Thursday, November 01, 2012

Did the Tigers Fail Too Much with Runners On Base?

How many times this year were we listening to a Tigers game and heard television broadcaster Mario Impemba or Radio voice Dan Dickerson use the phrase: "Tigers threaten but do not score?"  It seems like too many times that the Tigers had runners on base, but they could not get the big hits to drive in runs.  Was it really worse for the Tigers than other teams though or did it just seem that way because of our emotional attachment to our favorite team?

One way to answer this question is with the RBI opportunity statistics at Baseball Prospectus. Using that data, we can determine how many runners the Tigers had on base in their plate appearances and how many of those runners scored. For example if Miguel Cabrera comes up with with the bases loaded and doubles home two runs, that is three base runners and two runs for a 66.7% success rate.  A batter does not get credit for driving himself in, so if Cabrera hits a grand slam, it's three runners and three runs (not four) for a 100% success rate.

Summing over all of the Tigers plate appearances, we can obtain their total Runners on Base (ROB) and total scored or Others Batted In (OBI) not including the batters themselves.  Table 1 shows that the Tigers had 3,793 ROB in their plate appearances, the fourth highest total in the league, so they gave themselves a lot of opportunities for runs.  Given that they were second in the league in On-base percentage, this is not surprising.  They were able to score 539 (or 14.2%) of those runners.  That does not sound like a lot, but it was slightly better than the league average of 13.8%.

The data can also be broken down by bases on which the runners were situated.  The Tigers had 1,940 runners on first base and scored 104 of them  for a 5.4 OBI% which was close to league average.  Their success rate with runners on second was 16.8% compared to a league average of 15.2%.  Finally, their OBI% with runners on third base was 36.9 versus a league average of 35.1%.

Table 1: RBI Opportunities and Successes for Tigers, 2012

Base
ROB
OBI
OBI%
Lg %
Rank
First
1,940
104
5.4
5.3
10th
Second
1,237
208
16.8
15.2
6th
Third
616
227
36.9
35.1
6th
Total
3,793
539
14.2
13.8
7th

Data Source: Baseball Prospectus


Table 2 shows the OBI% for each AL team.  The Rangers led the league with 15.4 followed by the Angels with 15.1.  The Tigers were seventh at 14.2.  So, the Tigers were not great at getting runners home, but they weren't bad either.  Considering that they were only tenth in the league with 163 home runs, it's not stunning that they didn't do better than middle of the pack.  

Table 2: RBI Percentages for AL Teams, 2012

Team
ROB
OBI
OBI%
Texas
3,780
582
15.4
Los Angeles
3,634
548
15.1
Chicago
3,462
518
15.0
Boston
3,610
537
14.9
Kansas City
3,551
517
14.6
Toronto
3,386
483
14.3
Detroit
3,793
539
14.2
Tampa Bay
3,560
494
13.9
Oakland
3,517
483
13.7
Minnesota
3,916
536
13.7
Baltimore
3,406
464
13.6
New York
3,920
531
13.5
Seattle
3,410
438
12.8
Cleveland
3,917
500
12.8
  Data Source: Baseball Prospectus


How about individual Tigers? It's no shock that Cabrera led the team with a 21.4 OBI% (See Table 3).  In other words, he drove in just over 21 percent of the runners who were on base in his plate appearances.  This was second in the league to Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton (22.4).  Prince Fielder (17.3) and  Austin Jackson (15.9) were both significantly above the 13.8 league average.

The biggest surprise was Quintin Berry's 15.8 mark in limited playing time.  I would guess that this was a fluke which won't be repeated in the future, but it helped the Tigers in 2012.  The bottom of the line-up was a lot less successful with nine players getting a good deal of playing team falling below league average.  This is probably what we remember when we think back at our frustration during the summer.

As a team though, the Tigers did not have an unusually difficult time taking advantage of their base runners, but rather had typical results.    


Table 3: RBI Percentages for Tigers Players, 2012

Player
ROB
OBI
OBI%
Miguel Cabrera
444
95
21.4
Prince Fielder
456
79
17.3
Austin Jackson
320
51
15.9
Quintin Berry
171
27
15.8
Alex Avila
264
39
14.8
Delmon Young
415
56
13.5
Jhonny Peralta
376
50
13.3
Brennan Boesch
329
43
13.1
Andy Dirks
207
27
13.0
Omar Infante
136
16
11.8
Ramon Santiago
168
15
8.9
Gerald Laird
120
10
8.3
Ryan Raburn
142
11
7.7
Don Kelly
87
6
6.9

Data Source: Baseball Prospectus




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