceptions to this rule. If the batter is walked or if the batter hits a sacrifice or hits into a fielders choice, then there is no at-bat.

Fielders Choice (FC): Hitting into a fielders choice occurs when there are runners on base and batter hits a ball to an infielder who chooses to throw out the advancing runner rather than the batter running to first. The batter will make it to first safely, but it does not count as a hit or as an at-bat: it is scored as an FC: fielder’s choice.

Sacrifice (SAC): A sacrifice hit/sacrifice bunt occurs when a player intentionally bunts to advance a runner on first or second base. If the sacrifice bunter is attempting to advance a runner on third into home, it is called a “squeeze play.” This is not scored as an at-bat. A sacrifice fly is slightly different, and occurs when a caught fly ball to the outfield (must be less than 2 outs) allows a runner on third base to score. A sac fly does not count as an at-bat and the batter receives an RBI

Plate Appearances: A plate appearance is every single time a batter steps into the batters box, regardless of the outcome. A player will always have more plate appearances than at-bats.

Hit (H): The batter scores a hit when she hits the ball into fair territory and reaches 1st base without the benefit of an error or a fielder’s choice.

Infield Hit: An infield hit is a special kind of hit. If the batter hits the ball to a fielder in the infield but is able to beat the throw to first (without benefit of a throwing error), then it is scored as a infield hit.

Batting Average: Batting average is a calculation equal to the number of hits a player has accumulated divided over the amount of at-bats she has recorded. For example, if a batter has 33 hits in 100 at bats, her batting average is (33/100) = .333. Batting average is a measure of how likely a player is to get a hit whenever they step up to the plate. A batting average over .300 is considered really good.

Run (R ): A run is scored whenever a base-runner crosses home plate after rounding all the bases in order.

Run-Batted-In (RBI): A run-batted-in results when a batter records a hit and it allows base runner to score—including counting yourself if you hit a home-run. Therefore, the most RBI you can score on a single hit is 4 (after a grand slam).

Single (1B): Whenever a player hits a single, it counts as both a hit (H) and a single (1B). This way fans can tell not only how many total hits a player has recorded, but how many of them are singles.

Double (2B): Whenever a player hits a double, it counts as both a hit (H) and a double (2B). This way fans can tell not only how many total hits a player has recorded, but how many of them are doubles.

Triple (3B): Whenever a player hits a triple, it counts as both a hit (H) and a triple (3B). This way fans can tell not only how many total hits a player has recorded, but how many of them are triples.

Home Run (HR): A home run occurs when a batter hits the ball and it clears the home run fence. A home run counts as a hit, a home run, a run, and an RBI for the batter. The batter also gets to record any runners that were on base when the home run was hit as RBIs.

Inside the Park Home Run: This is a special kind of home run, where the runner is able to hit the ball deep into the outfield (though not far enough to clear the fences) and runs around all bases into home plate before the defense can get the ball to the catcher.

Walk (BB): This stat counts the number of times the batter has been walked. The “BB” stands for “base on balls.”

Stolen Base (SB): A stolen base occurs when a base runner successfully advances to the next base while the pitcher is delivering the ball to the catcher. Usually only the fastest players on the team can steal bases.

On Base Percentage (OBP or OB%): This statistic is an expanded version of batting average; it counts all of the times a batter reaches first base by a hit, a walk, or being hit by a pitch. It is calculated by adding all hits, walks, and times hit by a pitch, and dividing it over the number of at bats, walks, hit by pitch, and sacrifice flies. A batter’s on base percentage is almost always higher than their batting average. For example, if a batter steps up to the plate 10 times, gets 3 hits, gets 2 walks, and hits 1 sacrifice fly, this batter will have 10 plate appearances, 7 at bats, a .428 batting average, and a .500 on base percentage. An on base percentage of over .400 is considered really good.

Slugging Percentage (SLG): This statistic is designed to account for a batter’s overall power—not just home runs. It is a very complicated calculation, but it is a really good measure of a batter’s ability to hit doubles, triples, and home runs together. Slugging percentage is first calculated by weighting all singles, doubles, triples, and home runs by adding (1B) + (2 x 2B) + (3 x 3B) + (4 x HR) divided over the total at bats. For example, if a player has 10 singles, 6 doubles, 7 triples, and 6 home runs in 100 at bats: (10) + (2 x 6) + (3 x 7) + (4 x 6) = 67. 67 divided by 100 at bats equals a slugging percentage of .670. Any slugging percentage over .500 is considered really good.

Pitching Statistics

Record (W-L): Pitchers are the only individual player to have their own win and loss record. For a starting pitcher to record a win she must pitch at least 4 innings of a 7 inning game, must leave the game with her team in the lead (or pitch a complete game win), and her team must remain in the lead for the rest of the game and eventually win—if the other team ever ties the game up or takes over the lead the starting pitcher’s win is destroyed even if her team eventually comes back to win. For relief pitchers, recording a win is much easier—whichever relief pitcher completes the same inning on defense that her team takes the lead on offense (provided her team keeps the lead for the rest of the game) is credited with the win.

A pitcher is credited with the loss if she pitches in the same inning where her team gives up the lead and the lead is lost for the rest of the game. For example, if the Starting Pitcher pitches 4 innings and leaves the game with the score tied 0-0, and Pitcher A enters the game and gives up a run and the game ends 0-1, then the starting pitcher gets a “no decision” and Pitcher A is credited with the loss. On the other hand, if the Starting Pitcher pitches 5 innings and leaves the game up 5-0, and Pitcher A relieves her and gives up 2 runs, then the Starting Pitcher is still credited with the win and Pitcher A gets neither a win nor a loss.

Innings Pitched (IP): Every time a pitcher pitches a complete 3-out inning, she is credited with an “inning pitched.” For example, if a pitcher pitches 3 complete innings they are credited with 3 “IP.” It gets a bit complicated when a pitcher pitches only a portion of an inning; such as when a pitcher pitches only 1 or 2 outs of an inning. If she pitches only 1 or 2 outs, she is credited with either .1 or .2 IP, respectively. For example, if a pitcher pitches 3 complete innings but only records 2 outs in the 4th inning before being replaced, she receives 3.2 Innings Pitched.

Complete Game (CG): The mark of a real work horse! When a pitcher is able to pitch every pitch of an entire game for her team—including if it goes into extra innings—she receives credit for a complete game.

Strike-Outs (K or SO): A pitcher that is able to record 3 strikes against a batter resulting in the batter being out has performed a strike-out. Pitchers that can get a significant amount of strike-outs while they are out on the mound are usually the most prized of all pitchers.

Earned Run (ER): An earned run is charged to the pitcher whenever a batter who has not reached base or advanced through an error scores a run. One exception applies: if the batter reaches base or advances as a result of an error on the pitcher, then this batter is still counted as an earned run if she eventually crosses home plate. For example, if Batter 1 singles, Batter 2 is allowed to reach 1st as a result of an error on an outfielder, and Batter 3 hits a home run, then the pitcher is charged with 2 earned runs (Batter 1 and 3), and 1 un-earned run (Batter 2).

Earned Run Average (ERA): Perhaps the most important of all pitcher statistics, but it is very difficult to calculate. Basically, a pitcher’s ERA is an indication of how many runs you can expect to score on her if she pitches a full 7 inning game. The calculation is equal to Earned Runs divided by Innings Pitched multiplied by 7 innings. For example, if a pitcher has pitched 100 innings in a season and has given up 25 earned runs, then her ERA would be (25/100) x (7) = 1.75 ERA.

Because ERA is a measure of how many runs you can expect to score against a pitcher in a 7 inning game, you can use the above pitcher’s 1.75 ERA to estimate that your team must score 2 runs to win a game against her. In softball, an ERA between 1.00 and 2.00 is considered really good.

So there you have it—a guide to softball statistics.  Keeping track of the numbers will really increase your enjoyment of the game, so start counting!

One Response to “Numbers Game”

  1. I’m reading a really interesting book called “Moneyball,” which is a about Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane and how he was one of the first baseball GM’s to choose players based on their prior statistical performance rather than the opinions of scouts who had watched the player play in person. The eye, the book says, is an ineffective tool to evaluate players—only the statistical data that a player produces can truly measure their worth as a baseball player.

    The book is also about the importance of statistics in baseball and how many of the more famous statistics—like batting average, stolen bases, and RBI’s—are an ineffective measure of how good a player is. The theory is that all players should be judged by their individual contributions to the team in helping it score runs, and not rely on stats like RBI’s, which are heavily dependent on the luck of having teammates in scoring position, and stolen bases, which don’t rationally correlate to that player helping the team score runs. Even batting average, the book says, is an overrated stat because a player with, let’s say, a .320 batting average who can only hit singles is much less valuable to a team than a player who hits .300, or even .290, but can hit for power.

    The stats that truly measure how helpful a batter is in helping your team score runs is On-Base Percentage and OPS, or On-Base Percentage Plus Slugging percentage. The former statistic measures how likely the batter is to not record an out per each at-bat, thereby helping the team continue the inning. The latter statistic helps measure how likely the player is to not record an out AND takes into account the player’s ability to hit for power. Power hits are more likely to drive in runs, so power is a very important statistic to measure—but NONE of the classic hitting statistics effectively measure power. The home run statistic measures a particular type of power hit, but it doesn’t take into account hits like triples and doubles, which are more valuable to the team than singles, so a player who can hit a lot of triples is a more valuable player to have on your roster.

    The book also talks about how ridiculous of a stat the fielding error is. There is no stat in baseball, the book states, that is judged by what someone watching the game thinks the fielder should have done. The error is a relic of a bygone era in baseball during the Civil War period, where there were no baseball gloves, the grass wasn’t mowed and the ball was never replaced, so by the end of the game it resembled a lopsided pillow. Back in those days fielding any ball was an adventure, and truly was an “error” to bobble a ball hit right to you. But today, it is a ridiculous stat to record. To even be eligible for an error, you have to do something right; namely, you have to be in the right place. If a player wants to avoid ever recording an error, all he/she has to do is move so slowly the ball can’t be reached—that way it can’t be mishandled! The error is a stat that measures the player’s talent in avoiding failure, not doing anything meaningful.

    “Moneyball” is a very interesting book, especially if you are a stat nut. I highly recommend it!

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