One of the most common questions I get when talking about advanced metrics with people who are new to the experience is “what’s the best stat for looking at X?” My standard response depends on the particular question, but I almost always drop the caveat that you should always be looking at multiple pieces of information rather than one single stat and I don’t think I’m alone in offering that advice.
As our metrics for evaluating baseball improve there’s a desire among many for the new stats to push the old stats out of the conversation. Now that we have wOBA, why would you ever use OBP? And then once you have access to wRC+, is wOBA even necessary anymore? If we have K%, isn’t K/9 completely useless?
In some cases, that’s a fine idea, but in many you would rather have access to as much information as possible because stats that don’t do very well on their own can still be informative in the context of other statistics. Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is the best single metric we have to determine a player’s complete value, but WAR only conveys the answer to a very specific question. If you want to know about how good a player is overall, WAR is great. If you want to know if he’s a power hitter or a player with a good eye, WAR doesn’t do very much.
The same is true for wRC+. You know a 150 wRC+ means someone has had a very good season, but you don’t know if he’s doing it with a high average, good patience, excellent power or some combination of them. We’re striving for better measures of performance but you can’t only look at one or two numbers because baseball is full of questions that require a variety of tools to evaluate.