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There’s a new statistic to evaluate hitting and yup, it says the Tigers are bad

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Baseball Prospectus has introduced DRC+, a statistic that says the 2018 Tigers were as bad as you thought.

Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Here at Bless You Boys, we have always championed the use of statistics to better understand the game of baseball. Advanced metrics, in particular, have taught us to think about the game differently. They help us discuss the game more intelligently, and back up our arguments and assertions with facts. While they aren’t perfect, they tend to enrich our conversations about this game that we all love.

On Monday, the fine folks at Baseball Prospectus unveiled Deserved Runs Created Plus, or DRC+, a statistic designed to measure a player’s offensive output relative to league average, and adjusted to correct for a boatload of factors. Like our old friends OPS+ and wRC+, it is scaled so that 100 is average, and any points above or below that indicate the percentage of how much better (or worse) a player is relative to average.

We’ll get into the nitty-gritty in a bit, but here’s what you need to know: the Detroit Tigers are still bad.

Nicholas Castellanos was the only Detroit hitter to rank among the top 100 players in all of MLB in DRC+ in 2018, with a 116 DRC+, nowhere near as good as his 130 wRC+. The next-best Tiger was Christin Stewart, who only played in Detroit for a month at the end of the season. In fact, the next Tigers hitter to spend the full season with the team was Victor Martinez, way down at 262nd in baseball with a 95 DRC+.

Where are Jeimer Candelario and Niko Goodrum, you may ask? They are further down the list; both finished with a 91 DRC+, numbers much worse than their respective wRC+ figures. Other Tigers that finished down the list include:

Jose Iglesias: 89 DRC+
John Hicks: 86 DRC+
Mikie Mahtook: 85 DRC+
Ronny Rodriguez: 76 DRC+
James McCann: 74 DRC+
Dixon Machado: 73 DRC+

(You can see the entire list of sadness here)

How is DRC+ calculated?

We don’t know yet. While it seems like this particular stat hates the Tigers, the reality is that DRC+ doesn’t seem to be too closely correlated with wRC+ and OPS+, which will only differ by a point or two for a given player. The reason for that? DRC+ is calculated differently, and has different weights for various outcomes in a given plate appearance.

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.

We’re still not sure exactly why there are such big discrepancies, such as Castellanos’ 14-point difference in DRC+ and wRC+, but creator Jonathan Judge indicated that “extreme performances” in certain areas (especially strikeout and walk rates) are weighted differently. Also, as the above quote says, DRC+ is scaled for quality of competition and weighed by single-year park factors.

What does this all mean?

We’re not sure yet. Baseball Prospectus is proudly claiming that DRC+ is the most accurate measure of offensive performance out there, and it probably is. It may or may not overtake OPS+ and wRC+ as the most widely-cited offensive statistic, and it will take some time before the general public gets a better grasp of its strengths and, probably more importantly, its flaws. Whether we use it here or not depends largely on personal preference — many of our writers lean toward FanGraphs’ stats, though we try to mix it up whenever possible — but will, as always, be provided with the appropriate context.

In the meantime, we’ll stare at that above tweet for a while and go back to wishing the Tigers would actually sign someone.