In the past, I've used a metric called "Drag Factor" to illustrate problems with the Rockies offense. In short, I created the metric to show how much allowing bad hitters to take a large number of plate appearances can sink offensive production. Here's what you need to know about it:
The exact equation to calculate Drag Factor is as follows ...
Drag Factor = ((100 - wRC+) * Plate Appearances) / Team Total Non-Pitcher Plate appearances
1) An individual's Drag Factor can be calculated with the equation above.
2) A team's Drag Factor (which is more useful) can be calculated by adding the Drag Factors of everyone on the team together. The higher the Drag Factor goes, the more it cripples the offense.
(If you are not familiar with wRC+, here's a link that explains the metric.)
In a nutshell, we're looking for everyday players (not pitchers) who have a very low wRC+ and a very high number of plate appearances. The more extreme the combination of each of these two factors are, the higher a player's Drag Factor score is going to be.
When a roster of these scores is added up, it gives you a number that does an excellent job of quantifying how much "bad" is in a team's offense.
In the past, this really helped explain what ailed the Rockies lineup, but ever since I first harped on it, the Rockies have generally done a better job of keeping it under control.
As we head into 2016 however, the Rockies now have the opposite problem with their offense; they don't have enough great, or maybe even good hitters. In order to explore this further, I'm going to use a metric called "Lift Factor".
With Lift Factor, we're using a very similar concept to Drag Factor, but reversing it. Instead of looking for players with a wRC+ below 100, we're looking for players with a wRC+ above 100 to see how much they lift the team up offensively. The only change we make to our equation is we subtract 100 from the wRC+ score instead of the wRC+ score from 100. It's expressed as follows:
Lift Factor = ((wRC+ -100) * Plate Appearances) / Team Total Non-Pitcher Plate appearances
When you punch that in for every player with at least ten plate appearances over the last decade for the Rockies, you get the following total scores for each Rockies team: (I sorted the table from highest to lowest Lift Factor seasons instead of leaving it in chronological order)
Since I want you guys to get a better idea of how these scores are amassed and how much each individual season contributed to them, I'm going to leave a detailed table for each of the last ten seasons here. Once you look at them, you should be able to picture what each Lift Factor score looks like over the course of a season assuming you remember watching that player do what they did at the plate that year. (That's going to become important when we get to the short and sour 2016 projections.)
And as a bonus table, here's the 20 best individual Lift Factor seasons from Rockies hitters over the last ten years:
There's a ton of data here, but again, I wanted to post it so you can visualize what each season looks like. What's most important as we head into this season however is how far the Rockies' Lift Factor score fell off in 2015. Look at the final two tables there, and it's pretty sad to see just how fast this offense has evaporated.
In 2014, the Rockies were doing pretty well in this department, but now each of the their top five Lift Factor players from that season are gone. Tulo and Dickerson were traded away, Cuddyer and Morneau aged and parted ways with the team, and McKenry was never good enough to sustain to number he put up that season. Together those players put up a Lift Factor of 13.01 in 2014, and despite good signs from Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado last season, the Rockies haven't found a way to replace most of that lost production.
As a result, the Rockies' 2015 Lift Factor score of just 5.35 sticks out as easily the worst of the last ten years - But how does it rank among all time Rockies teams? To find that answer, let's look at the five worst Rockies teams by overall wRC+ scores.
1) 2002 Rockies (wRC+ = 82)
2) 2000 Rockies (wRC+ = 82)
3) 1993 Rockies (wRC+ = 84)
4) 1999 Rockies (wRC+ = 84)
5) 2015 Rockies (wRC+ =85)
Here's what those teams' Lift Factor scores looked like:
(And you already have 2015's 5.35 Lift Factor score added in the table from earlier)
Here what those season's totals look like next to each other:
In other words, when it comes to Lift Factor, the 2015 Rockies were the worst team in franchise history. The other teams to sink even lower than them in overall wRC+ scores did so by posting higher Drag Factor scores.
As we head into 2016 however, the news gets even worse. The two biggest engines behind the 2015 Lift Factor scores (Cargo and Arenado) played in a combined 310 out of 324 possible games and each reached the 40 home run plateau. In other words, the only way we're going to their numbers improve in 2016 here is if we see them get much better at getting on base. Despite all the slugging, the inability of the Rockies' two best hitters to get on base means that their 2015 Lift Factor scores fail to crack the top 15 best Rockies scores over the last ten years (Arenado comes the closest at 19th).
Worse yet, the only other player who projects to give the Rockies a Lift Factor boost this season is Mark Reynolds. The 2016 Rockies' ZiPS projections doesn't give us wRC+ projections, but it does give us OPS+, which will get us really, really close (and actually inflate CarGo and Arenado's Lift Factor a bit since OPS+ won't penalize them quite as much for not getting on base).
So if we plug in the OPS+ projections for our wRC+ numbers, take the ZiPS plate appearances numbers at face value (they seem very fair if not generous for these three players) and assume 5,900 non pitcher plate appearances for the 2016 Rockies, we can project the following Lift Factor scores:
If ZiPS or pretty much any other major projection system is correct, the Rockies are headed towards both their lowest Lift Factor score in franchise history, as well as the worst Lift Factor score in MLB this season. Between players like Charlie Blackmon, Nick Hundley, Ben Paulsen and someone else who might surprise, it's likely that at least one or two other players get their wRC+ over 100 and appear on this list, but unless they get it over 110 with a bunch of plate appearances, their Lift Factor scores will only be pocket change as illustrated by numerous examples in the other tables I posted throughout this piece.
Unless we see Arenado take that next step towards becoming a superstar and bump his OBP by 30 or 40 points or get CarGo to turn back the clock to 2010 through 2013 levels for a full season (even if we isolated his productive mid May on numbers he still only had a .341 OBP last year), we're likely looking at the worst Lift Factor score in franchise history - And unless we see the Drag Factor score plummet, this also has a chance to be the worst offense by wRC+ in team history.
I would say that this is shaping up to be a long summer, but at least with this offense, the games are going to be over quickly.