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Baserunning and the Giants

February 20, 2012

The past few years of Giants baseball has been bereft of speed. The only true stolen base threat on the team last year was Andres Torres who stole 19 bags. He also got thrown out 6 times leaving him with a 76% stolen base success rate, which is above the 70-75% break-even point, but not by much. Torres still, was an above average baserunner accumulating 1.4 runs on the base paths according to UBR (Ultimate Base Running), which he added in 124 chances on the bases or .0113 runs per time on base (I’m gonna abbreviate it R/B).

UBR is a stat that garners rather than weights, so the more times you get on base the more runs you can add on the paths. To put some UBR ratings into perspective, the top base runner last year was Elvis Andrus who added 7.7 runs in 230 times or .0335 R/B. Paul Konerko on the other hand was worth about -10.4 runs, about one win in 237 chances, which is a -.0439 R/B.

The Giants failed to add many runs last year by the stolen base; the aforementioned Torres with 19 and Manny Burriss with 11 were the only two Giants to crack double digits. In reality, the Giants’ top base runners were those who advanced on the groundball/flyball, didn’t hit into double plays, ran from first to third, and second to home.

Nate Schierholtz was one of those players, adding 2.1 runs in 118 times on base, a .0178 R/B. Nate didn’t add value through stolen bases, having only stolen 7 bags while getting caught 4 times (many of those are botched hit and runs) leading to a 63% success rate well below the break even point, so his stolen base game likely hurt the team more than it helped. He did the little things though, he only hit into 5 double plays the whole year (in a similar number of at bats Miguel Tejada hit into 10) and he seemed to do a good job always taking the extra base and going first to third second to home.

The Giants did have some other good base runners on the team like Mike Fontenot who added 1.8 runs with only 76 chances on the paths, a .0236 R/B.  Surprisingly, Aaron Rowand topped the Giants in UBR with 2.2 runs added in 96 chances, which calculates out to .0229 R/B. The biggest surprise of all though came when I looked at Brandon Belt, who in only 63 chances, added 1.7 runs .0269 R/B(the highest R/B on the team). If Belt could get on base a little more and be given a full seasons worth of plate appearances this kid could add a significant amount of runs through base running.

In 2011, the Giants cumulative total on the base paths added up to 4.2 runs, a little less than half a win. 2010 was a different story: the Giants were below average in UBR, losing -11.4 runs running the bases which cost them a little more than a win. The team’s base running was helped with the big differences from Rowand, who was -2.8 runs in 2010 and plus 2.2 in 2011, and Freddy Sanchez who was worth -2.4 runs in 2010 and 1.0 in 2011, as well as the loss of negative base runners Edgar Renteria(-.6 runs), Bengie Molina (-.4 runs), Jose Guillen (-1 run in his time with the Giants), Travis Ishikawa (-3.2runs) Juan Uribe (-1.1 runs) and the diminishment of Pat Burrell’s roll (-.5 runs).

This past offseason, the Giants have added two speedy outfielders in Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan. Last year, Melky stole 20 bases in Kansas City and got thrown out 10 times, computing a 67% success rate that is below the break-even point. However, he added 3.5 runs in 239 chances a .0146 R/B. Angel Pagan in 171 chances added 2.2 runs a .0128 R/B. Some of those runs did come from his 32 stolen bases; he only got caught 7 times, giving him an 82% clip which is well above the break even-point. These two can provide weapons for Bochy, as they are constant stolen base threats. They could be used to steel base at a critical time in a game. Swiping a bag can make the difference between a win or a loss, especially with the amount of the one run ball games the Giants play in.

All in all, I am very excited for the addition of team speed added onto this year’s Giants but it needs to be noted that base running only accounts for a small amount of runs, and as a result wins. Nevertheless, baserunning can amount to something. The top baserunning team in the majors, the Rangers gained 23 runs which amounted to about two wins.  Base running can also hurt a team as well, for example Boston was the worst base running team last year and lost -15.7 runs, about one and a half wins, just about the amount they would have needed to make it to the playoffs last year.

This article was inspired by ObsessiveGiantsCompulsive’s article on The Giants Baserunning.
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