Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How Many Base Running Runs Have the Tigers Added?

New Tigers speedster Rajai Davis (Photo Credit:

Much has been made this off-season of the Tigers transition from a slow-footed station-to-station team that relies on hitting to a more speed-oriented club that can manufacture runs though base running.  Gone are shortstop Jhonny Peralta  and first baseman Prince Fielder, two of the slower runners in the game. Joining the roster are the much speedier outfielder/pinch runner Rajai Davis and second baseman Ian Kinsler.  They also added shortstop Jose Iglesias during the season, but he is cancelled out by the loss of second baseman Omar Infante.   Just how much, in terms of runs and wins, will the Tigers gain from their moves overall? 

According to FanGraphs, the Tigers were last in the majors with -19.4 base running runs in 2013.  In other words, they cost themselves an estimated 19 runs with their base running compared to an average team. That is not just stolen bases and caught stealing.  It also includes moving from first to third on singles, advancing a base on a fly ball and other various base running maneuvers.  In case you had not noticed, the Tigers were not good at any of those things in 2013.

Subtracting Fielder (-5.3) and Peralta (-1.8) would save the Tigers 7.1 runs assuming the same performance next year.  The acquisitions of Davis (10.2) and Kinsler (3.6) would add 13.8 runs.  Based on those moves, they would be gaining 20.9 runs or two wins.

The Tigers are far from the fastest team in the league.  They still have Victor Martinez (who with -8.2 base running runs was the second worst base runner to White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko) and slugger Miguel Cabrera (-4.4) and catcher Alex Avila may not be able to maintain his -0.2 mark.  However, add Davis and Kinsler to Austin Jackson (5.6) and perhaps an improving Iglesias and the Tigers should at least be an average base running team in 2014. 


  1. Well I hope that is enough to make them and the fans happy. All I care about is winning, and I'm hoping they come up with a few more than just 2 extra wins, so I hope they have plans to get more wins in other places. Well I know they have plans to do that, I mean I hope they have plans that work out in achieving the wins, that's the tricky part.

    Also they hired some supposed baserunning guru last year to help out. I haven't heard anything about if he will be returning to the team, or are they going to get a new baserunning guru, or is Ausmus just going to fill the gap there so we don't need to rely on a baserunning guru. Also, just for the record I'd like to know exactly how much money they spent on salary and expenses on the baserunning guru.

  2. I'm always reluctant to assume that coaches can impart the skills they had as players, but I wonder if Vizquel can help the Tiger baserunners add a few extra runs beyond the improvements expected from personnel changes. For instance, Jackson and Iglesias are two players who seem to have the physical skills necessary to run the bases well, but haven't converted that into performance to the degree we might expect.

    1. I have to agree. We have seen countless times in the past that ex-players are hired as coaches and turn out to be really awful at that so I'm often skeptical of how good they might be as a coach. But on the other hand there are also times where some people make better coaches than players.

      Iglesias is speedy and crafty, so he'd unlikely be a guy to complain about all year, and well AJ has some more serious issues other than baserunning. He's fast and he can move, but more importantly his batting technique isn't quite sound and I think he and the Tigers need to take a new approach to his batting style. Same with Iglesias, in my mind there is a LOT more possible gain to helping him with his game inside the batters box than there is for his running game. So I think the bigger question is what can Wally Joyner bring to the team to help our hitters who ALL could find ways to improve from quality hitting instruction. Some more than others obviously.

      I'm sure Vizquel can help, we were so bad at baserunning and it would be hard not to improve, and there is good evidence that our roster is made up of players who are naturally better runners so you can bet for sure that the stats and appearances of our baserunning would certainly have to be improved. But the question is how much will it improve, and how much will that help us in contrast to any areas of the game where we might have taken a hit.

      How many HRs will we hit this year? There's lots of variables that contribute to how many runs we can put up, and it doesn't matter how good we are at baserunning or how great we are at hitting homers, it only matters how many runs we score and how many games we win in the end. And from this analysis there is a math demonstration here that suggests a possible equivalent of 2 wins. That sounds good! But 2 isn't exactly a shockingly impressive number, so how many games are we going to win this year? I'm not sure improved baserunning is going to fill ALL of the gap to lock down a championship. I have NEVER seen a season yet where this team has run the bases well, so I'm not fully convinced things will be tremendously better and this article shows a good chance for a modest overall improvement to our bottom line record.

  3. Another plus will be Cabrera being able to walk. He is actually not a bad baserunner, making up in guile for what he lacks in speed. But he was a terrible liability on the bases for the last one third or so of the season, maybe the slowest player I ever saw when he was hurting.

    1. Hey you just found another Win for us, thanks and keep 'em coming!

  4. Right, Cabrera will never be an asset on the bases, but he shouldn't be as bad as last year assuming he's fully healthy.



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