Average Hit Band: Photograph of the DRC Era’s New Normal

This MLB offseason, while arguably a bit chilly by hot stove standards, did offer baseball fans a hot new hitting metric in Baseball Prospectus’ Deserved Runs Created Plus (DRC+). In the words of its creators, DRC+ is “designed to parse out more accurately . . . batters’ expected individual contributions — separate from all other player and environmental factors — to their teams’ offensive production.” (My summary of that introductory article, which was nominated for a SABR research award, can be found through here.)

Unlike traditional, rate-based hitting metrics such as batting average (BA) and on-base percentage (OBP), DRC+ is an index statistic, meaning that it’s arranged to indicate the degree to which a player is above or below average, where 100 represents average. As part of its DRC+ rollout, BP published an homage to rate statistics (link and summary available through here) that touts their simple approach to delivering contextual information.

This undoubtedly is a user advantage for metrics like DRC+, but, by placing the focus so squarely on the average reference point, the initial transition from the rate-stat world of BA/OBP/SLG to the index-stat world of DRC+ can be a little bit rough. To help smooth things, I thought it would be beneficial to illustrate the translation with a quick look at all of the hitters who had “average,” according to DRC+, seasons at the plate in 2018.

Last season, eleven batters finished with at least 275 plate appearances and DRC+ marks of 100. As their traditional slash lines illustrate, they got to that point in a variety of ways.

The ranges for these eleven on each of the traditional hitting rate statistics are:

  • BA: .224 – .280
  • OBP: .294 – .351
  • SLG: .359 – .484

Obviously, because of the multitude of factors DRC+ considers, including both player-performance factors and environmental factors, these rate bands only serve as rough guidelines for fans making the mental shift from the rate world of BA/OBP to DRC+ that want a little help finding their bearings. (Also keep in mind that these “average” slash-line bands will vary from year to year. For example, in 1998, there were four players with at least 275 PA who posted DRC+ marks of 100, Matt Williams, Devon White, Luis Alicea, and Robin Ventura: BA between .263 and .279; OBP between .327 and .372; and SLG between .425 and .456. For reference, Mark McGwire, .299/.470/.752, led MLB with a DRC+ of 211 that year.)

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Previously
Miguel Cabrera continues to shine in the DRC era
Miguel Cabrera further bolstered by sabermetric update
Trout vs. Cabrera, and Aging with DRC+ (via Baseball Prospectus)

Related
The Best Baseball Research of the Past Year (2018)

The Best Baseball Research of the Past Year

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Once again, the Society for American Baseball Research has chosen fifteen (non-ALDLAND) finalists for awards in the areas of contemporary and historical baseball analysis and commentary.

My latest post at Banished to the Pen highlights each finalist. The winners will be announced on Sunday.

The full post is available here.

The Best Baseball Research of the Past Year

With the Super Bowl in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to get ready for baseball season, and what better way to do that than to peruse some of the best baseball articles from the past year, as identified by the Society for American Baseball Research, which has chosen fifteen (non-ALDLAND) finalists for awards in the areas of contemporary and historical baseball analysis and commentary?

My latest post at Banished to the Pen highlights each finalist and includes a link to cast your vote to help determine the winners.

As a preview, here’s my summary of my favorite article of the bunch:

Jason Turbow, “The Essence of Velocity: The Pitching Theory That Could Revolutionize Baseball, If Only The Sport Would Embrace It,” SB Nation, June 18, 2014. Turbow profiled Perry Husband, a former player who reinvented himself as a pitching coach. Really, Husband is a pitching theorist, and he labeled his theory “Effective Velocity.” The basic notion is that what matters in terms of pitch speed variation is not the actual difference between the speed of pitches but the difference in speed as perceived by the batter. This is significant, because Husband determined that actual speed and batter-perceived speed diverge for pitches thrown in certain locations. In short, pitches up and in gain effective velocity, while pitches down and away lose effective velocity. For both situations, the difference between actual and effective velocity can be between one and five miles per hour. Husband also had a revelation about the hitting process: luck is a more prevalent factor in a batter making contact than generally assumed, and hitting success depended more on pitcher mistakes. According to Husband, success in hitting, to the extent it is subject to the batter’s control, is dependent upon the batter’s ability to adjust to pitch-speed variances, and most batters cannot handle an effective velocity spread of more than five miles per hour. The very best hitters, Husband said, might be able to handle an eight mile per hour effective velocity spread. Pitchers know they need to mix speeds, but when they throw pitches to the areas where they disadvantageously gain or lose effective velocity, they neutralize the effect of their speed mixing. The one problem for Husband? He couldn’t find any Major League teams to buy into his theory. Turbow’s article tracked Husband’s search for acceptance in engaging fashion.

Read about the other fourteen nominees, see my ballot, and cast your vote here.