This one is going to be ranty, and of course, my opinion. You are free to disagree.
Baseball fans go through stages in their fandom. I’d guess most fans start out by playing the game themselves, and then finding a favorite team, and then finding a favorite player. From there, you watch a ton of games, or maybe you watch a ton of games and then get sucked into the world of sabermetrics. I first became a fan of sabermetrics through fantasy baseball. While guys were drafting the players with high batting averages I was looking for guys that had underperformed what their BABIP indicated. And then I won a few leagues, and here we are. Writing for thepointofpittsburgh.com and using stats like wOBA, DRA, wRC+, DRA, and now, DRC+.
Here is where it’s going to get ranty. I really enjoy using stats in my writing. From fantasy baseball to now, they’ve been a way of getting ahead of the game. They truly aren’t that difficult to interpret either. Things like wOBA and wRC+ are easy to understand for the most part because wOBA is scaled to league average OBP and wRC+ is measured as 100 being average. There is complexity in wRC+, but there is also simplicity in its presentation. I know how wRC+ works, but if someone doesn’t, all you need to say is 100 is league average and above is better, below is Jordy Mercer.
But now we have DRC+. Baseball Prospectus just recently released their new stat, Deserved Runs Created Plus. Why is that important? Baseball Prospectus says that “DRC+ is more accurate, descriptive, and predictive than any other public-facing statistic when we talk about all of the offensive performance.” The big thing that sets DRC+ apart from wRC+ seems mainly to be the change in how both metrics adjust park factors and how heavily weighted strikeouts and walks are valued. For example, DRC+ likes Colorado Rockies hitters much more than wRC+. It also says that Josh Bell had a better year than Starling Marte at the plate last year.
My first reaction is, Josh Bell had a better year than Starling Marte? Believe it or not, wRC+ almost said the same thing. For 2018, Bell ended with a 112 wRC+ and Marte with a 113 wRC+, whereas Bell had a 104.8 DRC+ and Marte had a 102.4 DRC+. Bell has a much better K-BB rate than Marte which likely is what gives him the boost in DRC+ compared to Marte.
Now, these are just two players. If someone told you, without giving names, that a player had a 112 wRC+ and a 113 wRC+, you’d probably say they had equally as good of a year. The same goes for a 104.8 and a 102.4 DRC+. The ‘improvement’ is certainly there, but it seems to be negligible for the most part.
What are your first impressions of DRC+?
— Alex Stumpf (@AlexJStumpf) December 5, 2018
A better stat is a better stat. Better is better. I’m willing to say that DRC+ is likely better than wRC+. My frustration lies within the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any new information with DRC+. It’s early, but nothing sticks out that says, “wow, how did wRC+ miss that?” It’s simply a slightly improved version of wRC+, which is great in and of itself. However, I’m at the point in my baseball fandom that I’m starting to get a little stat fatigued. The most frustrating aspect of it all, to me at least, is that Baseball Prospectus is releasing information slowly. They have a business to run, and clicks to get. I get it. But why on earth does it take a week to post the actual math behind DRC+? They have posted a few articles explaining why DRC+ is better than the rest (which I do recommend checking out, by the way). Judge, the creator of DRC+, said this:
“Some have asked about something I meant to address in this article: where do the computations come from and how will you learn how they are done? The answer is that we will start going through those next week. Right now, we are focused on introducing you to the metric and explaining why you should care about it. Next week, I assure you we will happily descend into the nitty gritty.” – Baseball Prospectus
It won’t kill us, but why release a stat that’s supposedly better than the most used offensive stat in baseball writing, and then have us wait another week? Again, DRC+ might become my new favorite offensive stat. But the process so far has simply put a bad taste in my mouth.
Now, moving forward, what does this mean for the Pirates? As a whole, DRC+ and wRC+ correlate fairly closely. Only two players had their DRC+ outperform their wRC+. Colin Moran and Josh Harrison both had a higher DRC+ than their wRC+, which is interesting. But without knowing the math behind it, it’s anyone’s guess as to why this was the case.
With the winter meetings quickly approaching, you are sure to hear a lot about DRC+. It’s the freshest stat out there right now. Anytime a player is rumored to be heading somewhere, you can be sure a fellow blogger will be citing DRC+. My gripes with DRC+ aren’t with the stat itself, I’m just a nerd yelling at a cloud. But it is important to remember that, at least as of right now, DRC+ is better than wRC+, but not by much. Use whichever stat you like best, or don’t. Use batting average if you want. Just enjoy the game.