Traditionally, the main base running statistics that have been tracked are stolen bases and caught stealing. The Tigers are 29th in baseball with 27 stolen bases and have been caught stealing 13 times. So, they don't gain much base advancement through base stealing, but they have not run into a lot of outs either.
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.
The Tigers have scored runs on the bases as follows in 2013:
GAR = -9.35 runs above (below in their case) average on ground outs
SBR = +0.40 on base stealing
AAR = -3.35 on fly ball outs
HAR = -2.72 taking the extra base on hits
OAR = -0.73 on other events
BRR = -14.3 total base running runs above average
So, the Tigers are slightly above average in terms of base stealing/ caught stealing, but are below average in every other phase of base running. They are especially poor at advancing on ground outs (last in baseball) and fly balls (second to the bottom). The BRR number tells us that base running has cost the Tigers an estimated 14 runs compared to the average team with the same opportunities. This is the worst total in the majors . According to Baseball-Reference, they have also cost themselves two runs below average on double plays.
Individually, the Tigers are ranked as follows on BRR:
As one might expect, their best base runners have been Austin Jackson and Omar Infante. The fact that Cabrera is their only other above average base runner may come to a surprise to some. It's hard to find much wrong with his offensive game! The rest of the regulars are below average.
So, the Tigers don't use base running to help score runs which is no shock. They make up for most of their lack of speed with heavy hitting as they are second in the American League in runs per game They have lost a good number of close low scoring games when their bats are not producing though and one might wonder whether they might have taken a couple of those games with some better speed.