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Comparing statistics between NL hitters and AL hitters?

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  • Comparing statistics between NL hitters and AL hitters?

    When comparing the offensive numbers between players, to what extent should we factor in the league?

    Let's say there are two players who produce a 150 OPS+ in 160 games. But Player A is in the AL, and Player B is in the NL.

    Do you consider Player B's 150 OPS+ more impressive?

    I do.

    And I believe that is the correct approach for the simple reason that the American League better facilitates offensive performance. The DH adds an extra bat (often a powerhouse) in the lineup, creating more base-runners, RBI opportunities, and stress on opposing pitchers. The DH also gives the hitter a chance to stay fresh throughout the year, without losing ABs; it is a benefit that the NL does not provide.

    Examples:
    Frank Thomas from 1990 - 2000 had a 169 OPS+ in 1530 games.
    Albert Pujols from 2001 -2010 had a 172 OPS+ in 1558 games.

    Those numbers might suggest that Thomas was almost as good as Pujols, right?

    Yet during that time, Thomas spent approx 500 -700 games as a DH. Pujols spent about 10 games as a DH during the 2001 - 2010 run. Is it, thus, unreasonable to think that Thomas had a easier route to getting his 169 OPS+ in 1530 games?


  • #2
    A stat like OPS+ (or wRC+) is based on league average. In the NL, where pitchers hit, the league average is lower, which means position player OPS+ (or wRC+) is higher. Sometimes these values are calculated excluding pitchers, but one has to know that, otherwise, the AL player's OPS+ in your example indicates slightly better production.

    And I believe that is the correct approach for the simple reason that the American League better facilitates offensive performance. The DH adds an extra bat (often a powerhouse) in the lineup, creating more base-runners, RBI opportunities, and stress on opposing pitchers.
    None of these factors is relevant to OPS+, which isn't based on RBIs, except stress on opposing pitchers, which AFAIK is pure speculation on your part. I'm not aware of any studies that show that pitchers in the AL endure more stress. On the contrary, because AL managers don't have to worry about pinch-hitting for a pitcher, they can take their starters out whenever they believe they have lost their effectiveness, rather than balancing that against effects on the lineup.

    In fact, the league adjustment for AL hitters is greater than that for NL hitters, reflecting the fact that the AL is considered to have a very slight edge in quality over the NL.

    The DH also gives the hitter a chance to stay fresh throughout the year, without losing ABs; it is a benefit that the NL does not provide.
    But there is also a well-established DH penalty, that results from being inactive during the game. There is a decrease in wOBA of about 5%, relative to what the player does when playing a position:

    https://mglbaseball.com/2013/12/09/p...ies-revisited/

    To be fair, a player may end up as a DH sometimes because of slight injury problems, that preclude his playing in the field, and which may also affect his hitting. However, the inactivity factor appears to be real, and is even greater for pinch-hitters.

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