I’m a huge analytics nerd. As a fan watching the game of baseball, advanced analytics help me understand what is happening on the field, ultimately bringing me closer to the action. I truthfully believe that an understanding of modern data and how it influences baseball decisions today helps to make the game more exciting. It’s the main reason why I wanted to write for Reds Content Plus. My hope is that I can make some of these intimidating statistics more accessible and make the game more enjoyable for some people as a result.
Earlier this year, I wrote an analysis of former top prospect, Nick Senzel. As I dove into his hitting metrics, I modified a stat created by YouTuber, Foolish Bailey. It was called “Good Piece of Hitting” and was the simple combination of a hitter’s hard hit rate with their walk rate. When I did the analysis, I used barrel rate, instead of hard hit rate, as barrel rate is a better indicator of contact quality. Applied to Nick Senzel, it showed that almost 90% of his plate appearances did not result in a “Good Piece of Hitting.”
While the Good Piece of Hitting metric has its benefits, it has one major flaw: It assigns equal value to walks and barreled balls, and the two are anything but equal. The singular event of a walk would result in an OPS of 1.000, whereas the singular event of a barreled ball has an average OPS of 1.500. In other words, a barreled ball is 50% more valuable than a walk.
With this in my mind, I set out to create an improved version of this statistic by assigning the proper weight to both barreled ball events, as well as walks. The result is a completely new baseball statistic that I’ve named, “Weighted Quality of Plate Appearances.” As its name suggests, this metric is designed to show how often a hitter has a quality appearance at the plate by assigning a proper weight to each of those outcomes. It demonstrates the talent of a hitter by measuring their plate discipline and ability to make solid contact.
In case you’re wanting to calculate this metric on your own, I’ll explain the formula. A barreled ball is worth 50% more than a walk, so it’s actually fairly easily to calculate. (Barrel Rate x 0.6) + (Walk Rate x 0.4)=Weighted Quality of Plate Appearances.
That’s it. Pretty easy.
So, what is the quality of Reds’ hitters this year?
Time to take this new metric for a test drive.
Metrics aren’t very helpful if a baseline isn’t established, and the situation is no different here. Before we can dive into the quality of Reds’ plate appearances, let’s start by providing some context.
No real surprises here. When examining 2022 hitters using wQOPA, the top tier of hitters reflects the top hitters in the game today. The further down the tier list you look, the less production you see. The top hitters, such as Aaron Judge, are consistently getting walked and barreling the ball. Average hitters tend to have a leaning towards one side or the other. Ex-Red, Brandon Drury, for example, has a strong barrel rate (11.3%) but a below average walk rate (7.3%). Another ex-Red, Jesse Winker, has a very strong walk rate (14.9%) but an average barrel rate (8.6%). Finally, bottom tier hitters (obviously) have both a poor walk rate and a poor barrel rate.
With that context established, let’s check out how our Redlegs are doing.
Red Hot? More like Red Cold.
First, let’s look at our Reds for the entire season. It’s not pretty.
With the departures of Brandon Drury and Tommy Pham, Joey Votto is the only Reds hitter in the above average hitting tier, and with his torn rotator cuff, he’ll be out for the season. Tyler Stephenson is also out for the remainder of the season, as he heals from a broken collarbone. That leaves Jake Fraley, Aristides Aquino and Mike Moustakas as our hitting leaders from a Weighted Quality of Plate Appearance perspective, and due to stints on the injured list and being sent to the minor leagues, the sample size of data they’ve generated is too small to make any clear conclusions. I think it’s highly likely that, with more plate appearances, negative regression will take place with these hitters.
The Young Guys
While the outlook may not look good for the remainder of the season, Reds fans can be encouraged by the development that we’ve seen from younger players, particularly Jonathan India. While his stats for the season don’t look good, he might have turned a corner recently. Look at the monthly splits of his wQOPA.
India’s struggled mightily this year, but from my perspective on the couch, it’s looked like he’s struggled to settle into a rhythm after losing time to injuries that have bugged him throughout the season. Hopefully, the increased production during August is indicative that he’s returning to the 2021 version of himself. If he can stay on the field and continues putting up quality plate appearances, we can expect improvement from him at the plate.
Nick Senzel, however, is a different story. He’s consistently struggled to have quality plate appearances. Even his peak month, in terms of wQOPA, would have listed him as a below-average hitter for the league this year.
He posted a decent slash line for the month of July (.292/.338/.417), but his wQOPA score would imply that his streak of good success was unsustainable. His production has cratered this month, with a slash line of a measly .195/.283/.268.
Maybe I’m falling prone to preferential bias here, but I like the Weighted Quality of Plate Appearances stat. It captures how well hitters are making contact, as well as their plate discipline, with each attribute being weighted to capture their true value. It’s a really great metric.
What not great, however, is the Reds’ offense. With the departures of Brandon Drury, Tommy Pham and Tyler Naquin–as well as the injuries to Joey Votto and Tyler Stephenson–the team as a whole has not been putting up quality at bats. In fact, according to the wQOPA stat, only three hitters on the roster are better than “below average.”
A lot of conversation has taken place among the fan community as to whether this team could become the worst Reds team of all time. While I personally don’t believe we’ll reach that mark, we’re a bit too close for comfort. Hopefully, players like Jonathan India and Jose Barrero continue to develop and give Reds fans something to be excited about in the future.
Photo by Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire