Secondary Average… Second to None or Second Class Stat??

I just pulled The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract off my bookshelf and began reading again it lately. For those who enjoy baseball history, I highly recommend it.

You don’t have to be a stathead to enjoy this book. In fact, James spends a lot of time discussing the human element of the game in this book.

In the process of reading this book, I came across a term I was not familiar with. Secondary Average. James uses it as a gauge to quantify offensive production. I was intrigued by this new stat but couldn’t find the exact formula in the book (it could be in there, it’s a big book).

So I searched for it on the Internet. Google didn’t let me down. Here is the formula courtesy of the people that brought us Baseball Oracle:

SecAvg = (2B + 2*3B + 3*HR + BB + SB – CS) / AB

So essentially, it’s kinda like Slugging average not counting singles but including walks and stolen bases (minus caught stealing).

According to this website, the secondary average is useful because:

* secondary average correlates very well to runs scored on a team level,
* therefore, it is a good indicator of the relative value a player brings to a team.
* it incorporates hitting, patience and running the bases,
* it is easy to calculate,
* its baseline is the same as batting average.

To give it some perspective, here are career leaders in SEC (as of 2001:

1 Babe Ruth .594
2 Barry Bonds .554
3 Ted Williams .552
4 Mark McGwire .539
5 Mickey Mantle .487
6 Jim Thome .481
7 Lou Gehrig .481
8 Frank Thomas .475
9 Ralph Kiner .467
10 Jimmie Foxx .464

Single Season Leaders (again as of 2001):

1 Barry Bonds 2001 .929
2 Babe Ruth 1920 .799
3 Mark McGwire 1998 .774
4 Babe Ruth 1921 .744
5 Mark McGwire 1996 .693
6 Babe Ruth 1923 .690
7 Mark McGwire 1999 .674
8 Babe Ruth 1927 .672
9 Barry Bonds 1996 .663
10 Babe Ruth 1926 .661

Obviously, SEC tends to favor power and OBP but not so much batting average. For kicks, I calculated Ichiro’s record breaking 2004 season SEC. Ichiro had 320 total bases, 262 hits, 49 BB, 36 SB and 11 CS.

That works out to a .202 secondary average for Ichiro.

Something tells me that some Ichiro fans may have their doubts about the secondary average.


3 Responses to “Secondary Average… Second to None or Second Class Stat??”

  1. Why would you exclude singles? I could see where you might want to take something away for batters striking out and give them something for advancing runners in a tight ballgame. But I see no reaon to exclude singles.

  2. I agree… I think the idea was to devalue the kind of player like Mark Grudzielanek who even if he hit .300, would not have much of an OBP and not any power. Therefore, in James’ view at least, he didn’t produce much for the team.

    /not justifying it.. just trying to make sense of it.

  3. It’s not meant to be looked at apart from Batting Average, which overvalues singles. You look at both numbers, and weight them as you wish.

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