OPS in Baseball: Impact on Player Evaluation and Strategy

Pat Bloom

ops in baseball

In baseball, one term that often sparks curiosity and confusion is OPS, or On-Base Plus Slugging. This advanced statistic combines a player’s ability to get on base with their power-hitting prowess, offering a comprehensive measure of offensive performance.

But what exactly makes a good OPS, and why should players and fans care about it? A good OPS is generally considered to be anything above .800 over a career.

For context, the league-wide OPS average in 2023 is .729, making a .750 OPS above average and a .700 OPS fairly good.

Legends like Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds have set the bar high, with career OPS figures of 1.164 and 1.051, respectively.

Understanding OPS can provide deeper insights into a player’s overall contribution to their team, making it a crucial stat for evaluating talent in modern baseball.

OPS in Baseball

OPS stands for “On-base Plus Slugging,” and it’s a sabermetric baseball statistic used to evaluate a player’s overall offensive performance. It combines two important aspects of hitting: on-base percentage (OBP) and slugging percentage (SLG).

Definition of OPS in Baseball

OPS stands for On-Base Plus Slugging. It’s a baseball statistic that combines two crucial offensive metrics: On-Base Percentage (OBP) and Slugging Percentage (SLG).

By summing these metrics, OPS provides a comprehensive measure of a player’s hitting performance. Traditional stats like batting average or RBIs often do not capture the complete picture of a player’s contributions.

OPS has emerged as a more robust indicator to evaluate offensive skills, balancing a player’s ability to reach base with their power-hitting capabilities.

Components of OPS: On-Base and Slugging Percentages

OPS comprises two main elements: On-Base Percentage (OBP) and Slugging Percentage (SLG).

On-Base Percentage (OBP)

OBP measures a player’s ability to get on base through hits, walks, and hit-by-pitches.

The formula for OBP is:

OBP = (Hits + Walks + Hit by Pitch) / (At bats + Walks + Hit by Pitch + Sacrifice Flies)

Slugging Percentage (SLG)

SLG quantifies the power of a hitter by calculating the total number of bases a player earns per at-bat.

The formula for SLG is:

SLG = (1B + (2 x 2B) + (3 x 3B) + (4 x HR)) / At bats
Total Bases are calculated as singles + (2 \times doubles) + (3 \times triples) + (4 \times home runs). SLG emphasizes extra-base hits, showcasing a player’s ability to hit for power.

Analyzing OPS Values

Analyzing OPS values in baseball can provide insights into a player’s offensive performance. Generally, a higher OPS indicates a more effective hitter.

What is Considered a Good OPS?

OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging) above .800 is generally considered good in baseball. Players with an OPS of .900 or higher are seen as elite performers.

For instance, during the 2022 MLB season, 105 players achieved an OPS of 700 or more. A 750 OPS is above-average, with the league-wide OPS average in 2023 being .729.

Conversely, a .600 OPS is below-average, indicating room for improvement in both on-base and slugging metrics.

OPS effectively captures a player’s ability to balance getting on base and hitting for extra bases, two key offensive skills.

Here’s a breakdown of how OPS values are typically interpreted:

  • Below .700: Below average
  • .700 to .749: Average
  • .750 to .799: Above average
  • .800 to .849: Very good
  • .850 to .899: Excellent
  • .900 and above: Outstanding

Historical Context of OPS Values in MLB

Historically, OPS values have fluctuated in MLB. The average OPS in the 2023 season is .729, while the highest league average OPS, .814, occurred in 1894 when only 12 teams participated.

Notably, Barry Bonds boasts a career OPS of 1.051, the fifth-highest in baseball history, with a peak season OPS of 1.422 in 2004.

The ability to maintain a high OPS consistently across seasons denotes a player’s value and offensive capability.

Legendary players like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Lou Gehrig also hold top career OPS ranks, reinforcing the stat’s importance in evaluating long-term excellence.

Impact of OPS in Player Evaluation and Strategy

OPS has significantly impacted player evaluation and strategic decision-making in baseball.

Here’s how:

OPS and Player Contracts

OPS often plays a critical role in determining player contracts. Teams analyze a player’s OPS to gauge their overall offensive value.

When players have high OPS values, they command higher salaries due to their ability to both reach base and hit for power.

For instance, a player with an OPS above .900 signals elite offensive performance, often leading to lucrative contracts.

This approach ensures that teams invest in players who can significantly impact games through consistent high-level offensive contributions.

OPS and Team Strategy

Teams use OPS to shape their lineup and game strategy. Managers prioritize players with high OPS values in key batting order positions to maximize scoring opportunities.

For example, players with elevated OPS figures are often positioned in the middle of the batting order to drive in runs.

Additionally, teams may adjust their strategies based on opponent pitching and situational contexts, leveraging insights from OPS data to optimize on-field performance and decision-making.

The strategic consideration of OPS enables teams to build more effective lineups and develop comprehensive game plans that exploit offensive strengths.

Comparison and Limitations of OPS

Comparing OPS to other metrics and understanding its limitations provides a more nuanced view of its role in baseball analysis.

Here’s a comparison and exploration of its limitations:

OPS vs. Other Baseball Statistics

OPS stands as a comprehensive metric in evaluating a player’s overall offensive performance. Unlike batting average, which solely reflects a hitter’s ability to get hits, OPS also accounts for a player’s capacity to get on base and hit for power.

Below is a comparison table of key metrics like batting average, OBP, SLG, and OPS.

Batting AverageHits per at-batHits / At-bats
On-Base Percentage (OBP)Frequency of reaching base, includes hits, walks, hit-by-pitches(Hits + Walks + Hit-by-pitches) / (At-bats + Walks + Hit-by-pitches + Sacrifice flies)
Slugging Percentage (SLG)Measures power, total bases per at-bat(1 x Singles + 2 x Doubles + 3 x Triples + 4 x Home runs) / At-bats
OPSCombines OBP and SLG, offering a comprehensive offensive measureOBP + SLG

Criticisms and Limitations of Relying Solely on OPS

Relying solely on OPS for player evaluation has drawn criticism due to several limitations.

Here’s an exploration of those criticisms:

Equal Weighting of Components

OPS treats on-base percentage (OBP) and slugging percentage (SLG) as equally important, but they may not have the same impact on run production.

For instance, getting on base through walks or singles doesn’t always lead to runs the same way extra-base hits do.

Ignoring Context

OPS doesn’t consider the context of hits or walks, such as their timing in the game or their impact on game situations (e.g., clutch situations). It may not fully capture a player’s ability to perform under pressure.

Limited Scope

OPS focuses solely on offensive performance and neglects other important aspects of the game, such as baserunning and defense. A player with a high OPS may not contribute as much overall if they lack defensive skills or baserunning ability.

Park and League Effects

OPS values can be influenced by factors like ballpark dimensions and league-wide offensive trends, making direct comparisons between players or across eras challenging without proper adjustments.

Sample Size

OPS can be skewed by small sample sizes, particularly early in the season or for players with limited playing time. It may not provide an accurate representation of a player’s true talent level over a short period.

Not Predictive

While OPS is descriptive of past performance, it may not be as predictive of future performance as more advanced metrics that account for additional variables.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is OPS in baseball?

OPS stands for On-Base Plus Slugging. It combines a player’s on-base percentage (OBP) and slugging percentage (SLG) to evaluate their overall offensive performance.

Why is OPS important in baseball?

OPS is important because it provides a comprehensive measure of a player’s ability to get on base and hit for power, both essential for scoring and winning games.

How is OPS calculated?

OPS is calculated by adding a player’s on-base percentage (OBP) and slugging percentage (SLG).

What is considered a good OPS?

Historically, a good OPS is above .800. Players with an OPS in this range are typically seen as excellent offensive contributors.

How does OPS impact player evaluation?

OPS impacts player evaluation by offering a single metric that reflects both on-base ability and power-hitting, influencing contracts, lineup choices, and strategic decisions.

How does OPS compare to batting average?

Unlike batting average, which only measures the frequency of hits, OPS provides a more comprehensive view by including walks, hits, and the quality of those hits.

Are there criticisms of OPS as a metric?

Yes, criticisms include its equal weighting of OBP and SLG, lack of situational hitting and baserunning considerations, and potential inflation from high-slugging percentages.

Should OPS be used alone to evaluate players?

No, while OPS is valuable, it should be used alongside other statistics to get a full picture of a player’s overall value and performance.


OPS remains a vital statistic in modern baseball for evaluating a player’s offensive capabilities. By combining on-base percentage and slugging percentage, it offers a comprehensive snapshot of a player’s performance at the plate.

While it has its limitations and shouldn’t be the sole metric for player evaluation, OPS provides valuable insights that can influence contracts, lineup decisions, and overall strategy.

When used alongside other statistics, OPS can help teams and analysts make more informed decisions about a player’s true value on the field.

Advanced metrics like wOBA (weighted On-Base Average) and WAR (Wins Above Replacement) can complement OPS, providing an even clearer picture of a player’s impact. As baseball evolves, so too does the analysis.

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Pat Bloom

I lead Washington University in St. Louis' baseball team, emphasizing skill development, strategic play, and sportsmanship. Our rigorous training and competitive spirit cultivate discipline and teamwork, preparing athletes for success both in baseball and academics. We embody the determination and sportsmanship that define our university's athletics. LinkedIn

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