Earlier today, Baseball Prospectus released a new offensive statistic called Deserved Runs Created (DRC+), which aims to improve the existing, all-encompassing offensive stats like wOBA, wRC+, OPS+. If you missed it, Brett has already peered at Cubs hitters through this lens … with some scary results. And he landed on two important conclusions: (1) Without some fundamental changes, the Cubs offense might struggle again next season and, thus, (2) the Cubs really need to add a bat.
So let’s take this new stat and apply it to some of the more interesting names available in free agency or trade. In addition to each players’ DRC+ below, I’ve included each players’ wRC+ (otherwise our favorite one-size-fits-all offensive stat), which could help us identify the diamonds in the rough, the polished turds, and the guys who are more or less where we expect to find them (based on prior wRC+ based analysis).
This is not, of course, an exhaustive list for the Cubs offseason targets, or even necessarily guys to whom the Cubs have been attached. But here’s how some notable names did in 2018:
NOTE: Below, I’ve separate each name into five buckets: much better, a little better, neutral, a little worse, and much worse, based on the difference between their wRC+ and DRC+. Just because one player shows up in a higher category than another doesn’t mean he’s a better player. For example, Bryce Harper’s wRC+ and DRC+ were identical in 2018, but he’s a better offensive player than everyone in our first grouping …
Look Much Better
Funny enough, D.J. LeMahieu (+19 points from 2018 wRC+ to 2018 DRC+) is the biggest benefactor of this new statistic among potential Cubs’ targets this winter. We recently discussed how LeMahieu could make some improvements at the plate, which, when paired with Gold Glove-ish defense at 2B would make him an interesting target for the Cubs. On the whole, fans did not seem particularly interested in LeMahieu (which is fine – we’re not saying he’s our top choice for a bat addition), but the evidence continues to suggest that if the Cubs are forced into the deeper depths of free agency, LeMahieu might be a name to check in on.
Josh Harrison (+11) and Brian Dozier (+7) are also benefactors of this new advanced offensive metric. Remember, though, while all three players might look better under this lens, Harrison and Dozier still rated worse than average (which is 100) overall. Even LeMahieu was just slightly above-average, so again, this is all relative.
Look a Little Bit Better
Among the free agents, Mike Moustakas (+5), A.J. Pollock (+3) Manny Machado (+2), Jonathan Schoop (+2), and Tim Beckham (+2) don’t get much of a bump, though DRC+ suspects they were a little better in 2018 than a wRC+ analysis would leave you to believe.
Meanwhile, trade targets Jurickson Profar (+4) and Kyle Seager (+3) fall into the same category. Seager’s name has popped up speculatively in connection to the Cubs as recently as today – and a deal for him would be more about getting someone like Mitch Haniger (whom we’ll discuss in a second) – but Profar’s results might be among the most interesting. By wRC+, Profar was about 8% better than average last season, but DRC+ likes him even more. And given his overall profile, defensive versatility, and place on the Rangers, who love to deal with the Cubs, he really piques my interest.
Be it by wRC+ or DRC+, Bryce Harper and Michael Brantley were about as good as you probably already thought they were last season. That is to say … pretty darn good at the plate. The Cubs would be improved offensively by either player.
Look a Little Bit Worse
Among the potential Cubs targets available in free agency, Andrew McCutchen is one name I’ve really liked (and still do). But it’s worth pointing out that both he (-4) and Jed Lowrie (-1) both take a tiny hit in their overall offensive production based on DRC+. As you can see, though, both guys are still in that 15-20% above average range, and should be considered realistically attractive options.
The same goes for Whit Merrifield, who took a 5 point hit, but is still a solidly above average overall contributor.
Dee Gordon, meanwhile, looked terrible by wRC+ and looks even worse by DRC+ (the second worst qualifying position player in baseball!). You’d really have to believe last year was driven by some correctible fluke to affirmatively want to add him. The only way I think he ends up in Chicago is if he’s attached to a better player in trade. And to that end …
Look Much Worse
… His teammate Mitch Haniger took one the biggest hits of them all. By wRC+, Haniger’s 138 would’ve led the Cubs last season and tied Matt Carpenter for the 11th best mark in baseball. But according to DRC+, Haniger was just the 34th best hitter in baseball last season. That is a HUGE difference. My initial warning remains – a 120 DRC+ is still really good – but he might not have been as elite as he looked last season when you really focus in on the things he can control. That should be kept in mind.
Similar things can be said about J.T. Realmuto, who was among the top-35 bats in 2018 by wRC+ but falls to 57th by DRC+. Again: still a good hitter, perhaps just not as good as we initially thought.
But the biggest warnings of all might be for Marwin Gonzalez and Derek Dietrich. By wRC+ each guy was above-average last season, which, when paired with some of their other skills and characteristics makes them popular Cubs targets. But by DRC+, they were actually BELOW-average hitters. Just something to remember.