A Deeper Look at Baserunning, Part 2: Players

Last week, I began a three part series focusing on baserunning:

  1. Team Baserunning (here)
  2. Individual Baserunning
  3. Comparison to Baseball Prospectus Baserunning Statistics

Part 2 focuses on individual baserunning performances during the 2008 season. I have posted the full player spreadsheet on Google Docs here.

Same as I did with the team totals, I calculated total expected runs for five areas of baserunning, SB/CS, extra bases, staying on the current base, and outs on the base paths (OOBP).

Based on my calculations, here are my MLB baserunning awards for the 2008 season:

  • The "Jackrabbit Slim Baserunner of the Year" Award: Willy Taveras (+13.59 ER_TOTAL) (runner up: Ichiro Suzuki: +12.73)
  • The "Time Him on a Sundial Basewalker of the Year" Award: Dioner Navarro (-8.98 ER_TOTAL) (runner up: Magglio Ordonez: -8.75)
  • The "Hamburgler Base Stealer of the Year" Award: Willy Taveras (+7.35 ER_ALLSB) (runner up: Jimmy Rollins +4.13)
  • The "Red Light" Award: Nick Markakis (-3.98 ER_ALLSB) (runner up: Hunter Pence: -3.68)
  • The "Silent But Deadly Baserunner of the Year" Award: Shane Victorino (+9.76 ER_NONSB) (runner up: Chone Figgins: +9.37)
  • The "Anti-Paul Molitor" Award: Prince Fielder (-7.88 ER_NONSB) (runner up: Bengie Molina: -7.59)
  • The "Perfect Baserunning" Award (most extra bases plus steals without being thrown out a single time): Jason Bay (49) (runner up: Mark Teixeira: 36).
  • The "Thanks for the Assist" Award (most times thrown out stealing or trying to advance an extra base): Jose Reyes (30) (runner up: B.J. Upton: 29)
  • The "Pit Bull" Most Aggressive Baserunner Award (at least 40 extra bases): Corey Patterson (59.5%) (runner up: Maicer Izturis: 58.2%).

Additional analysis and details on the Twins baserunners follows after the jump.

 

Minnesota Twins Base Stealing

As a team, the Twins ranked #24 in MLB stealing bases, with -9.94 expected runs combined due to stolen bases and caught stealing. I won't go into detail about base stealing strategy here, but I find it striking that no single Twins baserunner added more than one run due to stealing bases:

Player ER_ALLSB SB ER_SB CS ER_CS SB%
Matt Tolbert +0.64 6 +0.91 1 -0.28 86%
Michael Cuddyer +0.10 5 +0.58 1 -0.48 83%
Delmon Young -0.68 14 +1.84 5 -2.52 74%
Joe Mauer -0.76 1 +0.13 2 -0.88 33%
Alexi Casilla -0.98 6 +0.63 3 -1.61 67%
Denard Span -0.99 17 +2.84 7 -3.83 71%
Nick Punto -1.07 14 +1.95 6 -3.02 70%
Brian Buscher -1.13 0 0.00 2 -1.13 0%
Carlos Gomez -2.08 33 +5.29 12 -7.37 73%

Key: 

  • ER_SB: Total expected runs gained due to successful stolen bases
  • ER_CS: Total expected runs lots due to times caught stealing
  • ER_ALLSB: Sum ot ER_SB and ER_CS. Total expected runs due to stolen base attempts
  • SB, CS, SB%: Total stolen bases, times caught stealing and success percentage

Not surprisingly, the only Twins with overall positive expected runs had success rates above 80%. Even though Carlos Gomez stole 33 bases, his overall contribution was a little over -2 runs. Being caught stealing so many times (tied for 8th most in the majors) hurt the team more than the stolen bases helped, at least from a direct expected runs standpoint. As I noted in Part 1, I have not investigated second order effects of stolen bases, such as more fastballs, etc.

Minnesota Twins Extra Bases and Aggressiveness

We've looked at stolen bases, and the Twins were below average in 2008. But as I've shown elsewhere (here), the Twins were the best in the majors at the "little things", including baserunning. What gives? Aggressiveness on the base paths, that's what gives. If you remember from Part 1, the Twins were second best in the majors at "non-SB" baserunning, creating an additional +13.57 runs on the basepaths compared to the average 2008 team. The Twins were also the most aggressive baserunning team in the majors, attempting to take an extra base 44.7% of the time (league average 40.0%) and adding an additional +52.83 extra bases (compared to the average team) over the course of the season.

Player ER_NONSB EB_EXP EB EB_ADD AGG% OOBP
Joe Mauer +5.43 83.32 88 +4.68 45.0% 3
Matt Tolbert +4.29 14.71 22 +7.29 66.7% 0
Alexi Casilla +3.01 43.77 54 +10.23 47.6% 5
Carlos Gomez +2.59 54.22 64 +9.78 52.9% 10
Denard Span +2.20 45.87 57 +11.13 46.7% 6
Randy Ruiz +1.52 10.14 13 +2.86 56.0% 1
Adam Everett +1.22 11.04 12 +0.96 43.3% 1
Mike Lamb +0.90 16.47 17 +0.53 37.5% 1
Justin Morneau +0.44 64.71 69 +4.29 47.4% 3
Nick Punto +0.11 47.62 49 +1.38 46.3% 7
Brendan Harris -0.01 41.39 39 -2.39 36.4% 4
Brian Buscher -0.08 17.19 21 +3.81 41.8% 2
Mike Redmond -0.89 9.63 7 -2.63 21.2% 0
Michael Cuddyer -0.96 21.99 22 +0.01 39.7% 3
Jason Kubel -1.04 47.03 46 -1.03 39.5% 3
Delmon Young -1.51 59.39 65 +5.61 45.5% 10
Craig Monroe -1.70 12.39 10 -2.99 35.6% 3

 

Key:

  • ER_NONSB: Expected runs outside of stolen base attempts.
  • EB_EXP: Expected extra bases taken by a league average baserunner in the situations faced by this baserunner.
  • EB: Total extra bases taken.
  • EB_ADD: Extra bases added. Total extra bases taken minus expected extra bases.
  • AGG%: Aggressiveness. Percentage of time that the baserunner attempts to take an extra base, rather than staying on his current base.
  • OOBP: Total outs made on the basepaths, not including caught stealing.

Joe Mauer grades out as the best baserunner due to a combination of aggressiveness (45.0%) and making few outs (3). In a relatively small sample size, Tolbert's aggressiveness was off the charts (66.7%) without making a single out. Among regulars, Carlos Gomez was easily the most aggressive baserunner (52.9%, nearly 10 extra bases added), but his 10 outs knocked down the total expected runs a bit. On the other side, Mike Redmond was the least aggressive (21.2%), and Delmon Young was Gomez without as many extra bases.

Joe Mauer vs. Jose Reyes

Who was the better baserunner in 2008? Jose Reyes and his 54 stolen bases, or Joe Mauer? In terms of total expected runs, the winner was Mauer.

Player ER_TOTAL SB CS ER_ALLSB EB EB_ADD AGG OOBP ER_NONSB
Joe Mauer +4.67 1 2 -0.76 88 +4.68 45.0% 3 +5.43
Jose Reyes +4.62 54 19 +1.38 93 +11.82 51.5% 11 +3.24


One would expect that Reyes' 54 steals and much more aggressive baserunning would have put him ahead of Mauer. Wrong. Because of Reyes' 19 times caught stealing, he only had an advantage of a shade over two runs stealing bases compared to Mauer. In non-SB baserunning, Reyes' additional 8 outs on the basepaths more than cancel out aggressiveness and 7+ more extra bases added. In the end, this shows that aggressive, but smart baserunning can be more effective to a team than running wild. Not exactly news, but interesting that the two came out so close in overall expected runs.

Albert Pujols

I was just reading Joe Posnanski's (excellent writer, by the way) article in Sports Illustrated a week ago. About halfway through, right after a paragraph that mentions Pujols being the best rated defensive first baseman in John Dewan's +/- fielding ratings each of the past three years, Posnanski says:

And it's more than his offense and defense. He runs the bases aggressively and successfully, especially for a man with below-average speed.

Since we have all the data at our fingertips, let's look at that statement in a bit more detail.

ER_SB ER_NONSB ER_TOTAL EB STAY OOBP AGG EXP_EB EB_ADD
Albert Pujols -0.07 -0.12 -0.19 63 91 8 43.8% 56.88 6.12

 

Was Albert Pujols an aggressive runner in 2008? I rate his aggressiveness at 43.8%, in the 69th percentile among all players, and a bit above the overall league average of 40.0%. Yes, the data shows that Pujols is aggressive, but nearly in the Carlos Gomez 52.9% territory. I'll give Posnanski this one. Not as aggressive as Mauer, but above average.

Was Albert Pujols a successful baserunner in 2008? Pujols was thrown out on the base paths 8 times, tied with 23 other players for 23rd in the league behind B.J. Upton's league leading 12 OOBP. He was thrown out 4.94% of all extra base opportunities, above the league average of 3.82%. Stealing bases, Pujols had 6 SB out of 10 attempts, below the league average of 69.5%. Unfortunately, based on this data, I have to disagree with Posnanski, at least in 2008.

Next Steps

Part 3 will compare these baserunning statistics to other methods, including Baseball Prospectus. To the extent that I understand the other methods, I will compare not only the methods, but also the resulting numbers. Where do we agree? Where do we disagree?

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