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Think back to the first time you learned division in Math class in elementary school. You probably never realized that becoming a baseball fan would lead you to revert back to those early Math lessons.
Baseball is sometimes viewed as a numbers game, and some of those numbers (statistics) are calculated by using division to determine percentages, or PCT.
In baseball, PCT is short for percentage and is used in statistics to (most of the time) refer to the percentage of time that something happens during a game.
Continue reading to understand how PCT is used in the game of baseball.
What are the PCT Statistics in Baseball?
Understanding statistics is a large component of today’s game.
In baseball, there are five statistics that include PCT: Winning PCT, Fielding PCT (FP), On-Base PCT (OBP), Slugging PCT (SLG), and Strike PCT.
In the rest of this article, we will detail each of these statistics so that you can have a deeper understanding of America’s pastime.
What is Winning PCT?
The ultimate goal when playing a sport is to win. This is why in baseball, there are several stat categories dedicated to wins. One of them is Winning PCT.
Winning PCT refers to the number of games that a team, coach, or pitcher wins compared to the total number of games played.
It is calculated by dividing the number of Wins by the total number of games. Like batting average, the number is usually referenced in decimal form (for example, .567).
Most sports keep track of a team or a coach’s total wins as well as their winning percentage, but baseball is unique in that it assigns wins and losses to pitchers. This allows for pitchers to have a Winning PCT as well.
There are a few ways that a pitcher can earn a Win in the stat book.
If a starter pitches five or more innings and comes out of the game with his team leading, as long as they maintain that lead, the starting pitcher is credited with a Win.
If a reliever enters the game with his team tied or trailing, if they take the lead while he is in the game and never relinquish that lead, then that reliever earns a Win.
Essentially, whichever pitcher is in the game when the team takes the lead for good gets the Win. However, there is another caveat to earning a Win that even some who have been around the game their whole lives do not know.
In order to earn a Win in a nine inning game, the starter must complete five innings. If he does not get through the fifth inning, then the Win goes to the most effective relief pitcher.
If the scorekeeper determines that there was not one reliever more effective than the other, then whichever pitcher finishes the fifth inning gets the Win.
If the pitcher pitches in the game and is not credited with a win or a loss, then his game is declared as a No Decision. No Decisions do not count when calculating a pitcher’s Winning PCT.
Most of the time, a pitcher’s Win-Loss record is referenced over his Winning PCT. The same goes for teams.
For coaches, however, Winning PCT is often referenced when discussing a coach’s success. In baseball, a coach’s goal should be to have a Winning PCT over .500 because it proves that he wins more games than he loses.
What is Fielding PCT?
“Defense wins championships.”
How often have you heard that saying? Even in today’s game where high velocities on the mound and elevated home run numbers have become the norm, playing solid defense is still a key component to winning a championship.
Statisticians have often found it difficult to quantify a player’s effectiveness on defense, but one of the most common defensive statistics in baseball is Fielding PCT (FP).
Fielding PCT shows the percentage of time that a player makes a play on defense when given a chance.
It is calculated by dividing the total number of errors that player makes by the total number of defensive chances he has had. Like Winning PCT, it is typically expressed in decimal form.
In the MLB, a good Fielding PCT is typically above .990. Obviously, players who have fewer chances may have a lower Fielding PCT than players who have significantly more chances, but .990 is a solid number. Most would actually prefer it be over .995.
At lower levels of baseball, Fielding PCT numbers are typically lower for two reasons: the players aren’t as talented and they often get fewer chances.
Certain positions (like first base and shortstop) often get more chances than others. Therefore, when you look at a Fielding PCT leaderboard, it may not tell the whole story.
This is why Baseball-Reference, one of the leading sites for MLB statistics, separates its Fielding PCT leaderboards by position.
What is On-Base PCT in Baseball?
Billy Bean, the Oakland A’s General Manager made famous by the book turned motion picture film Moneyball, bought into the philosophy that batting average doesn’t tell the whole story of a hitter. Instead, he paid more attention to a hitter’s On-Base PCT.
On-Base PCT (OBP) in baseball refers to the percentage of time a player gets on base via a hit, walk, or hit-by-pitch.
OBP is calculated by dividing a hitter’s total number of hits, walks, and hit-by-pitches by his total number of plate appearances. Like most PCT stats in baseball, it is expressed in decimal form.
The reason many coaches and front office staff value on-base percentage over batting average is because they believe that anything that gets a player on base is just as valuable as a hit. At the end of the day, a player can’t score unless he is on base. Who cares how he gets there?
For more detailed information about On-Base PCT, check out article “What is a Good On-Base Percentage (OBP) in Baseball”
What is Slugging PCT in Baseball?
In the early 1950s, Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey felt there was a need to quantify a hitter’s power production. In turn, Slugging PCT was created.
Slugging PCT (SLG) is used to measure a hitter’s power productivity. Ironically, it is not actually a true percentage like the other PCT stats we have discussed.
Slugging PCT is calculated by adding up the hitter’s total number of bases and dividing that number by his total at-bats.
Even though division is used to determine this number, it is not a true percentage because, unlike other PCT stats, its goal is not to tell us the percentage of time something is likely to happen.
Instead, Slugging PCT gives more weight to extra-base hits, so its goal is essentially to tell us how often a player gets an extra-base hit. It is not near as specific as other percentages in baseball.
We have also explained Slugging PCT in more detail in our article “What is Slugging Percentage (SLG) in Baseball?”
What is Strike PCT in Baseball?
Last but not least, Strike PCT is a statistic used less by fans, but more often by pitching coaches.
Strike PCT in baseball refers to the percentage of time that a pitcher throws a strike.
It is calculated by dividing the total number of strikes thrown by the total number of pitches. Unlike the other PCT stats, it is typically expressed in percentage form (65%) instead of decimal form. The strike percentage includes both called strikes and swings and misses.
In the MLB, pitchers typically shoot for a strike percentage of around 66%. At lower levels of baseball, pitchers should shoot for around 60%. Pitchers rarely have sustained success when their strike percentages dip into the 50s.
Many would be led to believe that the higher the Strike PCT the better. This is somewhat true, but there is such a thing as having a Strike PCT that is too high.
A Strike PCT in the 80s over more than 2-3 innings can sometimes be detrimental to a pitcher because the hitters know to expect a pitch in the strike zone. This gives them more pitches to hit.
Sometimes pitchers need to throw just enough balls to keep hitters off balance.
Who has the highest Winning PCT in MLB History?
Al Spalding is the pitcher who has the highest Winning PCT in MLB history with .795 over 2886.1 innings. The highest active pitcher on that list is Clayton Kershaw who ranks 5th with a .692 pct over 2484.2 innings.
Hall of Fame manager Joe McCarthy has a career Winning PCT of .615 in 3,487 games. Technically, he is ranked 7th on the all-time list, but the six guys in front of him all coached less than 1,000 games. Dave Roberts has the highest Winning PCT among active managers at .622.
Who has the highest On-Base PCT in MLB History?
Red Sox great and Hall of Famer Ted Williams has the highest career On-Base PCT in MLB history at .482. Mike Trout has the highest career On-Base PCT among active MLB players at .418. Barry Bonds is the single season record holder at an astounding .609 in 2004.
Who has the highest Slugging PCT in MLB History?
Babe Ruth has the highest career Slugging PCT in MLB history at .690. Mike Trout, again, is the highest on the career list among active players with a Slugging PCT of .585. Josh Gibson holds the single season record with .974 in 1937.
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