In May 2014, Matt Gross published the most widely read article in Purple Row history — “Either the numbers are lying or the game is rigged.” The basis for the first provocation of the title was that the Rockies had a huge home/road split when it came to team wRC+. For those unfamiliar, wRC+ is a batting statistic that adjusts for park. Essentially, it asks, “All things equal, how good was each player compared to league average?” If the numbers were accurate, it would mean that the Rockies have been playing with a major road disadvantage. That conclusion led to the title’s second provocation.
A lot of folks around Purple Row thought that the first explanation, inaccurate numbers, was the more likely culprit, mostly based on how wRC+ adjusts for park. Essentially, the metric takes a player’s home park and applies that park adjustment to all of his plate appearances. We’ve long suspected that stats like wRC+ don’t reflect Rockies players very well because of that. Now, there finally seems to be a batting metric that does a better job.
Today Baseball Prospectus introduced Deserved Runs Created (DRC+). Like wRC+, it’s a statistic designed to reflect how good a player was compared to league average. Unlike wRC+, it park adjusts for every plate appearance (in addition to other adjustments), which means that a Rockies’ batter’s hitting on the road isn’t penalized because he plays his home games at Coors Field.
Based on that adjustment, we should expect Rockies hitters to have a better mark with DRC+ than wRC+. BP will have some Rockies-specific case studies later this week, but at first glance, that appears to be the case. Nolan Arenado’s 132 wRC+ in 2018 ranked 22nd in baseball; however, his 146 DRC+ ranked fifth. That’s quite a change. We see the same type of shift with Trevor Story, whose 127 wRC+ ranked 33rd in baseball, but who clocked in at number 11 with a 136 DRC+. Even Ian Desmond got a huge boost, from 81 to a basically league average 98.
So what does this all mean? It depends who you ask. If you ask the Rockies, it may not mean much at all because it’s possible they already have an in-house metric that’s does the same job. The Rockies won’t be more competitive because of DRC+. If you ask fans and analysts, it means there’s a new tool in the toolbox that can help us understand baseball a little better. It’s nice that that understanding, for Rockies fans in particular, also includes a greater appreciation of the players we get to watch all summer.