Sunday, January 27, 2008

Base running 2007: The ground game

This is the second part of my series on base running in 2007. The table of contents for the entire series is listed below.

Taking the extra base
The ground game
On the fly
Stolen bases, etc.
Who was the best Tigers base runner?
Best base runners in baseball

In my previous post, I presented a chart showing how many times the Tigers took extra bases on hits during 2007. Today, I'll continue with a similar theme but this time I'll look at how many times runners advanced on ground balls to infielders. There are several situations which present opportunities to move up on ground balls or bunts to infielders (including the pitcher and catcher) other than hits or errors. I'll concentrate on three:
  1. runner on first base only with less than 2 outs.
  2. runner on second base only with less than 2 outs.
  3. runner on third base only with less than 2 outs.
Dan Fox at Baseball Prospectus says this accounts for 80% of ground balls to infielders. If the runner advances to the next base in any of these scenarios then he gets credit for taking an extra base. As with hits, the probability of advancement depends on where the ball is hit but for now I'm just going to count the number of times they moved up. I believe the best base runners will advance successfully most often throughout the course of the season.

Looking at the bottom row of the table below, we can see that the Tigers had 187 opportunities to go from 1st to 2nd on an infield grounder and made the advancement 58 (31%) times. They had 82 opportunities to go from 2nd to 3rd and were successful 46 (56%) times. In 17 chances to score from 3rd, they made it 9 (53%) times. Overall, they had 286 opportunities to advance on infield grounders and they made the advancement 113 (40%) times.

Just as I did in the "taking extra bases on hits" analysis (the first link in the table of contents), I penalize a player for making an out while attempting to advance on a ground ball. Since Bill James estimates that a player needs to advance three times for every out attempting to advance, I'll use a weight of three for outs in recalculating the percentages. The Tigers as team were out 7 times trying for an extra base so 113 total advancements becomes 92 which is 32% of the 286 total opportunities. This is lower than the league success rate of 38%.

Individually, the most successful Tigers in advancing on infield grounders were Brandon Inge (58%), newly acquired Edgar Renteria (58%) and Curtis Granderson (48%). The trailers were Gary Sheffield (0%), Craig Monroe (7%), and new Tiger Miguel Cabrera (17%).

In future posts, I'll look at advancement on balls caught by outfielders and on plays when the ball was not hit. Finally, I'll combine all the base running plays and calculate a single base running performance measure.
The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by
Retrosheet. Interested parties may contact Retrosheet at "www.retrosheet.org".

Table: Advancing on infield grounders - Tigers versus MLB average

Player

Opp 1

Adv

Opp 2

Adv

Opp 3

Adv

Opp Tot

Adv

Outs

Adj %

Inge

20

11

4

3

0

0

24

14

0

58%

Jones

15

9

8

4

1

1

24

14

0

58%

Granderson

23

11

15

6

6

4

44

21

0

48%

Rodriguez

17

6

6

4

0

0

23

10

0

43%

Renteria

16

3

10

6

0

0

26

9

0

35%

Ordonez

21

4

16

10

2

2

39

16

1

33%

Polanco

20

5

4

1

1

0

25

6

0

24%

Guillen

19

5

10

8

2

0

31

13

2

23%

Casey

13

1

5

2

1

1

19

4

0

21%

Cabrera

13

2

8

5

2

0

23

7

1

17%

Monroe

8

2

6

2

1

0

15

4

1

7%

Sheffield

13

2

3

1

0

0

16

3

1

0%

Team Totals

187

58

82

46

17

9

286

113

7

32%

MLB Averages

198

67

82

54

19

8

299

129

5

38%



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