FanGraphs Baseball


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  1. I always wondered if a team signed someone like Usain Bolt to pinch run what would happen.

    Comment by Jim — February 27, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

  2. That’s absolutely fantastic. I had no idea that such a player has ever existed, and I love seeing the uniqueness of his career line. That 65% success rate really illustrates the importance of baseball knowledge and instincts above and beyond pure speed with regard to basestealing.

    Comment by AustinRHL — February 27, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

  3. and that 65% success rate does not include all his pickoffs, which don’t count as “steal attempts.”

    Comment by delv — February 27, 2011 @ 6:43 pm

  4. I remember Herb Washington. In fact I even had a baseball card of him, must have been around 1974 or so. I grew up in southwest Louisiana and used to listen to a lot of the Astros and Rangers games on the radio and of course both the Rangers and Athletics were in the A.L. West so they played each other quite often. But getting back to Washington’s baseball card, I remember there was a little section that year on Topps’ set where it had the player’s position and instead of pitcher, catcher, infielder, outfielder it just said ‘pinch runner’ on Washington’s card. And in the back where the stats were he had no at bats, average, RBIs, etc. just stolen bases and attempted steals….LOL. I think the card showed him taking a lead off base. I thought they should have shown him swinging a bat or looking like he was pitching a baseball as a joke.

    Comment by Robert Wayne — February 27, 2011 @ 6:59 pm

  5. I went to the second game of the 1974 WS, where the turning point came when Mike Marshall picked off Herb. That was the only game the A’s lost, and the only one he got in.

    Comment by baycommuter — February 27, 2011 @ 7:50 pm

  6. Washington actually got in 3 games: picked off, stranded, and forced out at 2B. Not very effective. :)

    Comment by Dan — February 27, 2011 @ 8:06 pm

  7. Actually pickoffs do count as a CS.

    Comment by ern — February 27, 2011 @ 8:08 pm

  8. I think that a pickoff is scored as a CS if the runner “breaks” toward the next base. So some pickoffs are CSes and some aren’t.

    I could be wrong about that, but that’s what I’ve heard.

    I don’t know whether any of the baserunning metrics out there include the non-CS pickoffs or not.

    Comment by Al Dimond — February 27, 2011 @ 9:37 pm

  9. A successful pickoff is only considered a caught stealing if the runner made a movement toward the next base. If they only go back (or try to), it isn’t considered a caught stealing.

    Go to rule 10.07(h)

    It’s obviously a bit of a judgement call on the part of the scorer as to whether the runner went forward or not.

    Comment by DL80 — February 27, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

  10. What is the maximum advantage (WPA perhaps) of even the best pinch runner throughout the season, assuming he does literally nothing else? Doesn’t the fact that he’s taking the spot of someone who could play defense or hit or pitch negate whatever small Win Probability Added that he would bring to the table?

    Even a guy who was above 75% would only add a small bit of value, even if we don’t consider his spot as 1 out of 25. Right? Or is that way off?

    Comment by DL80 — February 27, 2011 @ 9:41 pm

  11. I saw that play (on tv), I remember it as a bit of a strange play. Marshall had stepped off the rubber and held the ball but Washington made no move, got caught flatfooted when Marshall did throw to first. The commentators made a big hoohah out of Washington’s apparent inexperience.

    I only wish that Washington had been around in 1951, or that Bill Veeck had the foresight to sign a similar pinch running specialist. Paired with Eddie Gaedel’s career 1.000 OBP, that would have been the ultimate one-run threat.

    Comment by Tiger — February 27, 2011 @ 10:09 pm

  12. i think he had a 1975 Topps bb card because i think i had the mini version of his card and they only had the mini’s in 1975…

    Comment by Herb — February 27, 2011 @ 10:31 pm

  13. You could have a positive WPA and a positive WAR as just a pinch runner. But you’re totally right that it wouldn’t be worth much. Your team is truly in some dire straights if that modest benefit is the best one could do with the roster spot. A mediocre lefty specialist would be worth more than almost any pinch runner that couldn’t also field.

    Comment by B N — February 27, 2011 @ 10:31 pm

  14. First thing I thought of after seeing this article hed was Herb’s “pinch runner” card. A classic. 1975 Topps. That card made him seem like the most exotic baseball player ever.

    Comment by BrettBallantini — February 27, 2011 @ 11:32 pm

  15. But does he know running in baseball is counterclockwise?

    Comment by gradygradychase — February 28, 2011 @ 8:05 am

  16. In the 80s rampant rumors/speculation/wishcasting had Ben Johnson signing up for pinch running duties on the Blue Jays. He would have been ahead of the curve for baseball in other ways, too.

    Comment by JT — February 28, 2011 @ 8:12 am

  17. Wow, I learned something new. I always thought pickoffs were recorded as CS, regardless of the circumstance. This is why Fangraphs is awesome…

    Comment by Jimmy — February 28, 2011 @ 8:54 am


    He was a nine-win player in 1974!

    Comment by jessef — February 28, 2011 @ 10:44 am

  19. I expect he does know that running in baseball is counterclockwise, since that’s the standard for running tracks as well.

    Comment by David Carter — February 28, 2011 @ 11:28 am

  20. Gotta love/hate Charlie Finley. After creating and pushing through the idea of the DH, he was trying to create the designated runner position.

    Comment by GiantFaninDodgerLand — February 28, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

  21. Herb worked summers at a GM plant in Flint, MI while attending MSU in Lansing. Really a nice guy, glad to see he made good after college and being exposed to Finley. LOL Seems his McDonald restaurants franchises are doing well.

    Comment by NIGHT FGHT — November 24, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

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