The Nine Most Underrated Baserunners of 2013

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

Here are New English D we like to dig below surface stats and discover the complete value of players. This post will illustrate 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. wSB is a very simple stat that calculates the run value of stealing a base and getting caught. To calculate it you multiple a player’s SB by .2 and their CS by about -.38 and then scale that number based on league average so that a wSB of 0 is set to league average. Here’s the full formula from FanGraphs. UBR is a little more complicated but carries the same principles of turning advancing on the bases into run values that deviate from a league average of 0. Here’s how FanGraphs explains it.

The basic premise of both stats is that taking an extra base is almost always less valuable than getting thrown out is costly. You want to advance on the bases, but you REALLY don’t want to be thrown out. Below are The Nine Best Baserunners from 2013 who have negative value when it comes to stealing bases and positive value when it comes to running the bases when the ball is in play. For me, these are the most underrated baserunners because their stolen bases numbers aren’t good, but the rest of their numbers are great. Stats are for qualifying players entering games on August 17th.

Rank Name Team PA UBR wSB SB CS
9 Gregor Blanco Giants 388 2.4 -0.1 11 5
8 Yoenis Cespedes Athletics 434 2.4 -1.8 6 7
7 Marlon Byrd Mets 426 2.6 -1.5 2 4
6 Matt Carpenter Cardinals 534 2.8 -1.5 1 3
5 Brandon Crawford Giants 433 2.9 -0.9 1 2
4 Michael Bourn Indians 415 3.0 -0.5 17 9
3 Joey Votto Reds 547 3.2 -0.4 5 2
2 Brian Dozier Twins 443 3.2 -0.9 9 6
1 Austin Jackson Tigers 433 5.3 -0.7 6 4

This list has a variety of different players on it. First, we have a couple of players who steal a decent number of bases but get caught too often for it to be worth it (Blance, Bourn, Dozier). We also have players who have decent speed but don’t run very often for a number of reasons (Cespedes, Crawford, Jackson). But we also have guys who aren’t know for their wheels but do a great job taking extra bases (Byrd, Carpenter, and Votto).

Votto and Carpenter really stand out to be because you would never think of them as good baserunners, in fact, some might call them “base-cloggers” because they get on base a lot and aren’t fleet of foot. It turns out they are very good baserunners who simply don’t get any credit because they don’t steal bases. Carpenter and Votto are actually above average baserunners overall despite their inability to steal. They also happen to be great hitters and fielders, so that’s a nice combination.

What this list tells you is that baserunning is not as simple as speed and stolen bases. Slow guys who don’t steal can add a lot of value if they have good instincts and read the ball well off the bat. Additionally, this is a good example of why advanced stats can be helpful. The basic baserunning stat (SB) would completely ignore most of these players and we would have no idea that they are so valuable.

If nothing else, this should cement how fantastic Joey Votto is at baseball.

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