Running and Runs: A Look at UBR Data

Yesterday, the great Mitchel Lichtmen gave us a look into how FanGraphs’ latest toy, Ultimate Base Running (UBR). This nifty base-running stat is now on the player pages and a part of WAR. As Dave Appleman noted, UBR (or Bsr, short for base running, on the player pages) has a rather small effect (though not insignificant) on a player’s WAR.

Although small on a player level, UBR (henceforth called Bsr) does help us spot organizational trends, identifying which teams prioritize bag-dashing and the like. Unsurprisingly, the relationship between base running and runs scored is not very meaningful. This should make sense because base running is great, but teams cannot run the bases if they are not getting on base — and they cannot run the bases if they clap a homer.

Looking at the MLB through the 2002 and 2011 seasons, we encounter more than one surprise:

This data contains a number of interesting tidbits:

    • This may be the pessimist Cubs fan in me, but I am largely surprised the ol’ North Siders are not in the base-running basement. Frankly, I am surprised the Red Sox (who scored the 2nd most runs in the selected era) ran so poorly. When I consider the major players involved, though, it makes sense: David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Kevin Youkilis, and the like.
    • The Cardinals really surprised me on this one, too. When I think St. Louis, I think Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, and Yadier Molina — not really base-running masters. Well, maybe not so: Apparently Rolen had a positive Bsr (+8.9) during that span, and Pujols — quite surprisingly — has been literally Carl Crawfordesque (20.7).
    • There appears to be a special plateau of teams with -50 or lower runs lost via the base paths (the Red Sox, Cubs, and Orioles). Of that plateau’s members, only the Red Sox (8112 runs) mustered an above-median number of runs (6894 runs).
    • Several players had significant impacts on their teams, such as Pujols. For the Angels, Kendrys Morales (-22.1) nearly out-terrible’d Chone Figgins‘ double awesome (+37.5). Meanwhile, Brian McCann and Prince Fielder have done their best impressions of an armor regiment, at -25.7 and -24.9, respectively. The two most tank-like chuggers, however, were the trot-sensations Paul Konerko (-44.2) and David Ortiz (-40.5).
    • Looking without regard to teams, we see Chone Figgins and Juan Pierre getting some long-deserved credit: Figgins, 41.7 runs, and Pierre, 43.6, formed the top running duo.
    • Though there’s no really useful relationship between Bsr and runs or wRC+, there does appear to be less variability among the great base-running teams. Perhaps that is an element of small-ballish operations?

There are still many of fun little mysteries to uncover with Bsr (UBR); I cannot wait until we uncover them all! And then destroy them.




Print This Post



Bradley writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times, Cubs Stats, DRaysBay and Homebody Abroad. Follow him on Twitter @BradleyWoodrum.

37 Responses to “Running and Runs: A Look at UBR Data”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Basically, the conclusion I’m seeing in the UBR data is that base-running isn’t really very important when compared to the other phases of the game. Am I oversimplifying this?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • On the team level, I think you can say sorta. On the individual level, base running DEFINITELY matters for a few players, and hardly matters for the rest.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Yirmiyahu says:

        What if you plotted UBR against Runs scored minus runs-scored-on-home-runs ? I wonder if there’d be any correlation in that case.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Ooh, good thought, Yirmi.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • GreggB says:

        I’d also like to see the chart plotted against home runs (in addition to a chart removing home runs). I think we’d see a clear inverse relationship — as one should. Being aggressive on the base paths is a better strategy for a team with little power, and a poor strategy for a team with a lot of extra base hits.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Yirmiyahu says:

    Red Sox/Cubs/Orioles might have three of the smallest fields in the majors. Greater chance of getting thrown out by an outfielder?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Temo says:

      I was thinking the same. Even if you use the argument that if they can’t get there safely, they shouldn’t try anyway… smaller outfields means fewer opportunities to tag up, fewer opportunities to go first-to-third, etc. It may add up.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • BigNachos says:

      As a Red Sox fan, I’m inclined to blame everything on former third base coach Dale Sveum.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. MGL says:

    UBR is going to be inversely correlated with batting runs, because high UBR means good speed, which means less power, which means less batting production (overall). Also, high UBR guys will be the better fielders and good fielders are not necessarily selected for their batting skills.

    UBR, holding everything else constant (like batting skill/value) will of course positively correlate with runs scored (small).

    Between the two of them canceling one another out, my guess is no net correlation or even a small residual negative one…

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Ryan says:

      Uh, it’s not inversely correlated. If you look at the png file above, it show there’s no true correlation at all between non-basestealing running and runs. Especially not a negative correlation.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Internet20 says:

        Ok, please share your R-squared results with the rest of the class.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • @Internet: I ran a few regressions on the data — quick and simple regressions, mind you — and there really is very little correlation. At best we’re talking .002 R-squared.

        I think you really do need to normalize for batter skills and park factors.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • MGL says:

        “is no net correlation OR even a small residual negative one…”

        Uh, what part of the word OR do you not understand?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. John says:

    The park factor clearly has a huge influence on UBR. Teams with small parks have low UBRs and teams with big parks have high UBRs. Therefore a player’s UBR might be indicative of the ballparks he played in rather than his baserunning talent.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • MGL says:

      UBR is park adjusted.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • reillocity says:

        Can each team’s road UBR be separated from its home UBR? If so, I’d love to see the correlation plot of home UBR vs road UBR in a future post.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • jsolid says:

      teams with large ballparks often select outfielders with more speed than power for defensive reasons. this will tend to concentrate players with UBR-skills in large parks. correlation, causation, blah blah blah.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. DrBGiantsfan says:

    It appears that there is a slight U shaped curve linking UBR to Runs. Teams that run well get a slight run producing benefit from it. Teams that don’t run well have other ways of scoring runs and don’t depend on it. It’s the ones in the middle who aren’t sure what they style is who are at a slight disadvantage.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Don’t know if this is important or not but the other three teams besides Boston with negative BSRs but above-average run production (White Sox, Blue Jays and Phillies) all play in homer-friendly parks.

    I agree with Yirmiyahu above, is there a way to remove runs scored on home runs from the equation?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. fhyrew says:

    Is it really that surprising that Albert Pujols is really, really good at an aspect of playing baseball?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Rudy says:

    As mentioned above, remove runs resulting from home runs. An adjustment should be made for the AL/NL run difference. Add park factors (probably to Bsr).

    So, scale non-home run runs to NL/AL averages. Then compare that to park adjusted Bsr.

    Also, it would be cool to see this information manipulated to evaluate 3rd base coaches.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Mike says:

    Interesting stuff. No real surprise on Pujols. His value on the base paths has gone largely unnoticed. He is a tremendously aggressive, and smart, runner.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Shaggychild says:

    When it says Pujols was good for 20.7 during this time span, is that runs? Meaning ‘the little things’ he did on the base paths was worth 2 wins in 9 years?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. CJ says:

    Is there a way I can still see WAR without the UBR? It took a pretty big chunk out of a lot of player’s WAR.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Yirmiyahu says:

      on the ‘value’ page on the leaderboard (or at the bottom of player pages), add up batting+fielding+replacement+positional. That’ll give you runs-above-replacement, ignoring UBR. Which you convert to WAR by dividing by a number somewhere between 9.5-10.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Jonathan says:

    I’m not at all surprised by the fact the Sox score poorly in this based on the sampling timeframe. Despite the presence of Damon in the middle of the decade and the emphasis on Ellsbury’s base stealing in ’08 and ’09, by and large we’ve long been a team of awful baserunners. The highlight of the Sox offense from 2003 to mid 2008 was the 3-4 tandem of Ortiz and Ramirez, two guys who have never been mistaken for good baserunners. Youkilis, in my view, is an underrated baserunner and Drew has always been a guy who, while not blazingly fast, knows how to run the bases well. That said, the bulk of the decade was taken up with guys like Kevin Millar. Baserunning is a pretty recent discovery in Boston.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. Sandy Kazmir says:

    This is really good, Bradley. Thanks for taking the time to compile the data.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. Rui says:

    Is it pure coincidence that total runs scored is very volatile on the “bad baserunning” side but pretty stable and positively correlated on the “good baserunning” side?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. MGL says:

    I think that David is going to post the home/road splits for UBR…

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current day month ye@r *