Running the Bases – Part 1

Our expectation is that anyone who reads this site on a regular basis has been given a strong education in the ways of WAR. But there’s a missing facet that you should not forget when putting together a player’s total value of what he does on the diamond, and that is baserunning. Sky Kalkman has visited this subject a time or two, and since he’s ridden off into the sunset for the time being, and I’m recently riding back into the picture, I’ll just pick up where he left off and give you an update on 2009 non-stolen bases baserunning.

Baseball Prospectus has a remarkable metric measuring baserunning. Here at FanGraphs we already include stolen bases/caught stealing in a player’s wOBA, but any educated baseball fan knows that there is more to baserunning than just steals. There is the art of taking extra bases on ground balls, fly balls, hits while not getting caught doing it. God-given speed has its place, but it takes brains and instincts on knowing when to be the aggressor and when not to.

The numbers presented are EQBRR – EQSBR (total baserunning runs minus stolen base runs.)

First let’s take a look at the best baserunning teams of 2009.

Team        Runs
Rockies       14
Marlins       12
Cardinals     10
Angels         8
Athletics      8
Rays           8
Giants         7
Twins          6
Blue Jays      6
Diamdonbacks   3
Tigers         3
Dodgers        2
Astros         1
Mariners       1
Red Sox        0
Indians        0
Brewers        0
Padres         0
Reds          -1
Phillies      -1
Mets          -2
Nationals     -3
White Sox     -4
Cubs          -5
Yankees       -6
Rangers       -6
Royals        -7
Braves       -10
Pirates      -13
Orioles      -15

The Rockies, Marlins and Cardinals all helped themselves to the tune of a full win thanks to their heady base-running. That’s a feather in their caps. The Cardinals and Marlins do not steal a lot of bases, but they know when to be aggressive on the basepaths and wreak havoc on opposing teams. How the Cardinals can put up a full win of baserunning with Yadier Molina on their team is a feat within itself.

The Braves, Buccos and O’s on the other hand put together quite a comedy show on the basepaths.

The major take away here is that for the best and worst teams, the difference was just a +/- a win (roughly).

Next up, we’ll look at the individual leaders and laggards.

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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.

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