Understanding Outs Above Average (OAA) in Baseball

Baseball is a game governed not only by strategy and skill but also by a sea of statistics. From batting averages to earned run averages, every aspect of the game is quantified, analyzed, and dissected to an extraordinary level. Key in this analytical ecosystem is the concept of “Outs Above Average” or OAA – an advanced, range-based metric introduced by Major League Baseball (MLB) to assess the defensive abilities of its players. This piece walks you through the meaning of OAA, its intricacies, calculation, evolution, and importance for baseball enthusiasts and analysts alike.

Introduction: What is OAA in Baseball?

Outs Above Average or OAA is a defensive statistic used in baseball that endeavors to quantify the outstanding contributions a player makes defensively by measuring how many outs a player has saved. In other words, OAA puts a number on a player’s ability to convert difficult plays into outs beyond what an average player would manage, adding complexity and depth to the evaluation of baseball players’ defensive prowess.

Initially, OAA was designed exclusively for outfielders but, starting from the 2020 season, the metric expanded to encapsulate infielders as well, broadening the scope and detail of defensive analysis in the sport.

OAA: A Crucial Metric for Player’s Defensive Skills in Baseball

In the realm of baseball, defense plays a pivotal role, and it takes intuitive data-driven metrics like OAA to unearth the intricacy of defensive prowess. OAA equips us with an advanced tool to evaluate a player’s defensive performance on an area that was traditionally judged qualitatively—making it an integral part of the statistical lexicon of baseball.

Outs Above Average (OAA) and its evolution from outfielders to infielders

The evolution of the OAA metric exemplifies the changing landscape of analytics in baseball. Its initial application was limited to the analysis of outfielders; however, as statisticians recognized the value of OAA, they figured out compelling methods to extend this metric to entrust infielders as well. The expansion of OAA has substantially deepened our understanding of defensive efficiency and brought about more nuance to player analysis.

Decoding the Calculation of OAA

Decoding the Calculation of OAA

The mathematic nature of baseball lies the beauty of the sport, with a vast array of statistics like OAA, providing a data-driven perspective of the player’s performance. The OAA computation for outfielders kicks off with the concept of Catch Probability, while for infielders, it involves the analysis of distance coverage, time constraints, and the batter’s speed.

Computation of OAA for Outfielders with the help of Catch Probability

For outfielders, OAA is calculated using a metric called Catch Probability—an advanced statistic that calculates the likelihood of a catch made by considering several factors such as distance covered, time available, and the direction traveled by the player. The ultimate OAA score for an outfielder comprises the cumulative tally of individual Catch Probability plays throughout the season.

To elaborate further, let’s take an example: If a fielder catches a ball with a predetermined Catch Probability of 75%, they get a +0.25 credit. However, if they miss it, they are docked -0.75, representing the average expectancy of that ball being caught by other players. Therefore, an outfielder’s OAA score is essentially the sum of these play-by-play credits and deductions, over the course of the season.

In-depth Explanation of Additional Considerations for OAA Calculation for Outfielders

Factoring into the calculation of OAA for outfielders are additional metrics like “Expected Catch Percentage,” “Actual Catch Percentage,” and “Catch Percentage Added.” While OAA provides a comprehensive understanding, these related metrics add further weight and context to the defensive performance of an outfielder.

•The “Expected Catch Percentage” refers to the average success rate of a player based on similar plays historically. •The “Actual Catch Percentage” represents the exact rate at which an outfielder has successfully made catches. •The “Catch Percentage Added” represents the difference between the “Actual Catch Percentage” and the “Expected Catch Percentage,” indicating how much more (or less) the outfielder caught compared to the gauge.

These metrics hence offer a more nuanced understanding of player performance on a rate basis, adding more context to the ultimate OAA score.

Calculation of OAA for Infielders using distance, time, and batter’s speed metrics

The calculation of OAA for infielders integrates elements like distance traveled to reach the ball, time available to reach there, the distance from the base to which the runner is heading, and the average speed of the batter during force play circumstances. All these factors work in tandem to provide an assessment of an infielder’s defensive proficiency.

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The Role of Statcast in OAA computation and its importance in field shifting

One of the key technologies enabling the detailed computation of OAA is Statcast – a state-of-art tracking technology that precisely maps the position of each player in real time. This technological boon has unearthed a new dimension in assessing baseball defense, particularly in the context of ‘field shifting.’

Field shifting refers to strategic defensive adjustments where players are moved out of their usual positions based on the characteristics of the awaiting batter. This strategy has become prevalent in modern baseball and is taken into account in OAA computations. Effectively managing shifts is, therefore, critical to a player’s OAA score.

Becoming Familiar with OAA: A Simplified Analysis

At its core, OAA is a straightforward measure of an outfielder or infielder’s ability to turn batted balls into outs more effectively than an average player would. By analyzing real-life examples, automatic outs, automatic hits, and everything in between, we can get a better grasp of the breadth and depth of OAA.

Understanding the essence of OAA through Practical Examples

Consider this example: when a routine flyball is hit to the outfielder in centerfield, even an average baseball fan estimates that the chances of a successful catch are quite high, say 95%. This estimate is based on a common understanding of the path and position of the hit, the fielder’s proximity to the hit, and the route they have to traverse to reach the ball. This is OAA’s essence – quantifying the likelihood of an out and attributing credit based on performance against this probability.

Delving into ‘automatic outs’, ‘automatic hits’, and ‘opportunity space’

Upon carrying out a thoughtful examination, we can find that OAA distinguishes between ‘automatic outs,’ ‘automatic hits,’ and everything in between, categorized as the ‘opportunity space.’

‘Automatic outs’ are those plays where the average likelihood of an out is very high, and a successful player won’t receive much credit. Similarly, ‘automatic hits’ are those plays where the out probability is meager, and even a missed catch won’t penalize the player much.

The real area of interest is the ‘opportunity space’—those plays where the out probability ranges from 10% to 90%. This zone identifies the plays where fielders can make a real difference, either by making much harder plays or missing easier ones. This calculation lends itself to highlighting the defenders who excel in the opportunity space, bringing value to their teams and underscoring the true value of OAA.

Expanding the Understanding of OAA through Catch Probability

To further unveil the intricacies of OAA, it is pivotal to study the relationship between OAA and Catch Probability. To put simply, Catch Probability significantly adds depth to the computation of OAA and plays a decisive role in determining a player’s defensive skills.

How Catch Probability adds depth to OAA and its significance

Catch Probability, as suggested earlier, is an analysis of how likely a player is to catch a ball. It takes into consideration elements like the fielder’s route to the ball and their proximity to the wall—two components adding depth to the overall OAA computation. A fielder’s skill in catching balls hit in difficult locations (e.g., near the wall or over significant distances) directly translates into their OAA score.

Relationship between Catch Probability and Player Proximity

Catch Probability is inversely related to the difficulty of a catch – the harder the catch, the lower the Catch Probability, and vice versa. As a result, a player’s Catch Probability decreases when they have to run back to make the play or when they are near a wall. If both conditions occur simultaneously, the Catch Probability drops even further—adding to the complexity of the defensive play.

Unpacking Infielder’s OAA

Just as outfielders have Catch Probability to determine the difficulty of their catches, infielders, too, have components influencing their OAA computation. To understand an infielder’s OAA entirely, one must familiarize themselves with influences such as the intercept point concept and the role of the distance from the player to the base in their OAA calculation.

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Factors influencing OAA computation for infielders

The calculation of OAA for infielders involves a detailed investigation of several factors. First among them is the distance the player must cover to reach the ball – commonly known as the “intercept point.” The time the player gets to reach the spot also plays a vital role in identifying the difficulty of making a play.

Next, the distance from the player to the base that the runner is heading towards is scrutinized. A greater distance indicates a lower out probability, impacting the player’s credit or debit in the OAA calculation.

Finally, the average speed of the batter becomes a critical factor during force plays wherein a speedy batter would lower the out probability.

Understanding the concept of “intercept point”

The “intercept point,” as discussed, refers to the point where the fielder must intercept the ball. This aspect significantly influences an infielder’s OAA; having to cover more distance to reach the intercept point would lower the chance of converting an out, meaning it would result in a higher OAA credit if successful.

Role of distance from player to base in Infielder’s OAA calculation

Another crucial determinant of an infielder’s OAA is the distance the fielder stands from the base the runner is targetting. If the player is situated far away from the desired base, the out probability shrinks, and there is a heightened potential for a higher OAA score because of the increased difficulty.

Conclusion: Outs Above Average (OAA) – a valiant evaluator of Baseball Player’s defensive skills

The Value of OAA in understanding the depth of a player’s defensive skills

Amidst the sea of statistical ground, OAA stands out as a powerful evaluator of defensive talents in baseball. It offers invaluable insight into the tactical aspect of the game and permits a deeper understanding of a player’s defensive contributions. By quantifying skillsets that were previously judged qualitatively, OAA provides an advanced, nuanced approach to assessing defense in baseball.

Quantitative understanding of qualitatively assessed aspects of baseball through OAA

The introduction of Outs Above Average into baseball’s statistical toolbox demonstrates how the traditional boundaries of performance evaluation in the sport are continuously expanding. It brings a quantitative approach to qualitatively evaluated facets of baseball and underscores the evolving nature of analytics in sports today. By bridging the gap between numbers and in-play actions, OAA completes our understanding of the defensive game, making baseball analysis more comprehensive, nuanced, and fascinating.

Definition and Calculation of Outs Above Average (OAA)

DefinitionOuts Above Average (OAA) is a range-based metric of skill that shows how many outs a player has saved.
For OutfieldersOuts Above Average for outfielders starts with Catch Probability, which considers the distance an outfielder must go, the time he has to get there, and the direction he travels to put a percentage of catch likelihood on each individual batted ball. If an outfielder has a ball hit to him with a 75 percent Catch Probability and he catches it, he’ll receive a +.25 credit. If he misses it, he’ll receive -.75, reflecting the likelihood of that ball being caught by other outfielders.
For InfieldersOuts Above Average for infielders takes into account: 1. How far the fielder has to go to reach the ball (“the intercept point”). 2. How much time he has to get there. 3. How far he then is from the base the runner is heading to. 4. On force plays, how fast the batter is, on average. (A runner’s average Sprint Speed is used in the calculation, rather than his Sprint Speed on that particular play.

Example of Outfielder’s OAA in 2019

Victor RoblesLed MLB outfielders with +23 OAA
Expected Catch PercentageShows how many plays an average outfielder would be expected to come up with based on the difficulty of the batted balls hit to the outfielder in question.
Actual Catch PercentageShows the production of the actual fielder on the balls hit his way.
Catch Percentage AddedShows the difference between the Expected and Actual numbers.

Example of OAA Breakdown by Infielder’s Role in 2019

Nolan ArenadoThird baseman+17 OAA

Understanding of OAA with Ball’s Probability

Routine flyball to the centerfielderProbabilities of this ball being caught are very high, probably more than 95% of the time
Opportunity SpaceThere is only a small percentage of balls that can go either way (hit or out), and this is where the best defenders stand out.

Insights: Understanding Outs Above Average in MLB

Given my extensive experience with baseball, I’ve come to deeply appreciate the role of various advanced statistics in the game, among which Outs Above Average (OAA) holds a significant place. Here, I am going to share a few insights on its importance, its calculation, and how it adds depth to our understanding of player performance on the field.

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Breaking Down Outs Above Average (OAA)

OAA is an insightful baseball statistic as it quantifies the defensive contributions of a player by calculating how many outs they’ve saved. Initially, it was only focused on outfielders, but it started covering infielders from 2020. While it may seem complex, OAA enhances our understanding of a player’s defensive abilities.

Whether it’s an outfielder or infielder, the calculation of OAA relies heavily on various factors like distance a player covers, the time they have, their direction, and more. These aspects help us associate a ‘catch likelihood’ to each ball batted, which contributes to the OAA statistic in the end. For example, Victor Robles led MLB outfielders with an impressive +23 OAA in the 2019 season.

Digging Deeper into OAA

OAA doesn’t merely track a player’s catches or misses; it adds depth to our understanding by distinguishing between ‘automatic outs’, ‘automatic hits’, and everything in between. Recognizing these ‘opportunity spaces’ is crucial as fine defenders excel in this area, contributing value to their team – and that’s what OAA is all about!

The concept of statcast is particularly relevant here. This tracking technology allows us to know the exact position of each player, which is particularly useful in cases of field shifting and out-of-position defenders. For instance, Nolan Arenado was +17 OAA in 2019 as a third baseman despite sometimes not standing at third base due to shifting – that’s how nuanced OAA can get!

OAA & Catch Probability

Adding another layer to OAA, Catch Probability considers player route and proximity to the wall when calculating OAA. If a player is near a wall, the catch probability reduces, decreasing even further if both conditions (distance and wall) apply, making the OAA calculation more precise and comprehensive.

Infielder’s OAA Specifics

For infielders, OAA considers factors like distance traveled by the player to the intercept point, the time afforded to them to get to the ball, and the distance from the player to the base that the ball is heading towards. Such considerations make OAA a metric that captures the nuances of infielders’ performance aptly.

In summary, while OAA’s complexity might seem daunting, it ultimately offers a quantitative understanding of the often qualitative aspects of baseball, namely a player’s defensive skills. It’s a fundamental tool when we dive deep into the dynamics of player performance on the baseball field.


⚾ What is Outs Above Average (OAA) in baseball, and what does it represent?

Outs Above Average (OAA) is an advanced, range-based metric in baseball that measures a player’s defensive contributions by quantifying how many outs a player has saved. It is used to evaluate a player’s defensive skills. It was initially applied only to outfielders, but from 2020, it was expanded to include infielders as well, providing a more comprehensive understanding of a player’s defensive contributions.

⚾ How is OAA calculated for Outfielders?

The calculation of OAA for outfielders starts with something called Catch Probability. This is a measure that considers factors such as the distance an outfielder must cover to reach the ball, the time they have to get there, and the direction they travel. Each batted ball is associated with a catch likelihood percentage based on these factors. If an outfielder catches a ball with, say, a 75% Catch Probability, they receive a +0.25 credit. If they miss it, they receive a -0.75, reflecting the average expectancy of that ball being caught by other outfielders.

⚾ Can you give an example of a player with a high OAA?

Victor Robles, in the 2019 season, led MLB outfielders with an impressive +23 OAA. Similarly, Nolan Arenado, despite sometimes not standing at third base due to field shifting, had a +17 OAA in 2019 as a third baseman.

⚾ What factors are considered for the OAA calculation in the case of Infielders?

For infielders, the OAA computation is a bit more complex. It still takes into account factors like the distance the player needs to reach the ball and the time they have to get there. But it also includes the distance from the base the runner is heading to and even the average speed of the batter during the play.

⚾ How does Catch Probability add to the depth of understanding OAA?

Catch Probability further refines the OAA by considering the player’s route to the ball and their proximity to the wall of the field. If a player has to run back towards the wall to catch the ball, it’s a more challenging play, so the catch probability decreases. Similarly, if the player is near a wall, the catch probability also reduces. This provides a more nuanced understanding of the out probability and subsequently the OAA.

⚾ Can you explain the concept of an ‘opportunity space’ in understanding OAA?

OAA differentiates between ‘automatic outs’, ‘automatic hits’, and everything that falls in between, which is referred to as the ‘opportunity space’. Finer defenders excel in this ‘opportunity space’, contributing value to their team in the form of outs that are not guaranteed, but are also not unlikely. This is what OAA highlights by marking these plays with positive point values.

By Joseph Johnson

Joseph Johnson is the main writer on the site. He prepares up-to-date news and reviews on baseball.