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Fantasy baseball MLB percentiles among batting metrics

Mark examines five years of trends among some key fantasy MLB metrics.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

There was a classic 16-bit Sega Genesis game I remember vividly from my childhood, it was called Rock ‘n’ Roll Racing. Its signature song was “Radar Love” by Golden Earring and it consisted of four trucks driving around an off road course. You could join up with a friend against two computer players or you go alone could play against three. Loudmouth Larry would give you updates and at the end each of you were stack ranked, with 1-3 earning money that you could use to buy turbo boosts and other accoutrements for your vehicle. Your ranking became paramount for continued success in the game.

Below is a five-year walk across the various batting metrics to be used as a tool for fantasy baseball drafts (BA, OBP, SLG and OPS). Across the top you will see the percentile for each category. The 90th percentile is the best and the 10th percentile being the worst to see how each metric would rank among it’s peers. For example, the average (50th percentile) batting average was .260 in 2016 but it has moved down to .248 last year in 2020. Likewise, SLG and OPS have both dropped across the 50th percentile, but OBP has held constant. I have always held .250 as “average batting average” (which was essentially true for 2020) but should I instead trust the previous few years and use .260 as my new threshold? I utilized the top 100 batters in 2020, which ended up being 310 batters. In the other years I utilized 250 AB which is between 310 and 320 batters each year.

Baseball Metric Percentiles - Last 5 Years

Batting Metric 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%
Batting Metric 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%
2020 Bat. Avg 0.195 0.213 0.226 0.237 0.248 0.258 0.273 0.283 0.304
2019 Bat. Avg 0.220 0.233 0.241 0.251 0.260 0.267 0.275 0.284 0.298
2018 Bat. Avg 0.219 0.232 0.240 0.248 0.254 0.261 0.268 0.277 0.291
2017 Bat. Avg 0.221 0.238 0.247 0.254 0.263 0.270 0.276 0.285 0.299
2016 Bat. Avg 0.218 0.238 0.246 0.253 0.260 0.267 0.273 0.283 0.295
5 Year Avg 0.215 0.231 0.240 0.249 0.257 0.265 0.273 0.282 0.297
2020 OBP 0.269 0.287 0.303 0.315 0.326 0.337 0.350 0.361 0.381
2019 OBP 0.287 0.304 0.313 0.321 0.328 0.337 0.346 0.358 0.372
2018 OBP 0.281 0.298 0.309 0.316 0.325 0.332 0.342 0.354 0.367
2017 OBP 0.289 0.307 0.315 0.323 0.330 0.339 0.351 0.361 0.376
2016 OBP 0.290 0.303 0.309 0.319 0.326 0.335 0.347 0.357 0.371
5 Year Avg 0.283 0.300 0.310 0.319 0.327 0.336 0.347 0.358 0.373
2020 SLG 0.315 0.358 0.378 0.393 0.414 0.441 0.468 0.498 0.551
2019 SLG 0.360 0.390 0.413 0.429 0.447 0.467 0.494 0.518 0.548
2018 SLG 0.346 0.372 0.390 0.408 0.419 0.434 0.455 0.476 0.507
2017 SLG 0.355 0.384 0.403 0.418 0.435 0.453 0.475 0.499 0.531
2016 SLG 0.336 0.376 0.395 0.413 0.428 0.446 0.462 0.488 0.513
5 Year Avg 0.342 0.376 0.396 0.412 0.429 0.448 0.471 0.496 0.530
2020 OPS 0.606 0.645 0.679 0.711 0.741 0.780 0.809 0.851 0.915
2019 OPS 0.662 0.702 0.734 0.751 0.778 0.796 0.832 0.865 0.916
2018 OPS 0.644 0.678 0.701 0.727 0.750 0.768 0.795 0.820 0.859
2017 OPS 0.659 0.701 0.725 0.741 0.765 0.788 0.813 0.848 0.896
2016 OPS 0.635 0.685 0.714 0.733 0.758 0.782 0.800 0.826 0.868
5 Year Avg 0.641 0.682 0.711 0.733 0.758 0.783 0.810 0.842 0.891

Takeaways from this data

Batting average has become stretched on both ends. The bottom 10th percentile dropped from .218 to .195, while the 90th percentile increased from .295 to .304.

While the middle percentages continue to decline across BA, SLG and OPS, the 90th percentile has gone up an average of 5%—showing not only is power coming up consistently, but so is getting on base.

In BA and OBP, the 10th and 90th percentile is where it opens up. The gap between 10th and 20th & 80th and 90th percentile has the largest gap on average. So if you have the top batting average candidates, you have a competitive edge. Likewise, if you have someone below the Mendoza line, they are punishing you more than you realize.

IF you remove 2020, the 50th percentile is actually BETTER or EQUAL across BA, OBP, SLG and OPS...so perhaps we remove the one-off situation that was 2020?

As you may already know, there are some anomalies (players whose BA is FAR different from their other stats):

  • Beware of these batters who provided power/on base potential but low average in 2020: Ronald Acuña Jr., Jesse Winker, Rhys Hoskins, Kole Calhoun, Josh Donaldson, Sean Murphy, D.J. Stewart, Aaron Hicks, Brad Miller, Joey Votto, Christian Yelich, Chance Sisco, Eugenio Suarez, Miguel Sano, Max Muncy and Matt Olson.
  • Conversely, these batters give you batting average but without the power and on base potential from 2020: Raimel Tapia, Luis Arraez, Nick Madrigal, Josh Fuentes, Ketel Marte, Andrelton Simmons, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Victor Reyes, Hanser Alberto, Manuel Margot, Nick Solak, Luis Garcia, Yadier Molina, Jorge Polanco, Delino DeShields, Amed Rosario, Josh Naylor and Austin Romine (whose Batting Average is FAR HIGHER than his OBP, OPS and SLG).