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Oracle Report: Secondary Average

Ray Flowers continues his look into sabermetrics by breaking down Secondary Average, a mark that speaks to the power of a batter.

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Sabermetrics is the search for objective knowledge about baseball (the term was coined by Bill James, the most famous sabermatrician of them all). James chose this term as an homage to the group of people who study the history of the game of baseball – the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR). Sabermatricians don’t say ‘Justin Upton is better than Alfonso Soriano because he has a prettier looking swing,’ they say something like ‘Justin Upton is a better hitter than Soriano because he ranks higher than Alfonso in the following categories the last two years...’ Sabermetrics uses objective data and not subjective opinions to develop their conclusions. In this piece we'll focus on one of those measures used in sabermetics – Secondary Average.

NOTE: Make sure you check out Bases Per Plate Appearance that was written about previously.


Secondary Average, or SECA, is a sabermetric tool used to gauge a player’s ability to produce extra bases independent of batting average (the total of a player's extra bases earned on hits, walks and stolen bases expressed as a percentage of at-bats).

The idea behind the measure is simple. Does a .020 point advantage in batting average for Player A mean he is a better hitter than Player B? Of course not if Player A has 14 home runs while Player B knocks 36 long balls. In essence, SECA attempts to fill in the gaps that batting average doesn’t directly address. As a result, SECA basically covers the three primary factors of an offensive contribution outside of average: power (bases), eye (BB) and speed (SB).

What sets SECA apart from other simple metrics is that it takes into account various aspects of a player’s offensive contribution including two lesser-recorded measures when it comes to judging a players overall offensive effectiveness; the walk and the stolen base. Any time a player gains a base without making an out he should be rewarded, and that’s what SECA attempts to do.


Here is the equation that is used to figure SECA.

(TB - H + BB + SB) / AB

Here is an example so you can see how easy it is to figure SECA.


In 2013 Adam Jones produced the following numbers for the Orioles.
322 Total Bases, 186 Hits, 25 BB, 14 SB, 653 AB.

(322-186+25+15) / 653
176 / 653
SECA = .269

So what SECA records is that in 2013 Jones' offensive contribution produced an SECA mark of .269. For comparisons sake, the league average SECA mark was .250, just one point lower than the league batting average of .251 in 2013.

To place the numbers on a spectrum of effectiveness, a fantastic season in SECA results in a mark above the .450 mark, a mark over .400 is impressive, again .250 is the league average, while a number below .200 is considered to be a poor showing (guys under .200 can still be good fantasy performers if they steal bases and help in the batting average categories).

It should also be noted that there is quite a bit of volatility in SECA. It varies much more than batting average for example. It's not a tool to use predicatively, at least not on it's own. It needs to be paired with other measures to paint a picture, though it is a good tool to look at how a player got to where he is right now.

Which brings up one last point. Why use at-bats in the equation and not plate appearances? Well you just read why. Basically, at-bats are used because they allow the SECA mark to closely mirror the major league batting average in most years. With that, let's get down to breaking down the players.

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(Minimum 200 PA)

SEC Player   SEC Player
0.477 Troy Tulowitzki   0.403 Justin Upton
0.462 Andrew McCutchen   0.393 Adam LaRoche
0.462 Edwin Encarnacion   0.391 Carlos Santana
0.462 Adam Dunn   0.390 Seth Smith
0.456 Jose Bautista   0.389 Coco Crisp
0.451 Giancarlo Stanton   0.385 Josh Donaldson
0.443 Nelson Cruz   0.378 David Ortiz
0.440 Mike Trout   0.372 Carlos Gomez
0.430 Brian Dozier   0.372 Chris Carter
0.427 Anthony Rizzo   0.370 Victor Martinez
0.422 Jose Abreu   0.368 Chris Davis
0.412 Yasiel Puig   0.366 George Springer
0.412 Brandon Moss      

* Not enough PA to qualify: Mark Teixeira (.403), Juan Francisco (.394), Derek Norris (.385)

Shocker. Tulowitzki is in the lead. His mark is one point behind the .478 rate that led baseball last year. It belonged to Chris Davis.

McCutchen has been white hot for two weeks and Encarnacion, well it's been a month and counting for him.

Dunn is ahead of Abreu for the White Sox. Simple enough to explain that. Dunn has 40 walks, Abreu only 13. I keep warning about Abreu's approach, how it will hurt him eventually, and how it doesn't really help his mates out much either. To a certain extent SECA agrees.

Dozier is a top-10 player with a .430 mark. It's the most shocking number on the entire board. The last two years his number was .287 and .177. Add those two numbers up and you get a combined .464. Yeah, Dozier will regress in 2014.

Santana has been a huge disappointment and a major fantasy turd (that's a scientific term). However, he's still been an effective offensive performer in some respects. Despite batting .178 he has a .339 OBP, which is better than the league average, and his 0.94 BB/K ratio is excellent. Better times lie ahead.

Carter brings more to the field than appears at first glance. Still, that doesn't mean he's a great fantasy player since he's a first baseman. Santana can get away with it cause he's a catcher.

Look at Springer, Carter's teammate. Through 48 games he's hit 12 bombs, posted seven doubles and walked 22 times. If he starts running, he has only one theft, he could maintain his top-25 mark.

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Here are a few players of note that weren’t able to crack the top-25 to this point of the 2014 season.

SEC Player   SEC Player
0.365 Paul Goldschmidt   0.319 Albert Pujols
0.363 Mike Napoli   0.315 Michael Brantley
0.362 Hanley Ramirez   0.312 Pedro Alvarez
0.346 Shin-Soo Choo   0.301 Hunter Pence
0.340 Freddie Freeman   0.299 Charlie Blackmon
0.333 Michael Morse   0.284 Jonathan Lucroy
0.332 Adrian Gonzalez   0.282 Matt Holliday
0.331 Miguel Cabrera   0.278 Jason Heyward
0.326 Ryan Braun   0.276 Carlos Gonzalez
0.322 Yoenis Cespedes   0.259 Alex Rios

Goldschmidt has been great this year. Still, he just missed out on the top-25 and his current mark is substantially down from the .439 mark he posted last year.

Freeman doesn't take a lot of walks, and he's also merely a solid home run bat and not a big bopper. Nothing wrong with that, just know what you have in Freeman and you won't be disappointed.

Cabrera at .331 and not in the top-25. Shocking right? Maybe not, but it should be a surprise, at least a little bit. Cabrera owns a career mark of .379 which is substantially above his current mark bit it's still just 37th among players who have had 2,500 plate appearances since 2000.

Pujols has a career mark of .432. How the mighty have fallen.

Pence at .301 is a bit surprising on the surface but it's an expected number given his overall skill set. Last year, when he blew up in the fantasy game, his mark was .318.

Can somebody give Lucroy his due this year? Through 61 games he's hitting .341 with a .403 OBP and .912. That's elite at any position. It's stupendous at the catcher's position. The only part of his game that is obviously lacking is the walks. He has only 24 on the season. At least he rarely whiffs so he's got a 0.89 BB/K ratio. Guess you could say the four homers are a bit disappointing, but he's averaged 14 the past three years, so he could still get to that level.

Rios has been a great fantasy player, but a lousy option according to SECA Rios is batting .329 with 12 steals, 31 runs and 32 RBIs. Too bad that he's walked only 15 times and hit only three homers. Still, he does have 14 homers and eight triples, so he's been producing extra base hits.


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Here are the SECA leaders, recorded as an average, for the last three years.

2011-13 Leaders
(Minimum 1,250 PA)

SEC Player   SEC Player
0.494 Jose Bautista   0.383 Adam Dunn
0.444 Mike Trout   0.380 Andrew McCutchen
0.441 Joey Votto   0.379 Matt Kemp
0.425 Curtis Granderson   0.377 Evan Longoria
0.425 Miguel Cabrera   0.374 Carlos Santana
0.421 Giancarlo Stanton   0.371 Josh Willingham
0.418 David Ortiz   0.371 Prince Fielder
0.414 Ryan Braun   0.370 Carlos Pena
0.413 Mike Napoli   0.367 Chris Davis
0.398 Paul Goldschmidt   0.366 Mark Teixeira
0.395 Edwin Encarnacion   0.363 Mark Reynolds
0.386 Carlos Gonzalez   0.357 Troy Tulowitzki

It's no surprise at all that Bautista leads the list. He's got massive power and is regularly among the league leaders in walks when he's healthy. If only he stole bases.

Trout does steal bases... and does everything else as well.

Votto gets bashed because he's not a big power threat. OK, that's true. But look at his #3 spot here. Since 2000, among players with at least 2,500 plate appearances, Votto is 16th with a mark of .420.

Dunn at higher level than McCutchen? Remember this isn't a “fantasy” category. Not saying Dunn is/was better than the Pirates' star. I bet it's pretty surprising to some though to learn just how effective an offensive performer that Dunn has been, even as he slows down. Think of it. He's also outpaced guys like Fielder, Davis and Tulo...

Poor Carlos Pena. Just not respected. He hit a homer, struck out or walked. Pretty much his whole game.


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Player Year SEC   Player Year SEC
B.Bonds 2004 1.088   McGwire 1999 0.674
B.Bonds 2002 0.943   B.Bonds 1992 0.664
B.Bonds 2001 0.935   T. Williams 1941 0.656
Ruth 1920 0.830   Ruth 1930 0.654
B.Bonds 2003 0.805   F. Thomas 1994 0.654
McGwire 1998 0.774   Ruth 1928 0.649
Ruth 1921 0.769   B.Bonds 2000 0.648
Ruth 1923 0.730   Ruth 1924 0.647
McGwire 1996 0.693   T. Williams 1954 0.642
Ruth 1927 0.683   Mantle 1957 0.641
Ruth 1926 0.679   Mantle 1961 0.638
B.Bonds 1996 0.677   Jack Clark 1987 0.637

The top-3 marks of all-time belong to Barry Bonds, and they all appear in a three year span from the 2001-04. He is on the list seven times. The other man who is everywhere is The Babe. He's actually on the list eight times, once more than bonds. Think of it. The top-24 marks of all time... 15 belong to two men.

There is also one guy who may not really belong on a list populated by HOF ballplayer. That man, who violently lashed line drives to all fields as I grew up watching him in the orange and black at Candlestick Park is the Ripper – Jack Clark (the season he scored the best in SECA, the only listed above, was while he was the cleanup hitter with the Cardinals).

In the end, Secondary Average is another weapon you can deploy to get the jump on your friends. Knowledge is power, as long as you know how to use the knowledge that’s at your disposal.


  • 64x64

    Matthew Baumer 12 Jun 14:56 / Reply

    Barry Bonds is the MAN. Second to only you Ray.

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