This article is part of the launch for Baseball Prospectus’ new hitting statistic, Deserved Runs Created, which you can learn much more about here.
You, my friend, are very lucky. As the nations pondered consumption and the celebrations of the season – denominational, Satanic, and otherwise – we here at Baseball Prospectus were wrapping the greatest gift of all: a shiny, brand new, all-encompassing, ground-shifting offensive stat for your evaluative pleasure. Behold, DRC+!
Perhaps it was an eggnoggy kind of week for you. Or perhaps you were a little checked out to the fact that it was an earlier start to Hanukkah this year and you had to spend the week frantically trying to finagle free shipping to Aunt Linda’s house. If you’re late to the DRC+ party and as yet uninitiated, I’ll point you in the direction of Bryan Grosnick’s most helpful DRC+ for Dummies walk-through. To sum ever-so-briefly: DRC+ moves us from a results-oriented view of play outcomes a player was involved in to a framework in which we’re able to isolate the player’s contributions to those play outcomes.
And now we can do it for the minor leagues, too.
If you’ve an eye for prospects, your brow above it should raise in real time upon reading this, because we’re going to be able to choose a bunch of our own adventures with this data, and that’s going to be fun for everyone. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Don’t scout the stat line!” You’ve been drilled on it your whole prospect-loving life. And in appropriate brake-pumping form, I will oblige in confirming once more, with feeling, for the people in the back, that even with the evolution we’ve presented to you, that axiom still holds a great deal of truth. Prospect development isn’t linear, talent doesn’t dovetail onto a cozy production curve, and the process remains the primary importance.
But that’s not to say prospect performance doesn’t matter at all. It most certainly does. It matters a great deal on the highest rungs of the organizational ladder, in fact. And if you are going to incorporate performance into a holistic accounting of player evaluation, you might as well use the best stat to inform your observations.
Because DRC+ privileges the skill-based contributions within offensive performance that are most sustainable, it is more reflective of actual player talents as they are or are not realized in game situations. This focus of DRC+ on under-the-hood player actions is, well, exactly what we’re most interested in parsing out when we’re trying to glean how tools are translating at a given point in a young player’s career. And because DRC+ also better contextualizes things like ballpark and competition quality, it reins in that many more of the hidden biases that distort reality when we look just at traditional top-line numbers.
Also cool: these minor-league leaderboards can dust off the 2005 class yearbook, which means there is a substantial trove of DRC+ data now available for not just top prospects present, but also a good bit past. That’s fun for trivia purposes, and yes of course Hunter Pence was the best hitter in rookie-ball back in 2005. But it’s also going to be really cool for our ability to cross-check prospect rankings with performance indicators at different levels and across different eras.
How strongly does prospect performance actually correlate with prospect pedigree? Is it more common for top prospects to perform well, even when playing against more advanced competition? Do BP top 101ers tend to back up their rankings with strong production, or are we traditionally more the suckers for high-waisted projection that we all know in our hearts that we are? Cracks in the wall can spread quickly when there’s an earthquake.
Also cool: these leaderboards include component breakdowns for each player’s accumulated value. You can confirm that Ibandel Isabel’s power is utterly and completely obscene when you filter the High-A board by homers. When you wander over to Triple A, you bear witness to Rusney Castillo, the greatest singles hitter the level had to offer last year. And while you’re there, you can bask in warm, glowing, warming glow of Dan Vogelbach blazing fire on the world of walk value added by not-a-major-leaguer.
This opens a bunch of interesting long-term doors as well. We know from Jonathan Judge’s model that some skills are more stable and reflective of player talent. Walks are more predictive than hitting singles. We’ll be able to check that knowledge against the outlying cases of weird triples-hitting savants. Maybe we’ll be able to see the next Josh Harrison coming a little clearer.
Now, we must caveat. DRC+ does not currently bake in any age-level adjustment. At least for now, it just gives us the straight goods. Joey Terdoslavich’s 149 DRC+ at Double A-last year was better than Will Smith’s 146, because his raw performance was better when things like ballpark and competition quality were adjusted for. It still remains up to us, however, to then extrapolate the value of him hitting the way he did as a 28-year-old right-handed first baseman with nearly 700 games of experience at or above that level. Is that as notable as the 23-year-old catcher in his first taste of the high minors? Only we can decide, though we’ll be afforded columns for both age and age relative to level to bring into the voting booths with us.
The other notable point of order is that minor-league data is not major-league data. It is much dirtier, particularly once you get down to the low-minors levels. It doesn’t exist reliably before 2005, it was pretty shady for a while there once it did, and shady it remains in many quarters still today. The first-year video coordinators, interns, and cousins of the groundskeeping staff charged with furiously logging data points for pitches and at-bats aren’t always accurate in their accounting. We’ve removed wonky data from the calculation samples where data is obviously wonky, but the average error bar will be fittingly larger the lower down into the depths of professional ball you travel and the further back in time.
DRC+ is imperfect. Every statistic that tries to shed definitive light on the player development process is and will forever be. But it’s a big step towards a more perfect union of the suspected and the seen. And when the gap between the two is as inherent and chasmic as it is for most young players, every little bit helps.
Rob McQuown performed the Herculean work of running this data. Please clap!
Thank you for reading
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