top of page
0C7C396F-158E-4A61-8F9A-B0B6F603D7A4.png

Explaining WRC+: A Look Into the Game’s Premier Offensive Metric



Jose Hernandez with the Milwaukee Brewers; CC by 2.0 License

Love it or hate it, sabermetrics is firmly in the game of baseball and the GM of your favorite team almost definitely takes them into consideration when assembling his team. wRC+ is arguably the best and most important sabermetric stat in today's game. It is somewhat of a difficult stat to understand and the method and formula of calculating it are also difficult. However, understanding wRC+ and how to use it will show how amazing of a stat it truly is. wRC+ honestly is a complicated beauty and there is so much to unpack with this stat.


What is wRC+?


Before getting into the impact of wRC+ itself it is important to understand what wRC+ is. The roots of wRC+ can be traced back to the father of sabermetrics Bill James. James created the stat RC (Runs Created) which aims to make one stat that can take a player and put just one number to the number of runs that are created by that player. While this idea was definitely sound and a big step in the right direction, it had its flaws, but these were improved upon by Tom Tango. He also came up with wRC or weighted runs created which is based on wOBA or weighted on-base average.

The formula for wRC is listed:


wRC = (((wOBA-League wOBA)/wOBA Scale)+(League R/PA))*PA


League wOBA, wOBA scale, and League R/PA are all year-based stats so they can easily adjust to the run environment of the year. Here is an example of how to calculate it


Yordan Alvarez 2022 wOBA and PA: .427 and 561

2022 League wOBA: .310

2022 wOBA scale: 1.259

2022 R/PA: .114

(((.427-.310)/1.259)+(.114))*561= 116.1


However, there is still another step forward in order to get to wRC+. wRC+ takes into account park and league factors so it takes more math and calculations however it is much more worth it to find these numbers.


wRC+ formula

wRC+ = (((wRAA/PA + League R/PA) + (League R/PA – Park Factor* League R/PA))/ (AL or NL wRC/PA excluding pitchers))*100


This formula takes into account the park one plays in and the era of baseball one plays in. For example, someone playing for the Rockies (hitters-friendly park) will be judged on a much different scale than someone playing for the Giants (pitchers-friendly park). On the same point of this, someone playing in 1999 (the steroid era and high-scoring environment) will be judged much differently than in 1968 (the year of the pitcher and very low-scoring environment). The + in wRC+ also takes into account how it is scaled. When looking at wRC+, 100 is ALWAYS average and anything different is in relation to the league average. For example, a wRC+ of 115 means 15% higher than the league average while a wRC+ of 85 means 15% lower than the league average.


How to use wRC+?


All the information above is an explanation of how to find wRC+ and the history behind it however it does not explain how to use it. wRC+ is supposed to make it easy to find everything you need to know about a hitter with just one stat. As well as this, wRC+ can also help compare players across all eras of baseball as it adjusts to different run-scoring environments. To show how important wRC+ can be to comparing different eras, I will show players with the same OPS over time and see how different their wRC+ is.



If you are comparing any players within a year then using OPS is definitely a good enough stat, however as seen above when comparing players over time, wRC+ is far better. Despite the players above having roughly the same OPS, they have vastly different wRC+ due to the run environment they are playing in. Ferrara put up his numbers in an era where pitchers dominated and being a successful hitter was much tougher. However, Hernandez put up his numbers in an era where hitters were a lot better and having an OPS like that was much more common. Then Urshela now is in an environment somewhere in between that is shown above. wRC+ is able to closely balance out the playing field among these players.

Nowadays, wRC+ is looked at as a stat that can be used to evaluate a player very easily. Unlike stats like BA, OBP, or even OPS, wRC+ can easily show how good a hitter is compared to those around him at the time while also accounting for the ballpark he is playing in. For example, let's look at Matt Olson in 2022 by unpacking each of the previously mentioned stats one at a time. First off he had a .240 BA, this tells us almost nothing about Olson besides the fact he had a respectable BA. It does not tell us anything about his power, walk rates, or comparison to other players around him. Next up is his .325 OBP which shows a very solid walk rate, yet we still can not see any power or comparison to others around him. Third, up is his OPS of .802 which shows that Olson had solid power on top of his very solid walk rates and it seems he had an overall really good season however it still does not show his comparison to others around him. Lastly is wRC+ which Olson had a 120 mark. This clearly shows that Olson created runs at a 20% rate better than the average hitter in 2022. This means he likely had good power and solid enough on-base numbers. wRC+ was able to show in just one stat all and more what BA, OBP, and OPS could not do.


The Positives of wRC+


wRC+ has a lot of very clear positives that I somewhat dove into above. In addition to accounting for league and park factors, wRC+ takes all the information about a hitter into one number. Furthermore, it is capable of comparing different eras very easily while other stats cannot. I do not think it can be understated how important the eras fact is. Stats such as BA and OPS can change up and down throughout different seasons but wRC+ will ALWAYS be able to be used to compare players. wRC+ has the ability to bring certain players to light that before this might not have been seen as good as they were.

For example, let's take a look at 2022 HOF inductee Tony Oliva. Oliva was always seen as a solid player throughout the 60s and 70s however he was not as valued as he should have been due to his below-average defense which was much more valued in Oliva's time than it is now. However, looking back Oliva was an extremely good player and deserved to be looked at more and a lot of that has to do with his wRC+. Oliva's lifetime wRC+ of 129 means he was a career 29% better than the average hitter. However, looking at his traditional stats like his just 220 HRs and 1917 hits he was just an average type of hitter. Even his wRC+ of 129 does not show how good he was in his prime. For example in 1968 Oliva just had 18 HRs with a .289 average. Again his wRC+ tells a bigger story with a 144 mark being elite during this type. Despite this elite number, he was placed just 19th in AL MVP voting. Oliva is just one of many examples of guys whose careers have become more valuable due to the sabermetric movement led by stats such as wRC+.


The Negatives of wRC+


Despite the clear positives of wRC+, there are still some negatives. First off is the difficulty in calculating the stat itself. It is highly difficult to calculate especially compared to stats like BA or OPS. This complicated nature of the stat can make it very difficult to explain it to people who do not know it or even younger kids getting interested in the game. Another negative is the fact that wRC+ does not tell you how a player got the wRC+ they have. For example a guy with a wRC+ of 130, we do not know if he hit for power or was a high OBP guy or anything like that. However this is not the goal of the stat, wRC+ is meant to give you just one number to show the value of a hitter. This is still a minor setback of the stat itself.

Another somewhat common setback of wRC+ is its lack of accounting for baserunning. wRC+ is supposed to be an all-encompassing offensive stat yet it does not take into effect a really good or bad base runner. For example, Rickey Henderson and his 1406 career stolen bases had no impact on his wRC+. This can be a setback for big time base stealers as their full offensive value can not be shown in the wRC+.


Conclusion


wRC+ is one of the most complicated and beautiful stats today. Its ability to simplify everything about a hitter into one number and being easily able to compare it across history makes it extremely valuable. After reading this, it should be clear why your favorite GM looks at wRC+. As a fan, I hope you now have a better understanding of wRC+ in order to evaluate players and understand the game more in general.


Sources:

Fangraphs

Baseball reference


Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page