What is Cricket Average?

A few years ago, a friend of mine from India tried to interest me in the British Commonwealth sport of Cricket.  He did not succeed, but the experience led me to change the way I evaluate the performance of batters and pitchers in the derivative American sport of baseball.

In Baseball, the “batting average” statistic measures the average number of “hits” a batter produces per “at bat”.  However, as a measure of a player’s “offensive skill” the statistic is so incomplete, its sort of strange that baseball fans have traditionally given it so much credence.  The objective in baseball is not merely to hit safely, it is to advance bases without making outs.  “Hits” does not include all of the ways a batter can independently advance along the bases (walks, hit by pitch), and it is indifferent to the number of bases a batter usually advances per hit (a single is the same as a home run).  Those are two critical omissions that make evaluating a batsmen in baseball by his “batting average” alone a little like evaluating a quarterback in football by simply looking at his completion percentage and ignoring his yards per attempt or his ground yards gained.

By contrast, in the sport of Cricket the “batting average” statistic seems to be a more sensible measurement of a player’s actual offensive ability.  Cricket’s “batting average” stat measures the number of “runs” a player produces for every out he makes.  Since (I am told) the number of runs a cricketeer produces is largely a function of his own individual offensive accomplishments as a batter (and not the success of his teammates), Cricket’s “batting average” does a much better job of explaining a batter’s true offensive value to his team than its baseball equivalent does.  Which gave me an idea. 

Applying Cricket Logic to Baseball

Batter’s Cricket Average

(Total Bases + Walks + Hit By Pitch + Stolen Bases / Plate Appearances – Hits – Walks – Hit By Pitch – Sac Bunts + Caught Stealing)

My baseball statistic “Cricket Average” is a very simple application of the superior logic of the Cricket version of batting average to the sport of baseball.  Rather than simply measuring the average number of times a player produces  a hit for every “at bat”, what I call “Cricket Average” tries to measure the impact of each batsmen on the team’s runs produced.

And in baseball, runs are produced by advancing along the bases, and runs are prevented by making outs.  So, my baseball “Cricket Average” is the average number of bases a batsmen will independently advance on the bases for every out he costs his team.   

Cricket Average is very similar to the baseball statistic “OPS”.  OPS expresses somewhat the same thing but in a more roundabout way ( it combines On-base percentage and Slugging). That makes it somewhat confusing and hard to conceptualize.

By contrast, “Cricket Average” is very simple to understand, conceptualize, and explain.  It simply asks and answers the central question at the heart of the sport of baseball:

How many bases does this guy produce for us for every out he costs us?   

By answering that question, “Cricket Average” does a very good job of explaining a player’s offensive value to his team, because a team’s overall “Cricket Average” has a near perfect correlation with the number of runs the team scores (0.967).  And as Bill James established a long time ago, “Runs Produced” equals wins.

In 2011, the National League Batter Cricket Average was 0.670, meaning the average batter earned 0.67 Bases for every Out he made.

Pitchers Cricket Average

(Home Runs * 4 + Walks + Hit Batsmen / Strikeouts)

I also apply the inverse of Cricket Average to Pitchers and to Team Defenses, but in unique ways. 

A Pitchers Cricket Average measures only the number of Bases the Pitcher himself yields to the opponent independent of his defense (meaning, by Home Run, Walk, or Hit Batsmen) for every Out he records for his team independent of his defense (meaning, by Strikeout).

This statistic tells a lot about a pitcher’s value, because Voros McCracken established the fact that a pitcher has very little control over what happens to balls in play.  For those outs, he must rely on his defense.  Thus a Pitcher’s “Cricket Average” excludes the things he cannot control and measures the things he can control. 

In 2011, the National League Cricket Average for Pitchers was 0.951.

Team Defensive Cricket Average

(Opp Total Bases – (Opp Home Runs * 4) /Opp Outs – Opp Strikeouts)

Finally, I apply Cricket Average to a Team’s Defense.  Team Defensive Cricket Average is simply the number of bases yielded by the defense (meaning, bases yielded on balls hit in the field of play plus stolen bases) for every out produced by the defense (meaning outs that were not strikeouts).   

In 2011, the National League Team Defensive Cricket Average was 0.561.

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