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Mound Visit: Primer on hitting metrics ☕

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Pirates slugger Josh Bell's .455 wOBA ranks second in baseball, behind only Cody Bellinger - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — During my time here at DKPittsburghSports, I have endeavored to slip in some of baseball's advanced statistics in meaningful ways.

To me, advanced stats, or Sabermetrics as they are referred to, exist merely as new ways to explain what is happening on the field. Although some are predictive in what to expect from the game, I find that I gravitate toward those that are descriptive.

Through Mound Visits past, I've often linked to definitions for some of the most esoteric statistics I use to convey my baseball points. I hope you've been able to veer off and learn about those, but I thought it would be helpful to compile some of the more commonly used statistics here in a primer. Here, I'll pick and define such statistics. I'll even use them in a sentence in honor of the recently completed Scripps Spelling Bee. What you see here constitutes part one of three parts. Today, we'll focus on hitters.

Weighted On Base Average (wOBA)

What is it: wOBA is an offshoot of on-base percentage that not only factors in a player reaching a base, but how he got there. Singles, doubles, home runs, walks, HBPs... all are considered with a role to play in formulating someone's wOBA.  Just as all hits are not created equal, why should methods of simply getting on base be boiled down and melted together? The formula to calculate this changes each year based on current run production. Generally speaking, an "average" wOBA would be around .320, with an "elite" wOBA coming in around .400. An "awful" figure would be anything below .290.

In a nutshell: wOBA is an attempt to summarize a hitter's complete ability at the plate. Conversely, it can be used to elevate a pitcher's ability to get hitters out as well.

Use it in a sentence: Pirates slugger Josh Bell's .455 wOBA ranks second in baseball, behind only Cody Bellinger's .490 mark.

Expected Weighted On Base Average (xwOBA)

What is it: xwOBA functions much the same as wOBA, save for adding to its equation a hitter's exit velocity, launch angle and sprint speed for balls in play. The goal in doing so is to add quality of contact into the mix. Doing so presumably allows for a more accurate outcome of a hitter's ability. A happily unintended consequence of this method is to determine to what degree luck plays a part in the proceedings. For example, if a player has a high wOBA but a low xwOBA, we could say "he is lucky", as his contact skills say he should have a lower rating. The converse is true, as players with a higher xwOBA than wOBA would be considered "unlucky."

In a nutshell: wOBA, but with a greater emphasis on contact.

Use it in a sentence: Pirates INF Kevin Newman has been better as of late, but he has been a bit lucky with a .078 point difference between his xwOBA (.310) and his wOBA (.388).

wRC+

What is it: Weighted Runs Created-Plus is yet another roll-up metric that attempts to summarize a hitter's contribution, this time focused squarely on run production. Building off Bill James' runs created statistic, wRC+ uses a player's wOBA against the run environment of MLB in any given year. I'm simplifying quite a bit here, but this attempts to correlate the actual wOBA rating into how many runs those numbers can produce. The factors change weights every year, though 100 is generally considered to be "average" year-over-year.

In a nutshell: Take wOBA and actually use it toward creating runs. Boom, you've got wRC+. (You said this in the AOL "you've got mail" voice didn't you? I know I did.)

Use it in a sentence: Despite some timely hits, Colin Moran still rates as a slightly below average bat in 2019, with a 93 wRC+.

Next time, we'll turn our attention to the pitchers. That should drop some time next week.

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