Thursday, November 08, 2012

Tigers Among Worst in Majors in Base Running in 2012

As most of you probably noticed without looking at numbers, the Tigers did not have a lot of speed or base running skill in 2012.  Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference all estimate that the Tigers cost themselves 10 runs with base running during the year.  In each case, they ranked among the five worst base running teams in baseball.

I don't want to over emphasize the importance of base running.  According to Baseball Prospectus, there was a 36-run differential between the the best (Angels at +15 runs) and worst (Nationals at +21) teams in baseball.  While not insignificant, this gap is far less than the number of runs separating the best and worst hitting teams (249 Batting Runs). 
Poor base running should not be overlooked though.  The Tigers -10 base running runs does not include hitting into a MLB-leading 156 double plays which Baseball-Reference estimates cost them 8 runs.  The double plays may not have been all due to base running, but it was likely an important factor.  So, that is 10 + 8 = 18 runs which are largely due to base running.  Theoretically that is worth two wins and does not count things such as beating out hits and disrupting pitchers on the bases.

The Baseball Prospectus statistics give us a closer look at where the Tigers failed on the bases.  They track several different types of base running advancement:
  • 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.
The Tigers lost runs advancing on ground outs (-7.9 runs), hits (-4.2) and "other" advancement (-0.54). They did slightly better than average on stolen bases (0.4) and fly outs (+2.5).   

Table 1 below shows how the Tigers fared individually.  Lead-off man Austin Jackson led the team with 2.6 BRR.  This says that he contributed about three runs with base running beyond what you would expect from an average base runner.  The worst base runners were Prince Fielder (-8.2) and Miguel Cabrera (-5.5).

Table 1: Base Running Runs for Tigers, 2012

Austin Jackson
Andy Dirks
Don Kelly
Quintin Berry
Brennan Boesch
Ramon Santiago
Gerald Laird
Omar Infante
Ryan Raburn
Jhonny Peralta
Danny Worth
Alex Avila
Delmon Young
Miguel Cabrera
Prince Fielder
Data source: Baseball Prospectus 

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