OAA measures fielding skill by measuring outs above average. Saved outs are represented by this number. For a season-long cumulative number, plays are assigned values based on their difficulty, and the values are added together for each play.

Increasingly, OAA is used when thinking about a player’s defense (and it’s easy to understand!). Outfielders and infielders are calculated differently.

**What is a good OAA value?**

A fielder who averages zero outs has an expected number of outs of zero. If the fielder’s skill level exceeds zero, he or she may make plays that average fielders cannot. The fielder may miss average plays from time to time if the percentage is below zero.

Outs Above Average | Defensive Skill Level |

Less than 0 | Below Average |

0 | Average |

Greater than 0 | Above Average |

It’s better to be higher!

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**Outs Above Average for Outfielders**

In order to calculate Outs Above Average, the following factors are considered:

- The distance traveled by the player to reach the ball
- The player’s direction of travel
- Getting to the ball is the player’s responsibility
- Wall proximity

According to these three factors, the probability of catching a fish is determined. There is a lower catch probability on tougher plays. Positive credit is applied to the player’s Outs Above Average number if the catch is made. He receives negative credits if he does not make the catch.

Example: When an outfielder catches a ball with a 75% catch probability, there is a 75% chance the ball will be caught by an average outfielder. The player’s OAA is increased by 0.25 if he makes the catch. An OAA reduction of -0.75 occurs if he misses.

Listed below are the outfield leaders and their OAAs for 2019:

- Victor Robles: 23
- Kevin Kiermaier: 17
- Lorenzo Cain: 14
- Harrison Bader: 13
- Delino DeShields: 12
- Byron Buxton: 12
- Manuel Margot: 11
- Mallex Smith: 10
- Mike Tauchman: 9
- Keon Broxton: 9

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**Outfield Outs Above Average [Back to Basics]**

How does all that translate into real life?

This stat becomes even simpler when we think about what it measures. Usually, you should be able to tell when a ball is put in play whether it will be hit or out while watching a game.

Baseball fans may even be able to estimate the chance of catching a ball based on their level of interest. An average flyball to the centerfielder is almost certain to be caught over 95% of the time, for instance.

What do we know about that? Firstly, we know it was a flyball, so the fielder has plenty of time to get into position to catch it since it was hit high up. A second advantage was that the fielder did not have to dive or exert extra effort to make the play since the ball was hit to a location that was easy to access. Additionally, he probably took a few steps back after making the catch rather than running forward.

Within seconds of the play occurring, you have already calculated the out probability. OAA does that too (only with actual data!).

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**Complexity Increases**

OAA breaks down balls into automatically outs, automatically hits, and in-between areas (known as the “opportunity space” for players). The best defenders are the ones who are best at handling balls which can go either way (hit or out). Similarly, OAA assigns point values to plays in order to emphasize this point.

This graph shows Kevin Kiermaier’s Gold Glove winnings (Tampa Bay Rays CF). The chart shows all of the balls he received in 2019 and their results. Keep the gray dots (hits) and red dots (outs) simple to keep things simple.

Kiermaier was the distance away from where the ball landed on the x axis of this graph, and the y axis shows hang time (time the ball was in the air). The ball was in the air for a short period of time in the lower right corner of the graph, and Kiermaier was a long way away. These conditions resulted in balls falling for hits. It was in the air for a long time in the upper left corner, and Kiermaier was a short distance away. These conditions caused balls to be caught when they were hit.

Flowing diagonally through the graph is the opportunity space, which is teal in color. Balls can either fall or be caught in this area on average. Red circles (outs) are more common in this area for great defenders than gray circles (hits). Graph shows that most of the balls Kiermaier caught for outs under these conditions. In the automatic hits zone, the ones he missed were near the line.

It is also important to consider the player’s route as well as his proximity to the wall when determining catch probability. It is harder to catch a ball when a player must run back (since it is a harder play). If the player is near a wall, the same applies. Runback and closeness to a wall further decrease the catch probability for a player.

**Outs Above Average for Infielders**

In order to calculate Outs Above Average for infielders, we consider the following:

- A player’s distance from the ball, also called the intercept point, is the distance they traveled to reach the ball.
- Getting to the ball is the player’s responsibility
- Player’s distance from base to which runner is heading
- On force plays, the sprint speed of the runner is only taken into account

The league average (27 feet/sec) is used when the runner’s sprint speed is unknown. New players usually experience this.

To calculate this metric more accurately, statcast uses technology that identifies exactly where fielders are positioned to determine where they are positioned. OAA will not be adversely affected by shifts or fielders playing different positions. There will be no exceptions to the statistic, regardless of where the ball is hit.

Infield leaders in 2019 and their OAAs are as follows:

- Javier Baez:19
- Nolan Arenado: 17
- Andrelton Simmons: 16
- Nick Ahmed: 16
- Trevor Story: 15
- Matt Chapman: 14
- Paul DeJong: 13
- Matt Olsen: 12
- Jose Iglesias: 12
- Freddy Galvis: 12

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**Infield Outs Above Average [Back to Basics]**

It is safe to assume that your shortstop can throw the ball to first for the out if a ground ball is hit hard right to him. He is less likely to make the play at first if the roller is slow or if he must run to it.

OAA for infielders is determined based on what factors?

Let’s start with a question: Does the player have a good chance of reaching the ball (the intercept point)? There is a good chance that the ball might end up in the outfield if it is hit hard and rolls several feet away from him. Getting to it in time is likely if the roller is slow and heading right toward him.

Second: What is the player’s time to reach the ball? Plays are more likely to be made when he gets there faster.

Third: What is the batter’s speed? It is already too late for the fielder to reach the batter’s first base position when he meets with the interceptor at the intercept point. It is much harder to make a play against a fast batter.

Fourth: How long will it take the batter to reach first? By the time the batter reaches first, he has already made progress, depending on his speed.

Fifth: What is the distance between the fielder and the bag? Does he have enough time to make the throw? The extra distance the ball needs to travel to get an out makes it harder for a third baseman to get an out.

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**What Is a Good OAA in Baseball?**

As its name implies, OAA is based on league averages. Consequently, an average defensive player has 0 OAA. A positive OAA is better than a negative one, and a negative OAA is worse than a positive one.

A strong defender may have four to five OAAs over a full season, whereas an elite defender will have eight or more. It is not uncommon for the best defenders to have more than 20 OAA in a season.

Baseball Savant illustrates good OAA scores with a color gradient. Players with light red OAAs make excellent defenders, while those with dark red OAAs make excellent fielders.

**What Is a Bad OAA in Baseball?**

The average OAA over a full season for a good defender will be 4-5, by contrast the average OAA for a bad defender will be -4, and by comparison a terrible defender will have -8 OAA. Defenders with an OAA below -15 can be the worst of the worst in a year.

In Baseball Savant, bad OAA scores are also illustrated with a gradient. Players with light blue OAAs are poor fielders, while players with dark blue OAAs are terrible defenders.

**Where Can I Find OAA Online?**

Baseball Savant, a website run by MLB Advanced Media, offers a free copy of Outs Above Average. Under the “Leaderboards” tab, you can find OAA leaders, and on the individual player pages, you can find individual OAA.

On the player pages and leaderboards of FanGraphs.com, OAA can also be found. Among other things, FanGraphs calculates Wins Above Replacement (WAR) based on OAA data.

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**Who Has the Highest OAA in Baseball History?**

Among players since this statistic was introduced, Francisco Lindor has the highest OAA. Over the course of his career, he has accrued 117 OAA with both the Cleveland Guardians and the New York Mets. OAA data are available since the 2016 season, when Lindor debuted. As such, if OAA had been developed a year earlier, his career OAA could have been higher.

105 OAA is the second-best career mark for shortstop Nick Ahmed. Only Lindor and Ahmed have a career OAA above 100 as of the 2022-23 offseason.

The Houston Astros lead the league in overall OAA. Based on OAA, the Astros are 181 games ahead of the Chicago Cubs, who are in second place.

**Who Has the Most OAA in a Single Season?**

For the most OAA in a single season, Nick Ahmed holds the record. As the Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop in 2018, he recorded 35 OAA.

Another shortstop, Javier Báez, is in second place. The Cubs had 32 OAA from Báez in 2019. In one season, only Ahmed and Báez have recorded more than 30 OAA.

During the 2017 season, the Minnesota Twins had the highest OAA. There were 66 OAAs for the Twins that season. The 60-OAA threshold has never been surpassed by another team.

**Who Has the Worst OAA in Baseball History?**

Didi Gregorius has recorded an OAA of -76 in his MLB career, the worst in the league. His professional baseball career has taken him to the Diamondbacks, the Cincinnati Reds, the New York Yankees, and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Only five players in the league have a career OAA below -50. Kyle Schwarber (-52) and Daniel Murphy (51) are the other three (-68, -61, -52, and -51).

Baltimore Orioles have the lowest overall OAA. Having accumulated -130 OAA since 2016, the Orioles are currently in last place.

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**Who Has the Lowest OAA in a Single Season?**

The worst OAA in OAA history was recorded by outfielder Matt Kemp in 2016. The 2016 season was split between Kemp’s time with the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres. The majority of his time was spent playing right field.

The OAA for Kemp is -20 or lower, making him one of seven players with an OAA below 20. Besides Jonathan Villar, Brad Miller, Nick Castellanos, Jorge Polanco, Andrew Vaugh, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., others are: Brad Miller (2016), Jonathan Villar (2), Brad Miller (4), Nick Castellanos (2018), Nikolay Castellanos (6), and Nick Castellanos (7).

A single season with the lowest OAA was achieved by the 2017 New York Mets. There was a -57 OAA for the Mets that year. It was the first time a team dropped below -50 OAA in a single season.

**FAQs**

**What is Outs Above Average (OAA) in baseball, and what does it represent?**

Baseball’s Outs Above Average (OAA) metric measures the extent to which a player has contributed defensively by calculating how many outs he saved. A player’s defensive skills are evaluated using this test. As of 2020, it includes infielders as well, making it more comprehensive in understanding defensive contributions among players.

**How is OAA calculated for Outfielders?**

OAA is calculated based on something called Catch Probability for outfielders. An outfielder’s distance to reach the ball, their travel time, and their direction are all factors considered in this measure. These factors determine the catch likelihood percentage for each batted ball. The outfielder receives a +0.25 credit if they catch a ball with a 75% Catch Probability. They receive a -0.75 if they do not catch it, reflecting the probability that other outfielders will catch it.

**Can you give an example of a player with a high OAA?**

With a +23 OAA, Victor Robles led MLB outfielders in 2019. Despite sometimes not being able to stand at third base due to field shifting, Nolan Arenado posted a +17 OAA in 2019.

**What factors are considered for the OAA calculation in the case of Infielders?**

It is a bit more complicated to calculate OAA for infielders. A player’s distance from the ball and the amount of time they need to reach it are still considered. In addition, the average speed of the batter during the play is taken into account as well as the distance from the base the runner is heading to.

**How does Catch Probability add to the depth of understanding OAA?**

Through the use of Catch Probability, the OAA is further refined by taking into account the distance between the player and the wall of the field. A player’s chance of catching the ball decreases if he/she has to run back towards the wall. As well, if a player is close to a wall, the catch probability is reduced as well. Consequently, the out probability and OAA are given a more nuanced understanding.

**Can you explain the concept of an ‘opportunity space’ in understanding OAA?**

As part of its analysis, OAA separates the ‘automatic outs’ from the ‘automatic hits’, as well as everything in between, called the ‘opportunity space’. A good defender excels in this ‘opportunity space’ and contributes value to their team by creating chances to score that are not sure, but not unlikely. These plays are marked with positive points by OAA to highlight this.

**Conclusion**

A key metric for evaluating fielding skill in baseball is Outs Above Average (OAA). A fielder who records more outs than an average fielder is considered to have a higher defensive stat.

The purpose of this article has been to explain how OAA differs from traditional fielding statistics like error rates, why it is valuable, and how it can be interpreted. Compared to errors and putouts, OAA evaluates fielding contributions holistically. Factors such as arm strength and range of motion are taken into account.

Leading players in OAA such as Kevin Kiermaier demonstrate exceptional glovework. Poor OAA totals are an indication of fielders who are not reaching balls that would be caught by an average fielder despite their decent mistakes. The OAA adjusts for opportunities, which makes it useful for comparing positions.

Although OAA isn’t perfect, it gives us a more comprehensive picture of defensive impact. A fielder’s performance is evaluated by quantifying the difficulty of plays. The OAA reveals critical aspects of the game that are often overlooked, such as defense. The OAA assists in determining who are the best fielders and helps provide context for evaluations of players as a whole.

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