Yesterday, Baseball Prospectus released a new all-encompassing hitting metric called “Deserved Runs Created.” Developed by venerable #BrewersTwitter member Jonathan Judge, Deserved Runs Created has been tested to be a more accurate assessment of a hitter’s true contributions at the plate than common metrics like OPS+, wRC+, and the Statcast expected statistics. So what is Deserved Runs Created, or DRC+? I’ll refer you to the introductory article from BP:
Simply put, DRC+ measures all of a player’s contributions at the plate. The model digs beneath play outcomes to isolate how much of the outcome should be credited to the hitter, then weighs those contributions on the value he provided to the team. Then, the DRC+ model adjusts for context, which include factors like which park the hitter played in and how good the opposing pitcher is. Lastly, DRC+ is scaled so a score of 100 equals league-average performance.
This means DRC+ tells you quickly how valuable a hitter’s overall offensive performance is.
What makes DRC+ different from other offensive metrics is breadth and scope. Without getting too deep into the details (that’s the job of a different article), this metric has to carefully weight the events that take place as the result of any given plate appearance. A single is more valuable than a walk, but less valuable than a triple. Strikeouts are bad, but grounding into a double play is worse. But players may hit more triples than average if they play in Kansas City, and hitters who have to face Jacob deGrom regularly deserve more credit for their successes against him than they might when facing Andrew Cashner.
DRC+ uses a mixed-model approach to deal with several contextual variables that affect the hitter’s performance, and assign an expected value to the player’s performance that neutralizes those factors. All of this calculation takes place “behind the scenes”—though the process and the different DRC+ components are publicly available—and leaves us with a number of Deserved Runs Created (DRC). The final step is to scale that DRC number to league average, where 100 is average … at least for non-pitchers.
So, what does this new statistic look like when applied to our Milwaukee Brewers?
2018 Brewers DRC+
DRC+ tends to give more weight to things like strikeouts and walks, because those are typically more attributable to a player’s actual skill, whereas say, hitting a high numbers or triples tends to be flukier based on the involvement of the defense, etc. Not only is DRC+ an accurate measure of a hitter’s contributions as they are happening, but the stat is also far more reliable than any other hitting metric when it comes to predicting future performance.
Yelich won the NL Most Valuable Player award in 2018 after a torrid second half left him as the league leader in OPS. He did play in a hitter-friendly park in Milwaukee, though, and ran up the highest BABIP in the National League. DRC+ still thinks that Yelich was an elite hitter in 2018, but his 145 total comes in as the third-highest total in the National League and his WARP total was fourth. Yelich outperformed both his deserved batting average (dAVG) and deserved OBP (dOPB) by some 30 points, and while his deserved OPS of .910 is still an outstanding total, it does suggest that there was some good fortune involved in addition to Yelich’s excellent underlying skill set. We probably shouldn’t expect an exact repeat of his 2018 season, next year.
Santana’s season was already underwhelming after his home run power all but dried up. Sunday also saw his strikeout and walk rates trend the wrong direction as his swinging-strike rate rose through the roof. Domingo needed a .386 BABIP and a flukey-great September as a pinch-batter to arrive at his actual .740 OPS, but DRC+ sees through that. The new stat believes that Santana deserved an OBP below .300, and that his overall contributions were worth well below that of a hypothetical replacement player. Perhaps Milwaukee shouldn’t count on much from the lumbering right fielder going forward.
Wild Kratz became a pivotal member of the team thanks to his work defensively behind the plate and his ability to handle the pitching staff, but he didn’t offer much with the bat. Or so we thought! Kratz’s low BABIP yet high rate of hard contact is rewarded by DRC+, which sees him as 24% more valuable offensively compared to the league than OPS+ does. Perhaps the deserved 88 points of upward OPS difference was part of Milwaukee’s calculation in bringing the veteran back on a one-year deal for 2019; he could be on the verge of an offensive breakout at age 39!
Shaw has been an integral part of the lineup for the past two seasons, but DRC+ thinks he was a lot better in 2018 than even his already-strong number suggest. Shaw posted the best strikeout and walk numbers of his career this past season though his overall line was dragged down by a .242 BABIP, 70 points lower than it was in 2017. DRC+ would credit him with 25 more points in batting average and 37 points in OPS, and his 132 DRC+ places him among the top-15 hitters in the National League.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus and Baseball-Reference