The Royals are known for being less than open to advanced analytics, even though they do have an analytics team and some feel that perhaps that reputation is not well-deserved. Newer ways of measuring baseball are being introduced and advanced all the time, and the Royals surely have their own proprietary ways of evaluating players.
However don’t expect manager Ned Yost to be part of the analytical team any time soon. The skipper revealed he has some misunderstandings to some of the newer stats, such as “Adjusted OPS”.
What is Adjusted OPS? Well, you take on-base percentage and add it to slugging percentage. That’s OPS (On-base percentage Plus Slugging percentage). It is a simple, yet inelegant way of measuring offensive performance, mostly because many feel on-base percentage should be weighted much more than slugging percentage. But it can be a quick-and-dirty way to evaluate offense.
However, different players may benefit from different ballparks, or different leagues. Adjusted OPS (also known as OPS+) seeks to normalize this, giving players that hit in spacious ballparks like Kauffman Stadium more credit for hitting in such a difficult hitting environment than hitters that hit in launching pads, like Coors Field. It also measures a hitter against their era, so that silly-ball era stats can be measured against deadball era stats. Adjusted OPS standardizes the numbers to one metric where 100 is average, an OPS+ of 110 being 10% above league-average, while an OPS+ of 90 would be 10% below league-average. Simple, right?
Not to Ned Yost. In his post-game comments after Wednesday’s game against the Rockies, provided by 610 Sports, Ned says he is getting into Adjusted OPS thanks to coach Pedro Grifol, but has doubts about the stat. At the 22:25 mark of this clip he gives his thoughts on Adjusted OPS:
“It’s bogus. We had two guys last night - Blackmon and, maybe Arenado - they flew out to deep center. It’s an out, but the Adjusted OPS awards them four bases....It’s hit hard and it’s 400 feet. So in most parks that would be a home run. So the Adjusted OPS doesn’t take the ballpark into account.”
When corrected by a reporter, that Adjusted OPS actually does take the ballpark into account, Ned reverses himself.
“Oh it does take the ballpark into account. That’s right, because it rewards you in a ballpark like this, for an out.”
When another reporter (Joel Goldberg, it sounds like) points out that in Coors Field, the hitters would get knocked for hitting a ball that far, Ned seems to throw his hands up in the air.
“I don’t know man, I’m still trying to figure that out.”
Perhaps Ned Yost was actually talking about batted ball metrics, such as Statcast data that shows the hit probability of certain batted balls. Or maybe there is some other internal analytics the team is using that incorporates elements of Adjusted OPS with batted ball data. In any case, it is good that Ned Yost is at least trying to learn some newer analytics, but it doesn’t sound like he is quite there in grasping the concepts.
In fairness, the man has two pennants and a championship ring, and seems to be able to run a clubhouse pretty well. Knowing Adjusted OPS didn’t keep him from winning more games than any other manager in Royals history. But if you want a manager who is making lineup and bullpen decisions based on newer analytics, you may want to keep looking.