The 20-80 Scale, Saber Style (Again Yet Different)

After taking a look at how scouting grades for tools might grade out statistically, I’m back to look at how some of our other commonly used metrics measure in regard to standard deviations. On Tuesday my goal was to look at each tool individually, and I focused, as a result, on making sure there were enough innings pitched and at-bats to at least indicate there was something going on. Today, I’ll look at metrics that look more at the whole player, so while I’ll continue to use the 20-80 shorthand, we’ll also talk about where players slot in the grand scheme of things. As you will see, some of the bins will match up with some of our preconceived notions, but it’s always good to confirm some things. Without further ado …

Grade wRC+ Player WAR/600 Player
80 165 Jose Bautista 7.5 Mike Trout
70 141 Giancarlo Stanton 5.6 Jacoby Ellsbury
60 117 Yadier Molina 3.7 Carlos Beltran
50 94 James Loney 1.8 Reed Johnson
40 70 Gerald Laird -0.1 Justin Smoak
30 46 Wil Nieves -2.0 Emmanuel Burriss
20 22 Ramiro Pena -3.9 Joe Mather

Leading off is wRC+. I used three-year averages again (2010-2012), but I lowered the PA qualifier to 200 in order to get the distribution within standard error. Nothing here should really shock you. Most players will fit into the 70-120 range. Jose Bautista is not the only one with an 80 score this time, however, as Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto sneak in ahead of him. All the way on the other end, Ramiro Pena and former prospect darling Josh Bell hit the bottom of the scale harder than they do a baseball.

Taking a look at WAR, I broke into WAR/600 to give you an idea of what it would look like per season (roughly). Trout, as one might imagine, tops the list with almost 8.5 WAR/600, but I was surprised to see who came in second (answer at the bottom of the post). The rest of the breakdown is as expected – 0-2 wins is generally a bench player, 2-4 is a regular, 4-6 is an All-Star-caliber player, and a 6+ win player is an MVP candidate, with the 7-and-above players as your real contenders.

Grade OBP Player wOBA Player
80 .413 Prince Fielder .421 Joey Votto
70 .384 Ryan Braun .385 Buster Posey
60 .355 Norichika Aoki .349 Matt Joyce
50 .327 Kendrys Morales .312 Tyler Flowers
40 .298 Tyler Colvin .276 Everth Cabrera
30 .269 Cesar Izturis .240 Jack Wilson
20 .240 Drew Butera .204 Ramiro Pena

Moving on to OBP, the numbers probably aren’t much different than one would expect. Somewhere in the .320 range is pretty average, and every 30 points or so further away, you reach a new level of talent (or lack thereof). Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and Joey Votto are your 80-grade hitters here, and it shouldn’t be surprising that a bunch of first basemen (and one should-be-once-was first baseman) head the list. Mauer rolls in at #5 at exactly what it would take to get a 75. On the flips side of the spectrum, we have the Terrible Troika of Drew Butera, Jeff Mathis, and Brandon Wood.

wOBA paints a pretty similar picture. Fielder tumbles a bit out of the 80-grade range, and Jose Bautista continues to sit just below the threshold, which basically means he could be included. Down at the bottom, we again find Pena, Bell, Mathis, and Burriss all just a hair above the .204 mark, which again basically means they can be added.

WAR SP/200 Player RP/60 Player
80 6.8 2.33 Craig Kimbrel
70 5.4 Josh Johnson 1.64 David Robertson
60 3.9 Madison Bumgarner 0.94 Wade Davis
50 2.4 Joe Blanton 0.25 Jon Rauch
40 1.0 Bronson Arroyo -0.45 Kyle McClellan
30 -0.5 Jeff Suppan -1.14 Chuckie Fick
20 -2.0 Ryan Rowland-Smith -1.83 Brian Tallet

The pitching statistics were a little more interesting as far as parsing out the details went. Looking at their overall WAR numbers first, I separated the relievers from the starters, and I used 200 and 60 IP as the ratios to, again, get an idea of their per season rates. No one was able to get to the top grade in the starting pitching section, though Stephen Strasburg (6.4) got fairly close, but Craig Kimbrel did take 80 honors on the reliever end, with Mariano Rivera, Aroldis Chapman, and our second trivia answer all above 2.0 per 60 IP.

FIP AL SP Player NL SP Player
80 2.32 2.24
70 2.93 Justin Verlander 2.80 Clayton Kershaw
60 3.54 Dan Haren 3.36 Mat Latos
50 4.15 Kevin Slowey 3.91 Tim Stauffer
40 4.77 Jeanmar Gomez 4.47 Randy Wolf
30 5.38 Javier Vazquez 5.03 Ross Ohlendorf
20 5.99 Ryan Rowland-Smith 5.58


FIP AL RP Player NL RP Player
80 1.48 1.34 Craig Kimbrel
70 2.30 Junichi Tazawa 2.15 Aroldis Chapman
60 3.13 Esmil Rogers 2.95 Jason Motte
50 3.96 Tim Collins 3.76 Wesley Wright
40 4.79 Aaron Laffey 4.57 Josh Roenicke
30 5.62 Manny Delcarmen 5.37 Livan Hernandez
20 6.45 Brian Tallet 6.18

Moving on to FIP, I split the pitching groups a bit further into AL and NL because the run environments are a bit different for each league. As expected, the NL FIPs for both starting and relief pitchers were lower for the NL. Cliff Lee was the closest AL starting pitcher to an 80 grade as he tossed 2.58 FIP ball for the Mariners and Rangers a few years back, and Strasburg was close yet again at 2.47. Halladay’s 2011 (2.20) or Medlen’s run at the end of last season would have been good enough (2.22) to merit an 80 grade, so it takes one heckuva run to be that good right now. Medlen’s teammate Kimbrel (1.23) was the only reliever to get an 80 grade in his FIP as he was almost a full run lower than anyone else on either list. He is the clear-cut best reliever in baseball at the moment, and that’s the sort of talent you need to grade out an 80 player.


People never seem to underestimate what it takes to get an 80-grade anything. Statistically, only 0.1 percent of the population, or 1 in 1000, people are 3 standard deviations above (or below) the mean. 750 players will start the season on an Opening Day roster, which means there might not be an 80 in the bunch, and if we use the entirety of professional baseball, we have … 30 teams * 25 players * 8 levels … carry the 4 … 6000 players, meaning about 6 players will grade out as an 80 at something (though enlarging the population like that would mean changing the mean and deviations). Hopefully, this exercise has given us a bit of perspective on what it takes for one player to be clearly on another level than another player, and I hope it will help us appreciate just how great (or how bad) a performance really is.


Trivia Answer: Yasmani Grandal came in second on the WAR/600 list demonstrating the impact he brought to the Padres in his brief time, and Sean Doolittle is the surprise reliever for his performance. Obviously, these are small samples, but I thought they were interesting, nonetheless.

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9 years ago

Another awesome article. Craig Kimbrel is beyond good

9 years ago
Reply to  TimBrownU

I know Kimbrel is good when I go on a baseball game, max out all his stats and STILL can’t do what he does in real life.