Hidden Value: Assessing the Tigers on The Bases

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

Baserunning is pretty much the red-headed stepchild of baseball analysis. We care a lot about hitting. We care a lot about pitching. Most people given a courtesy nod to defense, even if they basically ignore it. But no one talks about baserunning aside from stolen base totals, or maybe stolen base efficiency.

But there is so much more going on on the bases that we could be talking about. Going first to third, scoring on singles, not making outs you don’t have to make. All of these are critical aspects of baserunning that we don’t talk about, but very easily could. In the text of this post I’ll be introducing some statistics (which are very simple) and discussing them in the context of the 2013 Tigers to date (July 30th).

Let’s start by digging deeper on stolen bases. Stolen bases add value to the team, about 1/4 of the value added by a single. But getting caught is costly, and is about twice as costly as stealing a base is beneficial because the value of moving up a base is not as important as not making an extra out. In other words, you need to steal at about a 70% rate or better in order to be adding value to your team overall.

Name wSB
Andy Dirks 0.7
Don Kelly 0.3
Hernan Perez 0.2
Miguel Cabrera 0.1
Matt Tuiasosopo -0.1
Ramon Santiago -0.1
Omar Infante -0.2
Alex Avila -0.2
Austin Jackson -0.3
Torii Hunter -0.4
Avisail Garcia -0.4
Prince Fielder -0.6
Victor Martinez -0.8
Jhonny Peralta -0.9
Brayan Pena -0.9

Presented above are the number of runs each Tiger has added via SB and CS. As you can see, nobody is doing much of anything. The Tigers best basestealer isn’t even up to a full run (10 runs = 1 win) of value and the worst basestealer costs about the same. The Tigers don’t steal a lot of bases, but they don’t get caught a ton either.  All told they are a -3.7 wSB, which means their basestealing exploits has cost the team about one-third of a win. Not very significant.

Now let’s take a look at UBR, which is simply the same formula for all other baserunning activities. This includes the value of going first to third and the cost of getting thrown out trying to stretch something. I’m going to talk about some pieces of this in a moment, but first let me give you the overall numbers.

Name UBR
Austin Jackson 5.0
Don Kelly 2.1
Omar Infante 1.6
Avisail Garcia 0.7
Miguel Cabrera 0.6
Alex Avila 0.6
Ramon Santiago 0.3
Hernan Perez 0.1
Andy Dirks -0.2
Bryan Holaday -0.6
Jhonny Peralta -0.7
Brayan Pena -0.7
Torii Hunter -1.2
Prince Fielder -2.1
Matt Tuiasosopo -2.8
Victor Martinez -4.6

Here we have a chance to see more overall value impact. It will not surprise you to learn that Austin Jackson is the Tigers best runner and that he has been worth half a win to the team simply on the bases (this does not include stealing). Kelly ranks well in this department and despite being slow, Cabrera’s solid instincts help him add value here as well. Dirks is a bit surprising because he’s the team’s best basestealer, but it looks like he doesn’t help much with the ball in play. Overall, the team has a -1.9 UBR, which is just a tick below average. Adding wSB and UBR together, the Tigers have cost themselves something like half a win this season with their baserunning (25th in MLB). You’re not happy about that, but given their collection of lumbering sluggers, it’s nice to see they aren’t giving runs back on the bases they are earning with the bat.

So now that we have an idea about the Tigers overall baserunning value, what are some other things we can track. Let’s start with outs made on the bases. The table below is sorted by total outs, but includes where each out was made. These are outs made when the runner was not forced, so it would include something like getting thrown out at the plate trying to score from second, but not getting forced out in the middle of a double play:

Torii Hunter 1 1 1 1 4
Victor Martinez 0 1 0 3 4
Matt Tuiasosopo 0 0 1 3 4
Andy Dirks 1 0 0 2 3
Prince Fielder 0 0 0 3 3
Omar Infante 1 0 1 1 3
Austin Jackson 0 2 1 0 3
Jhonny Peralta 1 2 0 0 3
Miguel Cabrera 0 2 0 0 2
Don Kelly 0 0 1 1 2
Alex Avila 1 0 0 0 1
Avisail Garcia 0 0 0 0 0
Bryan Holaday 0 0 0 0 0
Brayan Pena 0 0 0 0 0
Hernan Perez 0 0 0 0 0
Ramon Santiago 0 0 0 0 0

You’ll notice the Tigers have made 32 outs on the bases while the average team has made 33. Essentially, the Tigers know their limitations like with stolen bases. This is not a club blessed with speed, but they know not to push it and don’t run into an inordinate amount of outs. It’s important to recognize that the base coaches are partially responsible for this, so don’t look at Fielder’s 3 outs at home and put it all on him. This isn’t a perfectly individual situation and it’s important to consider the context of every action and game situations. It would just be way too difficult for me to show you the percentage of time Fielder scored on singles from second versus the times he stopped at 3B versus the times he got thrown out in a simple table.

Now let’s look at the Tigers’ Extra Bases Taken Percentage. This is how often a player takes an extra base when the opportunity presents itself. Note that this is how often they go from first to third when the opportunity comes up not how often the make it when they try for it.

Player XBT%
Omar Infante 55%
Torii Hunter 49%
Austin Jackson 48%
Miguel Cabrera 41%
Avisail Garcia 40%
Jhonny Peralta 37%
Ramon Santiago 36%
Don Kelly 33%
Hernan Perez 33%
Andy Dirks 29%
Prince Fielder 29%
Victor Martinez 23%
Alex Avila 17%
Brayan Pena 13%
Matt Tuiasosopo 8%
Bryan Holaday 0%

League average is 40% and the Tigers as a unit take 35%. Some Tigers do this very well and some do it quite poorly. It’s important to think about the last two stats together. The Tigers make an average number of outs and take a slightly below average number of extra bases. This is a team that knows what it can and can’t do and doesn’t run into a lot of outs relative to the rest of the league. Remember our lesson from the stolen bases section. Not making outs is more important than moving up a base.

You can break these stats down further to each base situation. I’ll just give you one to demonstrate. Let’s try for how many times each Tiger has scored from second base on a single:

Player 2ndSH
Torii Hunter 14
Austin Jackson 11
Victor Martinez 11
Miguel Cabrera 9
Omar Infante 8
Jhonny Peralta 7
Andy Dirks 6
Don Kelly 4
Ramon Santiago 3
Alex Avila 3
Avisail Garcia 2
Prince Fielder 2
Brayan Pena 2
Hernan Perez 0
Matt Tuiasosopo 0
Bryan Holaday 0

It’s important to think about all of these numbers in the context of opportunity and situations, but they are valuable to know. Baserunning doesn’t swing entire seasons dramatically (usually 1-2 wins over an entire season), but it does matter and could easily be talked about more often. In just a few short minutes I’ve given you some other ways to think about baserunning. Stolen bases are important, but they can be measured a bit more accurately too. Additionally, there are stats readily available at sites like Baseball Reference that can tell you more about baserunning value such as XBT% and Outs on the Bases.

As always, there is a lot of information out there and I think you’ll enjoy your baseball watching experience a lot more if you know just a little bit more. Baserunning is about more than raw speed and there are ways to measure which players add value on the bases beyond the stolen base. The 2013 Tigers aren’t the poster children, but they seem to know their game is more about swinging that motoring.


2 responses

  1. […] top of the leaderboard, but rarely at the bottom. You can find more about some of the stats below right here, but they are all pretty clear. Entering […]

  2. […] that using a player’s value on the bases. Earlier this year we published a piece on the Tigers’ value on the bases that explained a number of baserunning statistics, most notably for our purposes here, UBR and wSB. […]

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