Sabermetrics Lesson #1: Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+)

Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane is widely known for his use of advanced metrics to consistently field competitive teams with low payrolls.
Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane is widely known for his use of advanced metrics to consistently field competitive teams with low payrolls.

Sabermetrics is a polarizing subject that scares away a lot of baseball tradionalists. The numbers, symbols, and advanced ideas seem like an alien attempting to change America’s pastime into an unrecognizable game. The fact is, baseball has evolved. Another fact: No one-way of looking at baseball is 100% right. Overreliance on advanced metrics will cause many of the same inefficiencies that overreliance on traditional and somewhat outdated statistics does.

With that said, let’s dive into the first part of our Sabermetrics series: wRC+

First off, the information presented in this piece comes from two main sources: the Fangraphs.com library and Sabermetrics 101, and online course taught by Boston University.

In attempt to keep this as simple as possible, we’re going to go over the main points that will allow the casual fan to add this statistic to their player evaluation arsenal.

wRC+ is a statistic mainly available on fangraphs.com, on the main statistics dashboard. Here’s how Fangraphs explains wRC+.

wRC+ Simplified

Weighted Runs Created Plus is an attempt to value a player’s total offensive production by runs created.

Average wRC+ for a position player is 100. If a player has a wRC+ of 120, that means the player is producing 20% more runs that the average player. Conversely, if a player has a wRC+ of 80, the player is then creating runs at a clip 20% lower than the average player.

Keep in Mind:

Over 100: Good

Under 100: Not Good

wRC+ Leaderboard:

1. Bryce Harper – 204

2. Miguel Cabrera – 182

3. Mike Trout – 180

4. Nelson Cruz – 176

5. Paul Goldschmidt – 174

6. Joey Votto – 165

7. Anthony Rizzo – 158

8. Mark Texiera – 157

9. Buster Posey – 155

10. Josh Donaldson – 153

Big names having big seasons top the leaderboard. Keep in mind that Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, and Buster Posey all have fewer than 20 home runs. While the list may seem skewed to favor middle-of-the-order hitters, wRC+ does not favor all or nothing hitters. The Statistic takes into account a host of different factors that gives justice to players who have a well-rounded offensive game, including baserunning.

Overall, there are only 96 hitters with a wRC+ over 100. Averaged out, that leaves just about 3 above average hitters per team. That’s a rough reality for many teams, especially those that can’t afford to improve their team through free agency or plug in a new position player in case there is an injury. The best hitters in MLB are as good as ever, however the pool of good hitters is shrinking. Of those 96 hitters, only 49 have a wRC+ over 120, which would be considered the benchmark for a true impact hitter.

Using Weighted Runs Created Plus is an easy way to quickly see how much offensive value a player contributes to their team. Runs are runs, and advanced metrics help give us a better understanding of the different ways players produce.

To learn more about Sabermetrics in baseball, check out part two of MLBanalysis’ Sabermetrics series, coming soon!

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