Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Which Players Were Best At Advancing Runners In 2014?

White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton excelled at advancing runners last year.
(Photo credit: David Banks, USA Today Sports)

In earlier posts, I discussed some statistics which describe how runs are scored: (1) Baseball Prospectus' Others Batted In Percentage statistic which is the percent of runners on base which a batter drives in; (2) Runs Assisted which is the number of runs to which a batted contributed without getting a run scored or RBI. In this post, I'll talk about other things that can happen in a plate appearance where there are runners on base.   

The events that can occur when batters are presented with baserunners can be put into two broad categories (Advancement and Non-advancement) and five sub-categories.  There are three types of Advances (ADV):
  • Other Batted In (OBI) - A baserunner is driven in by the batter.  It's the same thing as an RBI except a player does not get credit for driving himself in with a home run.
  • Run Assisted (RAS) - A batter advances a runner to either second or third with a hit, base on balls, hit batsmen, error, sacrifice bunt, or another kind of out.  If that runner then scores either during the same at bat or an ensuing at bat, the batter who advanced him is given a Run Assisted.
  • Unrewarded Advancement (UNR) - A batter advances a runner, but the runner does not score by the end of the inning.  
When I first presented the Runs Assisted metric, I also included a second part to the definition: "A batter reaches base and is removed for a pinch runner or is replaced by another runner on a force out.  If the new runner then scores, the batter who originally reached base is given a Run Assisted".   Here, I am only looking at whether a batter advances baserunners, so the second portion is excluded.

There are two types of Non-advances (NADV):
  • Neutral (NEU) - A batter does not advance a runner, but there are no outs on the play. (e.g. a walk with a runner on second)
  • Giveaway (GA) - A batter fails to advance a runner and one or more outs are made either at the plate or on the bases.
It is possible to have an Advance and a Giveaway in the same plate appearance.  For example, a batter comes up with runners on first and second and hits into a force out at second advancing the runner to third.  In that case, he gets credit for a Giveaway for the first runner and an Advance (either a RAS or UNR) for the second runner.  These statistics are discussed further in the comments section of a post at Tom Tango's Book Blog.  I basically followed his algorithm presented in comment #31. I have not yet programmed the odd-ball occurrences discussed, but they should not change the results too much.   

Table 1 below shows that there were 55,199 runners on base in all American League plate appearances in 2014. A total of 20,888 (or 37.8%) were advanced including Others Batted In (13.5%), Runs Assisted (10.6%) and Unrewarded Advances (13.7%).  There were 34,311 Non-advances (62.2%) including Neutrals (4.3%) and Giveaways (57.9%).   The National League percentages were similar.  

Table 1: Advancement of Runners by League , 2014 
League
        American
       National
Category
n
%
n
%
Baserunners
55,199
100.0
          54,239            100.0
Advances
20,888
37.8
20,309
              37.4
   Others Batted In
7,476
13.5
7,084
13.1
   Runs Assisted
5,851
10.6
5,462
10.1
   Unrewarded Advances
7,561
13.7
7,763
14.3
Non-advances
34,311
62.2
33,930
62.5
   Neutrals
2,363
4.3
2,511
4.6
   Giveaways
31,948
57.9
31,419
57.9

These counting statistics are not a replacement for Batting Runs or True Average or any of your other favorite batting evaluation statistics.  Their primary purpose is to fill gaps in baseball data collection.  I find it interesting to know how successful a batter was in advancing runners and how often he failed.  In a more sophisticated analysis, these statistics might have some practical use in building batting orders or in looking at the age-old clutch questions.  This post only serves as an introduction to some new statistical categories. 

Table 2 shows that Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee advanced more runners (201) than any player in baseball in 2014.  The American League leader was Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick with 191.  Does it seem odd that McGehee was the best in the league at advancing runners last year?  If this doesn't feel right to you, there's a reason for it. Table 3 tells us that McGehee was also among the leaders in failing to advance 280 baserunners.  

                                     Table 2: Runners Advanced Leaders, 2014
Player
Team
OBI
RAS
Unrewarded
Advances
Casey McGehee
Florida
72
45
84
201
Adrian Gonzalez
Los Angeles
89
50
56
195
Matt Holliday
St. Louis
70
63
59
192
Howard Kendrick
Los Angeles
68
65
58
191
Josh Donaldson
Oakland
69
55
61
185
Jose Bautista
Toronto
68
52
65
185
Albert Pujols
Los Angeles
77
41
62
180
Chase Utley
Philadelphia
67
49
64
180
Erick Aybar
Los Angeles
61
65
53
179
Victor Martinez
Detroit
71
50
58
179


                                         Table 3: Non-Advancement Leaders, 2014
Player
Team
Neutrals
Giveaways
Non-advances
Ian Desmond
Washington
19
287
306
Justin Upton
Atlanta
21
284
305
Ryan Howard
Philadelphia
33
261
294
Marlon Byrd
Philadelphia
22
265
287
Evan Longoria
Tampa Bay
31
254
285
Casey McGehee
Florida
22
258
280
Albert Pujols
Los Angeles
26
247
273
Carlos Santana
Cleveland
41
232
273
Nelson Cruz
Baltimore
17
253
270
Adrian Gonzalez
Los Angeles
25
241
266

McGehee being among the leaders in both advances and non-advances tells us something about these new measures. They are counting statistics like RBI which are dependent on opportunity and McGehee had more baserunners in his plate appearances (481) than any player in MLB.  So, it's useful to compute a rate.  There are several ways that could be done, but one simple one is Advance Percentage (ADV%).  

Table 4 indicates that White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton advanced 119 of 242 baserunners (excluding neutral plate appearances) for a .492 Advance Percentage.  This was the top percentage among players with 200 or more baserunners in their plate appearances.  The trailers are shown in Table 5 led by Washington infielder Danny Espinosa at .258.  


Table 4: Advance Percentage Leaders, 2014
Player
Team
Baserunners
Advances
%
Adam Eaton
Chicago
242
119
.492
Melky Cabrera
Toronto
337
162
.481
Miguel Cabrera
Detroit
373
177
.475
David Murphy
Cleveland
283
133
.470
Justin Morneau
Colorado
339
156
.460
Russell Martin
Pittsburgh
309
142
.460
Norichika Aoki
Kansas City
283
130
.459
Seth Smith
San Diego
274
125
.456
Brett Gardner
New York
304
138
.454
Kurt Suzuki
Minnesota
313
142
.454
Hunter Pence
San Francisco
356
161
.452
Michael Brantley
Cleveland
388
175
.451
Victor Martinez
Detroit
397
179
.451
Matt Holliday
St. Louis
426
192
.451
Mike Trout
Los Angeles
395
177
.448
Paul Goldschmidt
Arizona
279
125
.448
Jayson Werth
Washington
391
175
.448
Daniel Nava
Boston
244
109
.447
Robbie Grossman
Houston
209
93
.445
Howard Kendrick
Los Angeles
430
191
.444
Table 5: Advance Percentage Trailers, 2013 
Player
Team
Baserunners
Advances
%
Danny Espinosa
Washington
221
57
.258
Asdrubal Cabrera
Cleveland
252
70
.278
Gaby Sanchez
Pittsburgh
210
60
.286
Xander Bogaerts
Boston
345
99
.287
Jonathan Schoop
Baltimore
289
84
.291
Mark Reynolds
Milwaukee
264
77
.292
Logan Forsythe
Tampa Bay
231
69
.299
Wil Myers
Tampa Bay
241
72
.299
Mike Zunino
Seattle
276
83
.301
Matt Dominguez
Houston
378
114
.302

The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by Retrosheet.  Interested parties may contact Retrosheet at Retrosheet.org.  



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