THuG (last part)

So now that I’ve introduced my best friends growing up I can tell y’all about THuG.

What’s THuG?

It’s a baseball stat that evaluates a player’s overall offensive contribution. Invented by three smartass teenagers who thought they were smarter than all the other dudes inventing metrics and advanced stats.

Me and my two best buddies growing up – Gardner and Turner – were good at math. Me and Gardner even proved senior year that you can be good at sports and still survive AP calculus. (I didn’t say that we proved you could get an A lol.) We made sure to take statistics earlier on because we wanted to understand baseball metrics. And with that knowledge we were able to find the flaws in things like WAR.

(WAR is Wins Above Replacement. I’m gonna make it real simple: the higher your WAR number, the better a ball player you are. Or should be. Kershaw’s career WAR is 64.6. Corey Seager’s is 13.7. Kiké Hernandez’ is 7.1. )

So we thought WAR was flawed, and we invented THuG.

T for Turner, H for Hunter and G for Gardner. Get it?

As stats go, THuG is closer to OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) than WAR, since it’s a purely offensive stat. And if we thought there was something wrong with WAR, we seriously hated OPS. THuG definitely fixes OPS.

I reckon I’m gonna have to explain OPS. It’s a lot less complicated than some people think: it’s just the number you get when you add a player’s on-base percentage to his slugging number. On-base is easy: it means the percentage of your at bats at which you get a hit or a walk. The problem there is that measuring when you get on base doesn’t factor in extra base hits. So they came up with slugging. To get that, you count singles as 1 point, doubles as 2, triples as 3 and long balls as 4. You add those together, divide by the total number of at bats…and you get another way of evaluating a player’s offense.

Then they decided to add the two numbers together and the result was OPS. The higher your OPS, the better you are offensively. See? Really not that complicated. (One thing to remember: OPS isn’t a percentage of anything, so it can be higher than 1000 (or 1.00) for some amazing players. (My best OPS was .950 my senior year at MT.)

So that’s OPS. How did us three teenage smartasses improve on it?

There were a few things that bothered us about the way OPS was calculated. We couldn’t argue with the on-base percentage figure, but we did see some problems with the slugging number. What bothered us the most was the way it counted a double as twice as valuable as a single, a triple as three times as valuable, and a home run as four times as valuable. That was too simpleass and lame, because, among other things, a triple isn’t too much more valuable than a double, since the double gets you into scoring position too. On the other hand, a homer is a lot more valuable than a triple.

So we did some math to see what percentage of doubles ended up scoring and what percentage of triples ended up scoring, and we found out we were right: your chance of scoring on a double was more than just 2/3 of your chance of scoring on a triple. The number was more like .75 than .66. So what we did was we came up with a different set of coefficients (fancyass math word – told y’all we were smartasses – it means the numbers you multiply by) that we thought were a lot more precise than the lameass 1, 2, 3 and 4 you use to calculate slugging.

Turner’s probably the only one who remember what the THuG coefficients were exactly, and he hasn’t answered my email, but I think they were something like this:

  • 1.1 for a single
  • 2.44 for a double
  • 3.125 for a triple
  • 5 for a long ball

I’ll let y’all know the precise numbers when Turner gets back to me. You’d think he’d have time to read his email now that the only sport he’s got to cover is boringass basketball…

Walks counted as 1.0. We then we went on to include a whole bunch of things that weren’t covered by OPS at all. We felt that scoring and stolen bases were important if you wanted to evaluate a player, so we included those. We also gave credit for hitting a home run that gets robbed at the wall. Yeah, it doesn’t score…but the batter still hit a homer. Getting robbed is more bad luck than your lack of skill.

Finally, we deducted points for strikeouts. Our high school coach hated it when we struck out. He used to say that any kind of contact was better than missing the ball, or, worse, just standing there and watching it go past you. You could count on a dirty look if you struck out. If you did it twice in a game, you could count on getting your ass chewed off, sometimes even before getting back to the locker room. Maybe that’s why I always had one of the lowest strikeout rates on the teams I was on after high school.

I think those numbers were:

  • stolen bases: additional 1.5 for the first one, 2.5 for the second, 3.75 if you stole home
  • robbed home runs: 2.0
  • scoring: additional 1.3 if you get home after your hit or walk
  • strikeouts: negative 0.5 for swinging; negative 0.6 for looking

Finally we added 1 point for a clutch hit, meaning a hit in the 7th inning or later when your team was behind. (I’ll admit it was hard getting the data for that, but it was at last theoretically a part of THuG.)

Then all you have to do is add up all the numbers and divide by the total number of at bats (plus any walks you got.) The result: the player’s THuG.

The number can be interpreted in a lot of ways, but the basic thing about THuG should be obvious: the higher your THuG, the better an all-around offensive player you are.

So once we’d invented it, we figured THuG for every player we cared about (and every player we thought was a dingus)…and for ourselves, too. (My THuG was always higher than Gardner’s. Yeah, I could tell that pissed him off some.) It took a lot of work getting all the data compiled and processed, but we were pretty pleased with ourselves afterwards.

Computers have come a long way in ten years, and so has the availability of baseball data on the internet, so I reckon it would be a lot easier to calculate THuG today than it was for us back at Maryville High. One of the reasons I emailed Turner for the exact coefficients was that I got Lucas all interested in our stat. Now my baseball pupil wants to come up with an algorithm that will calculate it. Since the kid’s head is already fixin to explode from all the stats he’s got in it, I’m not sure he should start messing around with THuG lol.

So, even if you disagree about how we valued each component, you gotta admit that THuG gives a much better picture of a player’s offensive value than lameass OPS…and you don’t need to have a degree from Cal Tech to know how to calculate it like you do for WAR. And I know one person who still uses it: Turner. He doesn’t mention it when he’s on the air, but he still calculates THuG to evaluate players before he talks or writes about them. Since I reckon Turner’s got a great career ahead of him in sportscasting, maybe THuG will get famous along with him.

And now he won’t have to worry about doing all the calculations for this season. He can just use Lucas’ algorithm.

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