Saturday, June 02, 2012

Tigers Poor Base Running Confirmed by Numbers

If you have been watching the Tigers this year, you have surely noticed that most of them are slow and that they don't generally use base running to help score runs.  Traditionally, the only base running statistics that have been tracked are stolen bases and caught stealing.  The Tigers are 26th in baseball with 24 stolen bases but have only been caught stealing five times.  So, while they don't gain much base advancement through base stealing, they are not running into a lot of outs either.  In fact, their stolen base rate of 83% is second in baseball to the Phillies.

Of course, base running is more than just stealing bases.  For example, a player can move from first to third on a single (or fail to do so) or advance a base on a fly ball. Baseball Prospectus uses a complex algorithm to track all kinds of base running advancement.  The BP base running statistics created by Dan Fox, now a statistician for an MLB team, include the following (all expressed in terms of runs above average):
  • GAR (Equivalent Ground Advancement Runs) - Contribution of advancement on ground outs.
  • SBR (Equivalent Stolen Base Runs) - contribution of stolen bases including runs subtracted for caught stealings and pickoffs.
  • AAR (Equivalent Air Advancement Runs) - Contribution of base runners advancing on fly outs
  • HAR (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.
  • OAR (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).
  • BRR (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 also for not advancing when the average base runner would have been expected to do so.

The Tigers have scored runs on the bases as follows in 2012:

GAR = -1.02 runs above (below in their case) average on ground outs
SBR = +0.92 on base stealing
AAR = -0.34 on fly ball outs
HAR = -2.64 taking the extra base on hits
OAR = -0.84 on other events
BRR = -3.92 total base running runs above average

So, the Tigers are above average in terms of base stealing/ caught stealing, but are below average in every other phase of base running.  The BRR number tells us that base running has cost the Tigers an estimated four runs on the bases compared to the average team with the same opportunities.  Table 1 below shows that the Tigers are 28th in the majors according to this statistic

Table 1: Team Base Running Runs Above Average

Team
BRR
COL
8.8
TOR
8.4
CHN
5.6
SDN
5.4
ATL
5.4
MIA
5.3
SLN
4.3
PIT
3.3
ANA
3.3
SFN
1.4
MIL
1.2
CIN
1.1
NYA
0.7
NYN
0.5
SEA
0.1
OAK
-0.6
TEX
-0.7
HOU
-0.8
ARI
-0.8
BAL
-1.2
CHA
-1.5
LAN
-1.7
CLE
-1.8
TBA
-3.1
BOS
-3.3
WAS
-3.4
MIN
-3.4
DET
-3.9
KCA
-5.7
PHI
-6.2
Data Source: Baseball Prospectus

These data show that, in the case of the Tigers (as well as the Phillies), the stolen base percentage statistic is not representative of their overall base running performance.  The numbers confirm our observation that the Tigers are not helping themselves on the bases.  

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