After a break during the offseason, our Stat of the Week series returns today with an important offensive metric know as Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+). You can find this metric on Fangraphs with a full explanation here.
Last season I broke down wOBA which is OPS on steroids. The wOBA idea feeds into wRC. What wRC+ tells is how much better a player is than average when it comes to producing runs for his team. Simpler yet, it’s a catch all offensive metric that can be used for easy comparison between players.
Like WAR, this isn’t a perfect tool, but through some calculations based on the historical value of each plate appearance outcome, we can get an estimate of how much value a player brings to his team. League average wRC+ is scaled to 100, meaning that a player with a wRC+ of 120 is 20% better than a league average hitter. wRC+ is also adjusted for park and league effects, so if you play at Petco Park, you get a little boost because the park suppresses offense.
For reference, both Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout posted wRC+ of 166 in 2012. The most average players in 2012 by wRC+ were Brett Lawrie and Rickie Weeks. Let’s look at Lawrie’s line to illustrate. He hit .273/.324/.405 with 11 HR in 536 PA. That looks about right for league average. wRC+ tells us Cabrera was 66% better than that, which makes sense given a .330/.393/.606 line.
You’ll need a big enough sample for wRC+ to tell you anything meaningful in a predictive sense, but as the season wears on take a look at the wRC+ leaderboard to get a sense of who the best offensive contributors are.
I encourage you to go back and read my wOBA breakdown because it stresses the idea that OBP and SLG are improperly weighted when you add them together to get OPS because a double isn’t really worth twice as much as a single. wOBA gives you a better answer to the question OPS tries to answer, and wRC+ scales it to league and park averages.
Go explore wRC+ for yourself and feel free to post any questions you may have. We at New English D are big believers in sabermetrics, not because we want to boil the game down to a spreadsheet, but because we always want more information about the game. More stats and metrics are a great way to learn more about the game and evaluate what you watch.
Skeptical? Here are the best 8 players by wRC+ last season: Cabrera, Trout, Braun, Posey, McCutchen, Fielder, Encarnacion, and Cano. The math might scare you off, but don’t let it. Just learn how to read the output. You don’t have to buy into everything you see on a sabermetric site, but I think that if you try it, you’ll like it. There is a ton you miss by staying with the traditional stats. And who wants to miss baseball?
Calculate it yourself!