Evaluating the 2018 Baltimore Orioles using DRC+

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: Renato Nunez #39 of the Baltimore Orioles hits a single against the Seattle Mariners in the second inning at Safeco Field on September 4, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: Renato Nunez #39 of the Baltimore Orioles hits a single against the Seattle Mariners in the second inning at Safeco Field on September 4, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images) /

Baseball Prospectus recently launched Deserved Runs Created, their newest statistic. DRC+ approximates the expected value of a hitters contributions to their respective teams success. Naturally, we’re using DRC+ to evaluate our Baltimore Orioles

The 2018 Baltimore Orioles were bad. No ordinary or advanced statistic will ever change that, nor will we ever view the ’18 Orioles in a positive light. But with Baseball Prospectus having just released their newest statistic, Deserved Runs Created (DRC), we can try to view the Orioles in a slightly newer light and see how their performance may or may not translate to future success.

Similar to weighted Runs Created and OPS, Deserved Runs Created attempts to approximate the value of an individual hitters contributions. wRC+, OPS+, and DRC+ do similar things, except they’re scaled where 100 is average and higher is better. The main difference is that where wRC and OPS are descriptive, DRC is predictive. You can read all about DRC+ here, and you can read more about the differences between wRC, OPS and DRC here.

The predictive part is what intrigues me the most about DRC+. Can we use DRC+ to predict the future? No. But we can look at the Orioles 2018 season in a different light and evaluate a handful of younger players to see how warranted their performance in 2018 was. Patrick Dubuque states this about DRC+ clearly:

"DRC+ (and the WARP metric that now encapsulates it) is not a definitive assessment of any ballplayer. It’s our best approximation of what a hitter contributes to his team’s success, assembled out of weights and measures."

DRC+, like WAR and other value-based metrics can only help us so much. They’re not exact measures, but rather a means for us to further explore player performance. That said, there are four Orioles in particular I want to look at using DRC+ and WARP, (BP’s WAR metric) as it factors in DRC+: Trey Mancini, Cedric Mullins, DJ Stewart, and Renato Nunez.

Trey Mancini was outstanding in his 2017 rookie campaign, posting a 101 DRC+, but he followed that up with a disappointing 2018 season. Mancini had a 90 DRC+ this year, slightly worse than his 93 wRC+, and he posted 1.4 WARP. DRC+ has him as a slightly below average hitter, which is passable in an outfield corner. But Mancini isn’t a great defender; he has a career -32.9 Defensive WAR with a -13.4 UZR in the outfield.

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Mancini was never a top prospect so anything the Orioles get from him at the major league level is really just gravy. If Mancini winds up as an average major league hitter, with ~20 homers per year at the cold corner, it’ll be a bit disappointing only because he was so much better in his rookie year.

Renato Nunez did well at the hot corner for the Orioles in 2018 considering he was a waiver wire pickup early in the season. He posted a DRC+ of 93, though with just 0.1 WARP last year. His defensive metrics look good in the small sample from 2018, with him earning a 3.9 UZR.

Similar to Mancini, Nunez was never a top prospect and any positive value the Orioles get from him is basically found money. Nunez will likely find his way into the Orioles opening day roster and if he can be an average hitter for a year or two while the Orioles figure out who their everyday third baseman of the future is, great.

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Cedric Mullins has been touted as the Orioles center fielder of the future, with good speed and defense, and as someone who can slot into the top of the Orioles lineup as an every day leadoff hitter. Mullins finished 2018 with an 83 DRC+ and a -0.2 WARP, but that factors in his performance as a switch hitter; his platoon splits are awful. I don’t have his DRC+ splits, but he hit .156 with a 39 wRC+ against lefties this year. His 104 wRC+ against righties is much more encouraging.

That Mullins is a switch hitter is nice enough, but if he’s unable to hit from the right side of the plate, it’s probably worth it to have him focus on hitting exclusively left-handed and potentially platooning him with Stewart and Joey Rickard to start the year. When Yusniel Diaz and Austin Hays reach Baltimore, there will be a log jam in the outfield, especially if Mancini is still relegated to a corner outfield spot. Mullins will have time to fix that, but he’s going to have to work for it.

DJ Stewart is potentially the second best outfielder on the Orioles roster right now, after posting an 88 DRC+ and a 0.5 WARP in 2018. The sample size is quite small with Stewart, who played in just 17 games with the Orioles last year. Of the four mentioned here, he has the biggest discrepancy between his DRC+ and his wRC+, which was at 137.

DRC+ likes Stewart, but not nearly as much as wRC+. I think Stewart can be an average major leaguer, but I’d fall more on the DRC side than the wRC one. If he’s in Baltimore next year, he’s going to see some major pitching adjustments; we’re about to find out if he can keep up at the plate.

Banning the shift won't help the Orioles. dark. Next

Similar to how FIP looks at pitchers expected performance, we should be able to get a better view of how hitters contribute to their team’s success with DRC. The Orioles will be bad again next year, but we’ll at least have new metrics to evaluate them with.