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DRC+ and the Yankees

What’s the most exciting baseball news of the week? Sure, one might say Robinson Cano and Patrick Corbin joining new teams, and that’s understandable. The hot stove tends to dominate the headlines this time of year. For me, the rumor mill makes me impatient. Get me to Spring Training already and tell me who’s on the Yankees. DRC+ week, on the other hand, has been the most exciting baseball news of the week for me.

For the uninitiated, read the introduction to DRC+, read why it’s the best metric, get into the comparisons with other hitting metrics, and take a look at how it performs. That’s just a handful of the good stuff this week. After I went through it all, the first thing I wanted to know was how the Yankees’ hitters stood up, particularly compared to wRC+, which has been my preferred metric historically (with apologies to True Average).

Here’s what I learned:

A trio of hitters deserved better

Whether signing late, sporadic playing time or something else entirely caused Neil Walker to struggle this season isn’t clear. If you showed me his 81 wRC+ a week ago, it would feel just right. His 96 DRC+, with a standard deviation (SD) of 11, tells another story. What’s better is that it’s easy to understand why. One likely reason is that the metric sees Walker’s low .257 BABIP as bit fluky (hence “D” standing for “deserved”). One more point to note is the SD, meaning that there’s high confidence Walker’s DRC+ was between 85 and 107. At the low end, Walker was still better than what wRC+ said. At the high end, Walker really got screwed. Given that Walker had marks of 111 and 113 in 2017 and 2016 respectively, it’s not hard to believe that Walker might have been better than advertised. His next team might be lucky to have them, and it’s not crazy to say the Yankees should consider bringing him back.

The next two hitters, Greg Bird, and Gary Sanchez have quite a bit of uncertainty, but their baseline DRC+ is certainly better than their wRC+. Bird’s DRC+ of 91 (SD of 15) tops his wRC+ of 81. Now, his 91 mark isn’t anything to write home about, but he wasn’t as awful as he seemed. Still, he’s got plenty to prove even though he had a ghastly .230 BABIP.

Sanchez’s baseline DRC+ was 97, but could have been as high as 115 or as low as 79. Anecdotally, The Kraken lined out a million times last season, and his .197 BABIP seems to reflect that. He also walked a career-best 12.3 percent of the time, which gives him further credit. wRC+ pegged Sanchez at 89, not terribly far off from his DRC+, but certainly worse. Given Sanchez’s talent, it’s pretty easy to believe in his DRC+ and the possibility that it might actually be on the positive side of standard deviation.

The hitters who confirmed the eye test

One of the reasons we’ll never get away from stats like home runs and batting average is because they are so much easier to see with the eye. For that reason, it’s hard to imagine someone saying that Didi Gregorius or Gleyber Torres suffered from some bad luck this season. Both displayed good power and patience at the dish and had very strong traditional numbers. To no surprise, both infielders’ wRC+ marks indicated the same: 121 for Gregorius and 120 for Torres. Yet, DRC+ pegged the former for 128 (11 SD) and the latter for 124 (12 SD).

DRC+ isn’t fully confident that they actually deserved better, as the downside of its uncertainty would bring the metric below both players’ wRC+. Still, it’s nice to see what at essentially amounts to a confirmation of the eye tests. It’s satisfying to know that Torres is the real deal and that Gregorius doesn’t merely take advantage of the short porch.

Aaron Hicks DRC+ and wRC+ were nearly identical, at 128 and 127 a piece. The SD of 12 indicates that there could be some disagreement, but for all intents and purposes, Hicks got what he deserved.

Not as good as we thought (but still good)

Bet you didn’t expect Aaron Judge to show up in this category. Neither did I. Alas, his 133 DRC+ (13 SD) is quite a bit lower than his 149 wRC+. In all likelihood, Judge’s sky-high .368 BABIP knocks him down a bit, because the only other thing he really does wrong is rack up the strikeouts. Judge carried a .357 BABIP in his monster rookie campaign, and his DRC+ of 162 (14 SD) was also lower than his wRC+ (172). Judge struck out just over 30 percent of the time in both campaigns. Going forward, I’m intrigued to see if Judge is one of those players that “outperforms” his DRC+ because he hits the ball so hard, which could keep his BABIP elevated.

Bet you’re not stunned that Giancarlo Stanton‘s DRC+ (114, 8 SD) didn’t meet his wRC+ (127). There’s no doubt that Stanton was quite productive, but he also saw his walk rate drop while posting his highest BABIP since 2014. For whatever it’s worth, Stanton’s DRC+ has been pretty volatile throughout his career. Here’s each season since he debuted in 2010: 110, 129, 144, 124, 157, 145, 110, 151, 114. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster in recent seasons, but we all know the ability is there for him to be a monster in the heart of the order.

In my eyes, Miguel Andujar has the most fascinating differential between DRC+ and wRC+. Per BP’s newest metric, Andujar had a 114 DRC+, plus or minus 10. wRC+ liked Andujar much more, at 128. In everything that’s been written about DRC+ this week, it’s been made clear that the stat accounts for things that are a bit more luck-driven rather than simply taken as earned (i.e. singles, triples). In other words, that’s why I’ve highlighted BABIP quite a bit in this post. Andujar’s .316 BABIP isn’t outlandish, but what scares DRC+ a bit is his low walk rate (4.1 percent). For the most part, drawing walks is a skill, and DRC+ stresses the importance of skill. If Andujar never improves his plate discipline, he could be susceptible to down years if he runs into poor BABIP luck. I think this is what his DRC+ is trying to tell us.

Do we really trust this guy?

Here’s the fun one: Luke Voit. He only had 161 plate appearances this season, and all but 13 of them were with the Yankees. Simply put, Voit raked. He hit 14 homers, got on base a ton (.405 OBP), and was a whole lot of fun to watch. DRC+ thinks he was pretty great too, giving him a 154 score albeit in a small sample size. Of course, DRC+ tempers the enthusiasm from his 187 wRC+. I don’t think anyone believes Voit is 187 wRC+ good. Ted Williams’ career wRC+ was 188, for reference. Is 154 reasonable? This is the guy DRC+ is most uncertain about on the Yankees, putting his range between 132 (still good!) and 176. Having only 161 trips to the plate will drive up anyone’s standard deviation, so it’s understandable that there’s such a large gap for Voit. Still, I think we can at the minimum take away that the Yankees were on to something when they acquired Voit. The front office has said as much regarding the information they had on him while he was in the Cardinals organization, and it appears that the team is pretty confident in him next year even though it’s fair to be skeptical.

Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro / USA TODAY Sports

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