DRC+ and the Hall of Fame

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What BP’s new hitting metric reveals about borderline candidates

By now, you’ve probably heard of Deserved Runs Created Plus (DRC+), the new statistic just introduced by Baseball Prospectus. With the results announcement of the 2019 Hall of Fame vote just around the corner, I thought I’d see how the top hitters on the ballot stacked up using the new metric.

I cherry picked the top guys on the ballot, starting with Barry Bonds and going down through players like Andruw Jones, leaving out a few along the way (such as Sammy Sosa, who will never get in the HOF). I wound up with 11 players to evaluate, most being borderline HOF candidates, and sorted by wRC+ and then again by DRC+.

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First, the list of players ranked by wRC+.

This information has been available for a long time now, but for the sake of comparison, wanted to lay out the wRC+ for these candidates. Bonds and Manny Ramirez lead the way, of course, though both have complicated legacies. While Bonds may eventually get the call, I’m not sure Manny will. Those, however, aren’t really the guys I’m interested in. I’m interested the players who may or may not have put up HOF numbers. What can DRC+ tell us about them?

The first thing I noticed— most DRC+ numbers are very much in line with their wRC+ counterparts. I first identified any player who had a variance of more than 4 points from their wRC+ scores. Those players, all with a loss of 4 points, were Manny Ramirez, Lance Berkman, and Jeff Kent.

There were only two players who had a variance of more than 5 points— Edgar Martinez at a loss of 9, and Todd Helton who jumped 14 points for the third highest DRC+ of the batters in question.

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This lines up with the assessments that DRC+ doesn’t penalize Colorado players as much for Coors Field, and that new statistics don’t necessarily mean the old numbers are wrong.

Edgar, regardless of his dip in DRC+, will likely get the nod in the 2019 and become the first designated hitter inducted into the Hall (unless you count Frank Thomas, who actually spent more time at DH than first base). He was the first great designated hitter, and like it or not, the DH is an important part of the game’s modern history.

On the other hand, Helton leapfrogging 5 players brings something else to my attention. I don’t know how many voters would consider Helton a HOF player. If I had a vote, he wouldn’t make my ballot. The adjustments made with DRC+ show Helton to be a more productive batter than all but two of the players on this list. If we questioned McGriff before, we have to question him even more now, right?

What DRC+ did for me, in this instance, is show me I’m not wrong to think borderline players like Larry Walker and Fred McGriff (who I loved as players, but likely would not vote for if given the opportunity) are probably not Hall of Fame material. This short list is full of great hitters, but are they Hall of Fame hitters? The answer, in most cases, is simply “no.”

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