Saturday, January 26, 2008

Base running 2007: Taking the extra base

This is the first 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

I have spent a lot of time this winter talking about hitting, pitching and fielding. Another element of the game which has traditionally not been measured well is base running. For the most part, the only statistics which have been used to measure base running are stolen bases and times caught stealing. This, of course, is only a small part of base running. With the recent development of play by play databases, it is now possible to measure base running far beyond stolen bases. For example, we can now count how many times a player goes from first to third on a single or from second to third on a fly out.

Bill James wrote an article in the Bill James Handbook 2008 detailing some of the work that Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) has done in base running measurement. Dan Fox at Baseball Prospectus has also been analyzing base running over the past couple of years. In one recent article, he critiques the BIS method and includes links to his methods. While, the BIS method and write-up are more fan friendly, the Fox analysis is more mathematically correct. I think both are useful and they seem to produce reasonably similar results.

I have been mucking around in the retrosheet database the past couple of days or so doing my own base running analysis. My method is really a hybrid between the BIS and Fox methods. I will present my analysis step by step over the next couple of weeks. Naturally, I'll focus on the Tigers.

The first thing I'll look at is taking extra bases on hits. There are three situations of interest:
  1. going from 1st to 3rd on a single
  2. going from 1st to home on a double
  3. going from 2nd to home on a single
The probability of success of course changes according to how many outs there are and where the ball is hit. Fox takes that into consideration in his analysis. BIS does not and I'm not going to do it either (at least not this year). I'd rather keep it simple for now. Over the course of the season, I think the opportunities even out so that it should not matter too much for my purpose which is to distinguish good runners from mediocre runners from bad ones.

Looking at the bottom row of the table below, we can see that the average Major League team had 228 opportunities to go from 1st to 3rd on a single and made the advancement 60 (26%) times. They had 67 opportunities to go from 1st to home on a double and were successful 28 (42%) times. In 198 chances to move from 2nd to home on a single, they made it 117 (59%) times. Overall, the average team had 493 opportunities to take an extra base on a hit and they made the advancement 204 (41%) times.

How many times a runner was thrown out also needs to be considered. Outs on the bases actually carry more weight than advancements on the bases because not only do they use up one of three allotted outs in an inning but they also usually involve a runner being removed from scoring position. These kinds of outs are generally even worse than being caught stealing because when a player is caught stealing he is typically out attempting to get into scoring position rather than already being there.

James estimates that a player needs to advance 3 times for every out attempting to advance in order to make a positive contribution to his offense. Fox varies the weight according to the specific situation but he agrees that 3 is a reasonable approximation if you aren't doing that. So, I'll use a weight of 3 for outs in re-calculating the percentages. The average team was out 10 times trying for an extra base so 204 total advancements becomes 174 which is 36% of the 493 total opportunities.

The Tigers were close to league average in each of the above mentioned categories - 26% successful in going from 1st to 3rd on a single, 43% successful advancing from 1st to home on a double and 57% successful moving from 2nd to home on a single. Overall, they took the extra base 42% of the time. They were out trying to advance 8 times which brings the final adjusted percent down to 38%.

Individually, the most successful Tigers in taking the extra base on hits were Gary Sheffield (46%), Carlos Guillen (44%), Placido Polanco (43%), and Craig Monroe (43%). New Tiger Edgar Renteria had a 48% success rate last year. The least successful Tiger in this category was Brandon Inge (30%). New Tigers Miguel Cabrera (29%) and Jacque Jones (11%) also had low success rates.

Advancement on ground balls, fly outs and balls not hit follow. At the end, 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: Taking the Extra Base on Hits - Tigers versus the average player in 2007

Player

Opp 1-3

Adv

Opp 1-4

Adv

Opp 2-4

Adv

Opp Tot

Adv

Outs

Adj %

Renteria

28

7

6

4

18

14

52

25

0

48%

Sheffield

19

2

10

8

27

19

56

29

1

46%

Guillen

24

10

4

2

22

10

50

22

0

44%

Polanco

30

9

12

6

32

17

74

32

0

43%

Monroe

13

2

2

1

20

12

35

15

0

43%

Casey

10

2

6

2

13

6

29

10

0

34%

Rodriguez

19

7

5

3

18

10

42

20

2

33%

Ordonez

32

8

13

4

22

13

67

25

1

33%

Granderson

39

11

7

3

34

15

80

29

1

33%

Inge

17

4

5

1

18

10

40

15

1

30%

Cabrera

21

4

8

2

23

9

52

15

0

29%

Jones

19

2

4

2

15

9

38

13

3

11%

Team Totals

247

65

79

34

242

138

568

237

8

38%

MLB Averages

228

60

67

28

198

117

493

204

10

36%



1 comment:

  1. Great stuff. For the record I posted the entire Tigers 2007 data on my blog. Thanks

    ReplyDelete

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