No matter what offensive lens you look through, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo give the Cubs’ lineup a righty-lefty punch that’s difficult to beat.
By traditional numbers through Sunday, Rizzo (23rd in the National League with a .294 batting average, tied for fifth with 21 home runs, tied for third with 65 RBI) and Bryant (35th at .282, first with 25, tied for third with 65) are forces to be reckoned with.
By modern metrics that include walks, hit-by-pitches and other offensive events and give extra weight to extra-base hits, they look even better.
Take weighted on-base average, where Rizzo ranks fourth in the NL at .413 and Bryant is tied for fifth at .396. Devised by Tom Tango and revealed to the public in ‘‘The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball,’’ wOBA appears on each player’s page and on leader pages at Fangraphs.com.
It’s a linear-weights formula, and the aim is to give each offensive outcome its proper weight. Is a walk as valuable as a single? No. Both put a man on base, but a walk advances runners only if first base is occupied. So the basic wOBA formula multiplies unintentional walks by 0.69 and singles by 0.89.
Those aren’t hard-and-fast numbers. They’re adjusted by offensive context and are slightly different in 2016. A hit in high-scoring times doesn’t have precisely the same value as it does in low-scoring times.
Let’s stick with the average base values for another example. Is a double twice as valuable or a triple three times as valuable as a single, as slugging percentage calculates them? No. Both have more potential to advance runners and leave the hitter in better position to score, but each still puts only one man on base. So doubles are multiplied by 1.27 and triples by 1.62. That equates to doubles being 1.43 times and triples 1.82 times as valuable as singles.
Again, the multipliers this year are slightly different to reflect offense in 2016. The basic formula used at Fangraphs so far this year is this: .69 x uBB + .72 x HBP + .88 x 1B + 1.24 x 2B + 1.57 x 3B + 2.02 x HR/AB + BB – IBB + SF + HBP.
How good is good? A Fangraphs guide to wOBA lists .290 as awful, .300 as poor, .310 as below average, .320 as average, .340 as above average, .370 as great and .400 as excellent.
There are four NL hitters above .400: the Diamondbacks’ Jake Lamb (.419), the Nationals’ Daniel Murphy (.415), the Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter (.415) and Rizzo (.413). The Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes and Bryant are four points short of .400. Other Cubs who rank high include Dexter Fowler (13th at .381) and Ben Zobrist (23rd at .365).
On the South Side, Melky Cabrera is the White Sox’ leader at .337, followed by Adam Eaton at .335.
The discussion doesn’t end with wOBA. Park adjustments and baserunning must be accounted for on the way to wins above replacement. But by weighting offensive events, it gives a much more complete look at hitters than traditional numbers do.
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