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In Chess, the standard metric is Elo, which weighs losses against "bad" players more heavily than losses against "good" players. Same for the opposite scenario (winning against bad players is not worth much, winning against good players is worth a lot).

Things like ERA, Batting Average, and On Base Percentage don't at all take into account the skill of the opponent. If a closing pitcher is most often pulled out against good batters, obviously his ERA will be worse than if he were to pitch against any random batter. Same for designated hitters, etc.

Is there not any Elo-like score in sabermetrics (baseball statistics) that accounts for opponent ability when adjusting for ones skill level?

Games like Chess, and even video games like Halo use Elo-like systems to assign scores to players. I was just wondering if Baseball did.

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  • What value do you think an ELO like metric gives as opposed to the existing metrics like WAR?
    – Philip Kendall
    Aug 30 at 14:44
  • @PhilipKendall I asked precisely because I'm a neophyte unfamiliar with metrics like WAR. Instead of getting angry at me and telling people not to ask questions on sports.stackexchange and to just read the entire rule book, consider offering your great insights in the form of an answer so me and others who have this question (which has never been asked on the forum) can upvote you as thanks.
    – chausies
    Aug 30 at 15:16
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    I'm not angry, however there is an expectation that some research is done before asking questions here - for example, WAR is directly mentioned on the Wikipedia page for Sabermetrics - I'd suggest reading that page and some of the links from it.
    – Philip Kendall
    Aug 30 at 15:19
  • @PhilipKendall thanks for the reference/advice <3. Sorry for the trouble
    – chausies
    Aug 30 at 15:27

1 Answer 1

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No element of ELO would make sense for baseball at the individual performer level. Individual performers don't really have individual outcomes - every outcome depends on everyone else; and further, they have so many different outcomes (is a single a win? a home run?) that a metric based on a single win/loss would not be feasible.

ELO can be used on the team level, and sometimes is - fivethirtyeight for example uses ELO based metrics to evaluate teams.

For individual players, you either have statistics based on one part of what they do (OBP, etc.), some of which have adjusted versions to control for things that statisticians have evaluated to be important to control for - for example ERA+ or FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), each of which control for some elements that should not impact pitchers future performance, such as defense - or you have WAR-type statistics, which attempt to evaluate how much each action they took increased the likelihood of winning (or decreased). The latter is probably closer to ELO in its approach, though certainly not particularly similar.

I recommend reading Fangraphs articles if you want to learn more about what each of these statistics mean and why they were chosen or relevant.

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  • "No element of ELO would make sense for baseball at the individual performer level." I completely disagree with this. If you exclude fielder errors (which ERA does), then performance is almost solely based upon the ability of pitcher vs batter (excluding second-order effects like how long a pitcher has been pitching, how long a batter has been batting, compatability between pitcher and batter, etc.). At the very least, Elo-like rankings would be vastly superior to metrics like ERA, which take into account literally nothing about players. The rest of your answer provides great insight. Thanks<3
    – chausies
    Aug 30 at 15:33
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    You can't disregard those things, though - that's the problem. Except in the case of a strikeout or a home run, every other outcome is dependent on the fielders - and occasionally on the runners, as well. A batted ball might be a hit, or an out, dependent on fielder positioning, speed, and skill. Beyond that, how would you judge "success" versus "failure"? Is a hit a success and an out a failure? Different kinds of hits? ELO isn't meant for this in any way.
    – Joe
    Aug 30 at 16:30
  • (Well, a walk is pretty much pitcher, catcher and batter only, which is why it's the third of the "three true outcomes")
    – Philip Kendall
    Aug 30 at 16:36
  • Good point... though I suspect many pitchers would point to the umpire on those :D Actually, all of these have another dependency - the catcher - and anybody who says the catcher doesn't influence pitching outcomes needs to watch a lot more baseball.
    – Joe
    Aug 30 at 16:47

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