Sunday, February 22, 2009

Team Base Running in 2008

In a recent article at Beyond the Box Score, Sky Kalkman identified the best base runners of 2008 using the Baseball Prospectus base running statistics.

The BP statistics created by Dan Fox include the following (all of them are runs above average):
  • EqAAR (Equivalent Air Advancement Runs) - Contribution of base runners advancing on fly outs
  • EqGAR (Equivalent Ground Advancement Runs) - Contribution of advancement on ground outs.
  • EqSBR (Equivalent Stolen Base Runs) - contribution of stolen bases including runs subtracted for caught stealings and pickoffs.
  • EqHAR (Equivalent Hit Advancement Runs) - contribution of runners taking the extra base on a hit: first to third on a single, second to home on a single, first to home on a double.
  • EqOAR (Equivalent Other Advancement Runs) - contribution of other base running advancements - passed balls, wild pitches and balks (evidence shows that those events are not entirely randomly and are influenced by base runners to an extent).
  • EqBRR (Equivalent Base Running Runs)- the sum of the five above statistics above or total base running contribution.
Note that players are penalized for making outs and al;so for not advancing when the average base runner would have been expected to do so.

In Sky's team analysis, he excluded stolen base runs from the EqBRR. While that is a reasonable way to look at things given that many batting runs stats already include stolen bases and caught stealing, I wanted to look at team base running including stolen bases and caught stealing. The Tigers scored runs on the bases as follows in 2008:

EqGAR = -3.28 runs above (below in their case) average on ground outs
EqSBR = -5.20 on base stealing
EqAAR = -1.60 on fly ball outs
EqHAR = -0.82 taking the extra base on hits
EqOAR = +1.84 on other events
EqBRR = -9.06 total base running runs above average

EqBRR or Total base running runs above average for all teams is shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Team base running runs above average in 2008

Team

Runs

NYN

19.70

PHI

15.25

MIN

11.21

COL

10.51

OAK

8.73

TEX

8.39

LAN

7.94

ANA

6.11

MIL

4.55

NYA

2.67

FLO

2.20

CLE

1.27

ARI

-0.66

CHA

-2.05

TOR

-2.41

SDN

-3.65

ATL

-4.12

KCA

-4.61

PIT

-5.19

HOU

-5.32

BOS

-5.65

SLN

-5.93

SEA

-8.67

TBA

-8.95

DET

-9.06

CHN

-11.97

SFN

-12.35

CIN

-12.88

WAS

-14.80

BAL

-16.18


The best base running team was the Mets at 19.70 runs above average and the worst was the Orioles with -16.18. So there was about a 36 run difference between the best and worse teams in the majors. While 22 teams fall between +10 and -10, there are eight teams that fall outside that 20 run range. So, while base running may not be as vital as some people suggest, it also not something to be ignored.

The difference in base running between the Tigers (-9.06) and Twins (11.21) accounted for about 20 runs difference. That helps to explain why the Twins scored more runs than the Tigers last year despite the same OBP and 203 fewer total bases.

A rough estimate of how many runs a team should score is Runs Created = Total Bases times OBP. Based on that, the Tigers (2,504 TB and .340 OBP) should have scored about 70 more runs than the Twins (2,301 TB and .340 OBP) instead of 7 runs fewer. Base running explains part of that. A bigger reason was the Twins .305 batting average with runners in scoring position versus the Tigers .268.

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