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Another reason the 2017 Twins made the playoffs

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One of the unmentioned reasons the Twins were so successful in 2017 was due to something that didn’t show up in the box score. Hint: It’s what Byron Buxton was doing in the picture.

Detroit Tigers v Minnesota Twins Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

You probably already know about the insane amount of work I put into my copy of MLB: The Show. Every year, the moment I finish my season, I go to work updating the players in preparation for the next Opening Day.

While some people might be content with just adjusting their hitters’ batting ability or the pitchers’ strikeout rate, I try to incorporate every detail that I find meaningful. Batting clutch, got it. MLB rolling out Sprint Speed has been a godsend to me. Hell, I even adjust the hitters’ baserunning aggressiveness, because it should make sense that a young speedster like Byron Buxton should be taking bases at will while Kennys Vargas should remain station-to-station, even when he has a chance of going to 3rd base on a single to right field.

Finding the perfect statistical fit for baserunning aggressiveness is tricky, but I had found a satisfactory measurement called Ultimate Baserunning (UBR). According to FanGraphs, UBR calculates a player’s value contributed on non-stolen base plays by using what the player did versus the run expectancy due to the current base-out state. The site uses an example of a runner on 2nd base with a single hit, where he can remain at the base, advance to 3rd, score, or get thrown out. In that scenario, the single adds an average of 0.7 runs to the run expectancy for the inning, so the baserunner would be credited if he managed to score, and he would be debited for remaining at 2nd base or getting thrown out. Of course, some caveats apply (an infield single to deep short means the baserunner should probably stay at 2nd anyway) but for the most part, it appropriately assigns value to the runner.

I first used UBR last season but I started considering my other options for this winter. Namely, another FanGraphs calculation simply called Base Running (BsR). BsR is directly used in the calculation for fWAR because it incorporates a player’s contributions on stolen bases, grounded into double plays (which is included mainly because no other component of fWAR factors in that the hitter generated a second out) and his UBR. I’m not 100% sold on using BsR because stolen base frequency is another slider available for editing on The Show, thus it feels that BsR is double-counting, but nonetheless I peered over the Twins roster just to get an idea of how they ranked.

For what it’s worth, the Twins are currently rated 2nd in the league in Speed in my game, which probably just means they have the highest average speed for the 25 players I placed on their active roster. Thus, I assumed that the Twins would probably rank well, but I wasn’t quite prepared for what I learned. By UBR, they ranked 6th in the league last season. However, they ranked 1st in the majors for 2017 according to BsR at 14.2 runs. Arizona was second at 12.9, while Detroit brought up the rear at -19.1.

While sorting the Twins roster by BsR, a few things jumped out at me:

  • Byron Buxton was light-years ahead of everyone else at 11.7 runs. Not surprising at all.
  • Jorge Polanco, Brian Dozier, Ehire Adrianza, Max Kepler, and Eduardo Escobar were the other players that rated as above-average as all were at 3.0 or above.
  • Surprisingly, Kennys Vargas was rounded to 0 runs last season. He grounded into 10 double plays last year and we all know that he’s not stealing bases, so he must have excelled at taking extra bases last season to make up the difference. He just continues to be an amazing runner.
  • Miguel Sano, plodding runner (-4.2 runs).
  • Someone oil the joints of the Blame Mauer Bot, I was a bit surprised where Mauer placed. However, the BMB knew it all along.