OPS+ and ERA+ are easy to understand. A 100 in either category is always the average. A 120 means the hitter or pitcher was 20 percent better than the average player — no small feat. Of the last four hitters voted in by the BBWAA to the Hall of Fame, three posted career OPS+ marks under 119: Andre Dawson, Barry Larkin and Roberto Alomar.
Yasiel Puig’s OPS+ through 657 plate appearances is a cool 171.
That is a remarkable way to start a career at the highest level of baseball. So remarkable that it has been surpassed just one time since the turn of the 20th century, according to Register research of the Baseball-Reference.com database.
Only Thomas, then a 22-year-old White Sox first baseman/designated hitter, beat Puig with a 177 OPS+ over his first calendar year in the majors. The other players to come close were Boston’s Lynn in 1974, with 169, and St. Louis’ Mize in 1936 with 162.
When you factor in defensive performance and position played, it’s possible Puig vaults ahead of Thomas.
Yes, OPS+ is not perfect, for OPS itself is flawed. Its simple calculation values OBP and SLG the same, even though one added point of OBP has been proved to be worth much more than an added point of SLG. Ideally, OPS+ is used in combination with other stats, but some of them aren’t readily available for the early 20th century.
Still, Puig’s first year has been superlatively good, and sabermetrics help us assign an accurate superlative.
Like otherworldly. Or fantastic. Preposterous works, too.
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