The Playbook, Inning 8: Advanced stats for fantasy baseball

The full nine-inning Playbook was published in the spring 2020. It has been updated to 2022, where appropriate.

Today’s baseball is very different from when rotisserie first appeared.

In 1980, almost everyone was interested in baseball. These “bubblegum cards” numbers included batting average, home runs and ERA. The best minds in baseball have shown that there are better ways to assess players over the years.

We have so many statistics today that even advanced fantasy players might be overwhelmed. Sometimes, even turning on a broadcast can seem overwhelming with new statistical innovations like Exit Velocity and xwOBA. Which one of these matters for our purposes? Perhaps more important, are these stats actually relevant? ?

No matter how experienced you are, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a veteran player or someone new to 21st-century statistics such as Statcast. It can often be helpful to have a refresher or primer for those who are the latter. This Playbook explores some of these new metrics we can use to assess players. They are broken down into different categories.


This has been all the rage for the past half-decade in baseball analysis and fantasy baseball broadcasts. But what exactly is it? Is Statcast?

Statcast is an automated tool to analyze players’ skills using radar and camera system. The systems were installed in major league stadiums over a decade before they became fully operational in all ballparks starting in 2015. This means that the data is not complete for the seven previous seasons (2015-21).’s Statcast glossaryStatcast gives more information about the system, but we can summarize it for fantasy purposes. Statcast allows us to scout players by converting their raw capabilities into statistics.

Statcast data can be found in an easy-to-sort format on the easiest website. There you will find leaderboards, player statistics reports, and a search engine for specific queries. also offers Statcast leaderboardsAvailable in a few categories.

These are the top statcast metrics that are relevant to fantasy:

Exit VelocityThis is the speed at which a batter hit a batted ball. In the end, the faster a batter hits a batted ball, the quicker the defense will react to it and the farther it is likely to travel. Both of these factors increase the chance of a positive outcome for the hitter. When evaluating pitchers, it is more advantageous to have lower numbers.

An average of the Exit Velocity of a player over all of what Statcast refers to as “Batted ball Events,” or batted baseballs in play, is used to describe his Exit Velocity.AEV). The average league exit velocity in 2021 was 88.1 miles per hour. That’s 92.1 miles for a player to reach the 90th percentageile. 86.6 mph placed him in the top 10. Aaron Judge(95.8mph) was the league leader for this category among eligible players.

The category’s worst batting title-eligible major was David Fletcher(82.3 mph), Alcides Escobar81.7 mph was the worst for players with at least 150 balls.

Now, let’s turn to the pitchers. Zack WheelerThe average exit velocity of ERA qualifiers was 84.6 mph, Blake Treinen(83.3 mph) was the fastest among relievers allowed to bat 150 balls. Victor GonzalezAverage Exit Velocity of 82.4 mph — highest among pitchers who had at least 50 balls batted.

Conversely, Robbie Ray(90.4 mph) was the maximum allowed Exit Velocity for ERA qualifiers. However, it is important to remember that only 39 pitchers were eligible. The innings threshold can be adjusted downward. Justus Sheffield(92.9 mph), was the worst pitcher allowed to have at least 250 batted balls. David Hess(94.7 mph), was the worst overall pitcher to allow at least 150 batted balls.

Launch Angle (LA).This is the vertical angle at which a batted bat leaves a hitter’s bat. A Launch Angle zero degrees is when the ball leaves the bat parallel to it, while a Launch Angle 90 degrees means the ball went straight up off of the bat. Launch Angle, like Exit Velocity and its average, is commonly referred to as ().aLA).

When examining each batted ball individually, the Launch Angle is one method to determine its type. Launch Angles below 10 degrees are generally considered ground balls, between 10 and 25 degrees is considered line drives, between 25 and 50 degrees is a flyball, and above 50 degrees is a pop up. If we use averages, players who have higher launch angles are usually classified as fly-ball-hitters (or pitching pitchers), whereas those with lower launch angles can be called ground-ball-hitters (or pitching pitchers).

This is the goal Adam DuvallHis 23.6 degree average Launch Angle was the best among batting title-eligible hitters. And his 40.1% fly ball rate was predictably the highest (by a full 2% among the 132 hitters). Meanwhile, Isiah Kiner-FalefaHis average Launch Angle of minus-4.4 degrees was the lowest among eligible hitters. Furthermore, his 12.3% fly rate was easily league’s lowest (by 2.5%).

Pitching-wise, Luis Castillo‘s 4.1 degree average Launch angle was the lowest among ERA qualifiers. His 17.0% fly-ball rate also was the lowest among that group. Because so few pitchers have met the qualification threshold, Framber ValdezThe average Launch Angle of minus-5.5 degrees was the lowest among pitchers who had at least 300 batted balls. Freddy PeraltaThe opposite end of the scale was 21.4 degree aLA. They had the highest fly-ball rates (32.4%) and lowest (11.1%) among all pitchers who pitched at least 130 innings.

Hard Hit Rate:This takes Exit Velocity one more step. It defines a “Hard Hit” batted baseball as one struck with an exit velocity at least 95 mph. The average player’s speed is then taken. AllBatted balls which were hit at less than that speed. Again,’s Statcast glossaryThis article provides more information about the methodology and the reasoning behind that number. To summarize, when a batted balls potential result improves dramatically, it is at 95 mph.

While you Exit Velocity canHelp with predictive analysis (for us, fantasy) Hard Hit Rate is a better tool. It extracts only the most productive and positive results. It is more likely that fantasy success and high Hard Hit Rates for hitters will be correlated than with low rates for pitchers.

Aaron Judge, who was 38th overall in the league’s Hard Hit Rate for 2021, was the league’s best batting title-eligible player. He finished at 57.9%. ESPN Player RaterThey tied for 45th in fantasy point scored. You might be surprised by high-placed names in this area. Miguel SanoHis 55.9% Hard Hit rate, which is the third consecutive season in a row in which he has had a rate at least 55%. It was an important factor in his record breaking 77 home runs for 2019-21. There are also Joey Votto and his 53.2% Hard Hit Rate, which underscores the dramatic changes to his swing that he made in late 2020 which led to his hitting a 10th-best-in-baseball 44 homers since Aug. 29, 2020.

As with the other two metrics, this metric can be used to assess pitchers’ ability to pitch. Limit Hard contact Zack WheelerThe Hard Hit Rate (28.5%) was the highest of all ERA-qualified pitchers. Jonathan LoaisigaAll pitchers who allowed at most 180 batted balls were at 24.1 % Wheeler was 12th in the Player Rater and had the fourth-most fantasy point. Loaisiga was 147th overall, despite not having the benefits of the closer position. Their ability to avoid hard contact was a large factor in both of their successes.

Late-season sensation was one of the most troubling Hard Hit Rates in the pitching world. Drew Rasmussen, with a 1.46 ERA during an eight-start stretch to close the regular season. With 50.2%, he had the majors’ highest allowed Hard Hit Rate among pitchers who allowed at most 200 batted balls.

Barrels:Barrels, which combine Exit Velocity with Launch Angle, is a “one-step further” metric. They are batted balls that hit the best marks in each of these categories. Statcast defines these batted balls as those that have combined the two factors and produced a minimum.500 average batting and 1.500 percent slugging percentage. These are often home runs and big hits.’s Statcast glossary delved deeper into this category. here.

Barrels are useful for judging players’ power, particularly if you want to eliminate park factors. The category is a good place to start for hitters who are successful in hitting home runs. In 2021, all eight players who had at least 65 Barrels achieved at least 35 home runs. This was a feat that only 19 other hitters could achieve. Shohei OhtaniWith 78 Barrels, he was the leader and he came in third with 46 home runs. Ohtani was actually the top-ranked Barrels player in 2021. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. And Salvador Perez– Also included the top three home runs for the season.

This is another metric that can be used for evaluating pitchers. Corbin BurnesThe season saw only 12 Barrels, which was the lowest allowed among all the pitchers who qualified for the ERA championship. J.A. HappAnd Tarik Skubaltied for the most permitted by Anypitcher (58). Burnes’ 0.38 HR/9 rank was easily the lowest of majors pitchers who had worked at least 120 frames. Skubal’s 2.11 HR/9 rank second (Happ’s 1.77 was 12th).

Spin Rate (or ):This is the speed at which the ball spins after being released by a pitcher. It is measured in revolutions per hour. A pitcher’s Spin rate, in addition to velocity has an effect on the baseball’s movement. High spin fastballs are more likely to reach the plate in a higher plane than low spin fastballs. This is the reason for the famous “rising fastball”. A pitcher’s curveball will also be more effective if it has a higher spin rate.

This doesn’t mean Spin Rates aren’t possible on both ends of the spectrum. AlwaysThis will increase pitch effectiveness. Daniel BardLast year’s example was an excellent example. His spin rate of 2,727 revolutions per hour on his four-seam fastball, which was 2.7727 revolutions per second, was second among pitchers who threw more than 500 pitches. Trevor Bauer‘s 2,783. Bard also threw the pitch at a blistering 97.5 mph average and saw opponents bat.337 against it.

His pitch was not affected by spin rate or velocity. Coors Field wasn’t the only problem. Bard’s fastball was unfortunately the worst in terms of vertical movement. Statcast measured it as minus 4.5 inches of drop on an average. It is seventh lowest among pitchers who threw at minimum 250 fastballs. There are theories about why. Why?Bard’s fastball has been so ineffective that the Spin Rate metric — or average velocity — is not an indicator of an elite pitch.

Lance McCullers Jr.The curveball of’s is an excellent example of a pitch that can be made more effective by a high rate spin rate. His curveball generated 2,923 revolutions/minute, ranking third among the pitchers who threw more than 2,000 pitches in 2021. Garrett Richards‘ (3.142) Charlie Morton‘s (3,053). McCullers had 55 of his 185 strikeouts and 462-of-753 during his big-league career on curveballs. Because of McCullers’ success with this pitch, fantasy managers have been tolerant of his absences due to injury over his seven major-league seasons.

Expected Batting Average, Expected Slugging Average (xSLG), and Expected Weighted on-Base Average(xwOBA).These metrics are more useful for fantasy managers and provide a better way to strip out “luck” from players’ numbers. Each player formulates an expected number using the Exit Velocity and Launch Angle. If applicable, Sprint Speed is also taken into account. This gives a better idea of what the player should do on each play or over the entire season (if cumulative).

For those who play in points-based leagues that reward doubles and triples, Expected Weighted on-Base Average may be more relevant. It provides a better picture of a player’s hitting ability.

Bryce HarperLast season, the majors in xwOBA saw a.430 score. This was only 1% more than the 2020 leader. Juan SotoThey were ranked ninth in fantasy points and second overall. The hitters who were high on fantasy points but didn’t have the raw fantasy numbers to match it were Jorge SolerA.354 xwOBA was achieved by, which is a difference of 35 points from a.319 WOBA. That difference is fifth-widest among all batting title-eligible players. Max KeplerThe Chapter 6 discussion of a player named ” had a.347xwOBA and a.309wOBA. This indicates that he should have ended with more attractive fantasy stats. In 2022 drafts, both players could be bargains.

These categories can also help to identify regression candidates, which are players whose batted ball outcomes were less favorable than they should have been. Frank SchwindelHad the majors’ highest wOBA xwOBA divide among hitters who had at least 250 plate appearances. This was 74 points (.329 compared to.403). Randy ArozarenaThe highest-placing batting title-eligible player was called “Battering Title-Eligible Hitter”, with a spread of 48 points (.350 wOBA and.302xwOBA).

HereThis is a great place to find all these expected statistics as well as other Statcast offerings such as a CSV download option. The numbers for pitchers can be found as well. here.

Sprint SpeedIn 2017 this measure was introduced to show how fast a player can run during his fastest one-second window for running the bases. The baserunning opportunities can be divided into two categories: Runs to first base when grounders are not hit well, and runs that exceed two bases with balls within the park (except runs to second base on extra-base hits). This gives you an idea of the player’s speed and can be helpful when trying to steal bases in fantasy.

A run that is faster than 30 feet per minute is considered excellent. The league’s average is often less than 27 feet per minute. Sometimes, slower runners may see speeds as low as 22 feet per second. Albert PujolsThe second consecutive season saw a victory for, with an average of 22.4 in 2021.

Last season Trea Turner (30.7 feet per second), Eli White (30.5), Jorge Mateo (30.4), Byron Buxton(30.0) Jo AdellThe top five players in this category were (29.9) among those who had at least 50 competitive runs. This quintet went 56-for-67 in stolen base attempts combined last season. That’s mainly due to Turner being the only player who met the game’s batting title-eligible qualification or even remotely close.

There are many other Statcast categories that you can explore, but these are those which are most relevant to fantasy managers.

Independent pitching metrics for defense

FIP and the xFIPThe abbreviation of Fielding Independent Pitching score and expected FIP. It attempts to eliminate the impact of a pitcher’s defense on his stats. Instead, it measures his home runs, walks, hit batters allowed, strikeouts and is compared to ERA. xFIP removes the luck factor associated with home runs and instead uses the pitchers’ flyballs allowed, as well as a league-average homerun rate.

FIP is a simple way to identify pitchers whose fortunes will improve in the future. xFIP, meanwhile can be used to evaluate pitchers assigned to pitch at different parks or for teams that are changing. Regardless of which method you choose, both are significantly more powerful scouting tools than ERA.

Burnes (1.63) and Taylor (1.33) were predictably the top three pitchers of FIP in 2021. Trevor Rogers(2.55) and Wheeler (2.59), whose ERAs ranked second (2.43), sixth (2.644) and eighth (2.78) in the same qualification group. Good pitching produces elite results across the board.

Further down, however, you will find pitchers who may have had to endure a lot of unlucky bounces. Matt HarveyLed 120-inning pitching with a 1.67 differential FIP (4.60) & ERA (6.27), neither was particularly great, but right behind was the completely fantasy-relevant Eduardo RodriguezWith a gap of 1.42 (3.32 FIP and 4.74 ERA), you should expect a rebound with The Detroit Tigers. Aaron NolaAs mentioned in Inning 6, a 1.26 gap was also noted. You can expect to catch more breaks for ‘2022, as well.

The other side of this scale is Marco GonzalesWith minus-1.32 (5.38% FIP, 3.96 ERA), he had the largest gap in FIP/ERA of all pitchers with at most 120 innings. Because he’s more of a bat-to-ball pitcher than an overpowering pitcher and is also a very fly-baller, he will see a decrease in his ERA in 2022. Cal QuantrillThe second-largest gap was with minus-1.18 at 4.07 FIP, 2.89 ERA.

Others who stood out from the wrong side were: Adrian Houser (4.33 FIP, 3.22 ERA), Casey Mize(4.71/3.71) John Means (4.62/3.62).

Avoid putting TooI don’t recommend putting too much stock in FIP or xFIP. Instead, I recommend that you use it as an evaluative tool. Quantrill has an average ground-ball lean (43.2%) and was one of the best pitchers at suppressing hard touch. He has also out-pitched his FIP significantly over the past two years. His 2022 return to earth number might not be quite as disastrous as those of other pitchers who have a similar ERA/FIP split.

SIERA:SIERA is an acronym for Skill-Interactive ERA. It’s a new innovation that attempts to eliminate defensive influences from the pitching equation. SIERA can also be used as an abbreviation and helps determine how effective a hurler was. FIP does not include batted balls in its calculation, but SIERA does. This is the key difference between SIERA & FIP. FanGraphs created a wonderful column explaining SIERA as well as the formula to calculate it. here.

SIERA’s leaderboard does not run in the exact same order as FIP. However, it does grade the game’s top similarly to FIP. Burnes (2.61) was the ERA qualified leader. Burnes was followed by Max Scherzer(2.90) Gerrit Cole(2.93), and all three finished 1-2-3 among pitchers who have at least 120 innings pitched. Carlos Rodon(2.96) Clayton Kershaw(3) and (5) were fifth and sixth respectively in the 120-inning group. SIERA was more favorable for American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie RayFIP was 3.69, whereas’s 2021 (3.21) was (3.21), which alleviates some of the concerns fantasy managers may have about his large ERA-FIP gap.

Statistics based on ‘Luck’

As we become more aware of the factors that influence these stats, it has been less popular to use luck-based statistics in fantasy baseball analysis. It’s still worth reviewing these as they can give a glimpse into a player’s abilities, and our knowledge of them can help us to understand the pitfalls.

BABIPBABIP (or Batting Average on Baseballs in Play): This measure was introduced around the turn century by Voros McCracken. It is based on a pitcher’s ability not to hit balls in play. A hitter’s success rate is based on the batted balls they put into play. This does not include walks, strikeouts, and home runs. WithinAfter all, the equation includes the field of play. Calculate it yourself by subdividing hits minus at-bats by at-bats. This will give you (H – HR)/(AB-HR – K + SP). (H – HR)/(AB-HR – K+ SF).

The league’s average BABIP (or average of.300) is the norm. Any player with a significantly lower number than that will likely regress to the average in the future. In 2020 and 2021, the league’s BABIP average was.292. It can fluctuate by a few points year to year depending on league conditions. Today’s three-true-outcome-oriented game has caused that league-wide BABIP to drop by a few points, in large part because of the fewer overall batted balls put into play, but also the greater fly-ball rates that come with it.

The problem with using BABIP to analyze batted ball contact is that it ignores quality. This is something Statcast’s “expected” statistics seeks to rectify. When analyzing BABIP, it is wise to take into account the type of pitcher (ground ball versus flying ball) and the player’s history in that category. Is he a consistent hitter with BABIPs above the league average?

Last season’s Nos. BABIP had 1 and 2 qualified hitters Tim Anderson(.372) Starling Marte(.372) numbers that were 19-28 points higher than their career rates for the category. This is a significant change from their previous norms. SomeAlthough batting average regression is normal, it’s fair to mention that both are quick hitters capable if grabbing more infield hits than average hitters. Anderson’s example shows that Anderson actually had higher BABIPs (.399) in 2019 and 2020 (.383). Anderson’s year-over-2018 record of producing elite numbers in the category is encouraging enough to warrant a repeat.

One hitter who stood out on that scale was Austin RileyHis.368 BABIP rank was third among all batting title-eligible batters. Riley had numbers in this area in the early stages of his minor-league career. However, he was below.300 in the category his first two big league seasons and does not have the elite contact qualities he needs to repeat the effort. He will almost certainly see a decline in his batting percentage in 2022.

Home Run Percentage per Fly Ball (HR/FB%)In the xFIP section, the Home Run Per Fly Ball Percentage is mentioned. It determines how fortunate a player may have been to see fly balls that cleared the outfield fence. Although the league’s average for this category is higher than BABIP it was 10.8% in 2021. As with BABIP pitchers and hitters can expect to return to the mean in the near future. However, unlike BABIP this category is more susceptible to factors such as park factors or contact quality.

Last season Patrick Corbin(17.1%), had the highest qualified rates, and the highest among pitchers who have at least 120 innings. Trevor Rogers was the pitcher with the lowest rate (5.2%) among those who have 120 innings or more. Corbin Burnes (5.6%) was the lowest among ERA-eligible pitchers. Corbin has had a 12%+ rate in this department in 4-of-7 years since Tommy John surgery. But, he bounced back nicely with a 11.8% mark which helped him cut a full-run-plus off his ERA. Any help is appreciated.

The fact that calculations can differ between statistical sources is another problem. FanGraphs, for example, had a league average Home run per fly ball percentage of 13.6%.

Strand Rate or Left on Base Percentage (LOB%)This is the percentage of baserunners a pitcher leaves on base during a given outing or throughout a season. This does not count the number of runners left on base, but assumes that runners score at a league average rate. The formula is hits plus walks plus hit batsmen minus runs scored, divided by hits plus walks plus hit batsmen minus home runs times 1.4 (a predetermined, league-average factor), or (H + BB + HB – R)/(H + BB + HB – (HR * 1.4)).

The league’s average Strand Ratio is 72.0%. In 2021, it was 72.1%. Ray was the top ERA-qualified pitcher last season, with a 90.1% average. Nola came in at the bottom (66.8%). Ray’s Strand Ratio was over 13% higher than his career number (76.9%), while Nola was more than 7% below his career rate (74.0%). Therefore, it is very likely that both will see some correction in their ERAs for 2022.

Variation from site to site

Each batted ball will be judged differently.

The classification of batted ball in play, as mentioned in the Home Run Per Fly Ball Percentage category can have an impact on the results. Statcast and our internal pitch tracking tool both assign pop-ups their own category, separate from fly balls. FanGraphs lists fly-ball rates that include pop-ups. Your source can affect the hard hit rate.

One might not notice the truth if they only glance at the numbers. Hunter RenfroeHis statcast rate was only 27.0%, while his FanGraphs pop-up rate was 43.4%. This is because he had one of the highest pop-up rates among baseball’s batting title-eligibles (11.6%), and his FanGraphs fangraphs rate was 43.4%. One might think that Renfroe’s move to Milwaukee’s Miller Park, which is home to many homers, would be a great place for his swing. He hits more fly balls than harmless pop-ups, but this is not what one should consider. Renfroe’s batted balls metrics suggest that he modified his swing to adjust for Fenway Parks closer left field fence. Therefore, it is dangerous to assume that Renfroe will see a rise in his 2021 home runs. (But he could always adapt his swing to hit more).

Consider multiple sources when analyzing your data. Additional research may be necessary to determine the true skill level of the player if there is a large variance in the results. Statcast data is my first choice if all else fails.

You can find out where to dig deeper into these numbers on your own

Every one of the above-mentioned statistical categories can be found online, with many options for downloading so you can play around with them yourself. is a website that provides Statcast statistics. These stats can be searched, sorted and downloaded. While some of the links are listed above, I will be focusing on it. SearchPage here, since it’s an excellent place with which you can run queries of your choice while scouting players

You will find all kinds of scenarios that allow you to evaluate the game of a player, such as performance against different types of pitch, in specific counts, against players with either handedness or using certain date ranges. Before you enter your query, make sure to select your Player Type, batter, or specific position player, and then choose Sort By xwOBA. To provide a specific example, if you’re interested in seeing which hitter had the highest xwOBA during the final month of 2021, choose Player Type batters, set the Game Date >= as 2021-09-01, then choose Sort By xwOBA. If you’d like, you could set a Minimum Number of Results, for example 250.

As you can see, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. This split places.478 at the top, Tucker BarnhartThe lowest ranking non-pitcher is Gurriel (.194). Gurriel’s incredible finish — he blasted.301/.359/.634 with seven runs in September, which helped him save a season that was otherwise lost — gives him reason to rebound in 2022, particularly considering the Toronto Blue JaysThe team should have a less cluttered outfield, which will help him play more in the future.

FanGraphs also offers custom statistics reports that you can download. HereThis is where you will find the basic 2021 hitters leaderboard. However, you can also select from a variety different reports: Standard statistics or Advanced statistics, Pitched Ball statistics, Value statistics, Pitch Type statistics, Plate Discipline statistics, and many more.

FanGraphs is similar to Statcast and allows you to see player splits as well as request numbers within a Custom Time Range. Check out the standard stats page that pitchers can use to see an example of some the options. the 2021 home-games split. The Milwaukee BrewersMiller Park hosts the, who have not seen a sub-1.000 home run Park Factor (neutral) in one season since 2008. ThreeHome ERA: 12 pitchers Brandon Woodruff (2.31, 2nd), Corbin Burnes(2.85, 11th) Freddy Peralta (2.88, 12th). Each of them finished 2021 with a sub-1.00HR/9, which speaks volumes about how skilled they are.

FanGraphs is not a paywall website. In this current climate, you might consider purchasing a membership to show your support.

Here are some other websites that you might consider when doing your research:

Brooks Baseball:Their Pitch F/X Tool is their strongest feature. It can help you to scout for players similar in style to the ones on Statcast. You can view player splits by situation or time period and they also provide a visual interface to help you visualize player skill findings.

Baseball Prospectus:They have been around for a while, offering analytics for well over 20 years and publishing an annual that profiles every player. There are many advanced analytics available.

Now that you are familiar with advanced statistics, let us put them to work! One more Inning is left in the Playbook. This extracts some of my favourite findings using many tools mentioned above. Keep watching!

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