I’ve always been a numbers nerd. When I was a kid, I’d keep track of which mascots won the animated mascot races, to see who had the best win percentage at the end of the year. Do I need professional help? Probably.
But I think numbers are fun.
As fans of baseball, numbers help us to understand what’s happening on the field. Modern data has a dramatic influence on how the game is played and understanding this data brings us closer to the action. In this vein, advanced metrics and analytics are a dramatic improvement over traditional statistics in capturing the value a player provides.
Many statistics track the specific outcomes of a plate appearance (such as a walk, single, home run, etc). However, I wanted to have a deeper understanding of the quality a hitter was providing regardless of outcome. With this in mind, last year, I created a new stat called Weighted Quality of Plate Appearances.
Again, it’s likely that I need professional help.
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.
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 (wQOPA).
So, how does the current Reds lineup fare when measured by wQOPA?
Metrics aren’t very helpful if a baseline isn’t established. Before we dive into the quality of Reds’ plate appearances, let’s provide context.
No real surprises. When examining 2023 hitters using wQOPA, the top tier of hitters reflects the best hitters in the game today. Further down the tier list, the less production. The top hitters, such as Matt Olson, are consistently getting walked and barreling the ball. Average hitters tend to have a leaning. Christian Yelich, for example, has a stronger walk rate than barrel rate. Below average hitters have both a poor walk rate and barrel rate.
So, how are our Redlegs doing this year based on wQOPA?
As one might expect, given our offensive success this season, many of the Reds score well with my custom statistic.
Dang. That’ll do Reds. That’ll do.
Joey Votto (in a very small sample size) is currently the only hitter in the elite tier with this metric. The vast majority of the team is ranked at least average or above average. It’s particularly encouraging to see Will Benson ranked so high up on this list, as this metric is inclusive of his abysmal start. This is largely due to his surge in walk rate during the month of June (19.7% vs. 4.8% in April).
There is a key implication that this metric indicates for the offense: Sustainability.
Due to the random nature of baseball, teams often perform very strongly in small sample sizes. For example, you don’t have to watch a broadcast long before someone pulls out a crazy statistic like lefty/righty splits during the month of June with runners in scoring position. While fun, these metrics lack predictive power, due to working with such a small sample size of data.
The offensive surge of the Cincinnati Reds doesn’t appear to be a flash in the pan. It’s the result of high quality of plate appearances from the team overall. This offense has been the real thing.
Additionally, not measured by wQOPA is the team’s speed. Currently, the Reds are ranked as the fastest team in Major League Baseball. This speed has also had a direct contribution to the overall offensive success, turning would-be ground outs into infield singles.
The Weighted Quality of Plate Appearances stat captures how well hitters are making contact, as well as their plate discipline, with each attribute weighted to capture their true value.
It also offers a partial explanation behind the Reds offensive success. The team as a whole is doing a solid job of taking walks and barreling the baseball. This serves as an indication that the team’s offensive power is sustainable.
With the continued emergence of rookies like Elly De La Cruz, this offense hasn’t reached its full potential yet. As he and other rookies continue to adjust to MLB pitching, there’s a good chance the team average will move into the “Above Average” tier.
Time to #GetThePitching and win this whole thing.