Who Are Creating Outs Running the Bases?

Last Tuesday night, I watched the Royals score 2 runs in the tenth inning to beat the Mariners. The Mariners were actually lucky because 2 Royals were thrown out trying to steal in the tenth inning. The Royals seem to get 1-3 runners thrown out on the base paths during each game (e.g. as I write this Billy Butler gets thrown out making a wide turn at 1st base).

Well, how does the Royals base running compare to the rest of the league. I took all the times a runner was safe at first and was then picked off, caught stealing or thrown out running the bases in a non-force out situation (e.g. trying to go from 1st to 3rd on a single). Some teams will have more chances to get thrown out because they have more base runners so I found the percentage of times a runner was thrown out on a non-force play once the runner was safe at first.

How does the Royals compare to the rest of the league? Here is a list of the worst running teams so far this season (team and percent of time thrown out by a non-force play) :

White Sox 7.9%
Angels – 7.7%
Rays – 7.6%
Rangers – 7.6%
Padres – 7.6%
Royals – 7.5%

Now that base path incompetents have had their 5 seconds of shame, here are the teams that get thrown out the least amount of times on the base paths:

Red Sox – 3.3%
Phillies – 3.6%
Blue Jays – 4.0%
Tigers – 4.2%
Braves 4.4%

Note: Here is a Google Spreadsheet of the all the teams for reference

The Royals are not the league’s worst team, but are not too far off. A few more running errors and they could quickly over take the White Sox.

Unnecessary outs on the base paths are frustrating to deal with as fans. Some of us fans though have to deal with it more than others.




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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.


26 Responses to “Who Are Creating Outs Running the Bases?”

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  1. Kriz says:

    We’re sorry, xxxxxxxx@gmail.com does not have permission to access this spreadsheet.

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  2. Doytch says:

    Well, the Jays at 4% is because they don’t have any speed. You won’t see players trying to go from first to third, and Cito doesn’t call for steals, period.

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    • Matt says:

      I’m surprised the Jays have even been thrown out on the base paths once. I didn’t think they ever got on first base.

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  3. notdissertating says:

    being the red sox here is not necessarily optimal. surely there is a balance between aggressiveness on the basepaths and hugging the bag? how many runs do the red sox lose by not attempting the extra bag?

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    • Jacob says:

      You basically said what I was going to say. There must be value in attempting the extra base – though I have no idea what that value is… Is there an optimal value? Can we find a value for when someone could advance on the basepaths but didn’t?

      I guess I’m just not convinced that attempting to advance (whether a steal or taking an extra-base on a base hit) as shown here is necessarily a negative.

      Put another way, the optimal case – where the maximum possible number of bases was taken and no extra outs were made is clearly the best thing, and if these numbers were how suboptimally a team was acting I think it makes sense. That being said, how to show that a team is taking the optimal number of bases, I’m not sure I see.

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      • Jon Morse says:

        Jacob, the “optimal value” is simply that point at which the chance of success vs failure balances properly against the expected gain in run expectancy.

        The problem, of course, is that each individual player has a different chance of success which you can’t determine without some extensive trial and error… and even then, the metrics are dependent on situations and decisions. I mean, maybe even Billy Butler has a 100% chance of going from first-to-third on a looping liner hit to into the right-center field gap and fielded by a center fielder with a notably noodlish arm. And maybe even Brett Gardner has 0% chance of going first-to-third on a one-hop line drive hit right at the left fielder.

        It’s not something which CAN’T be modeled, but the small sample size of each different “type” of situation with each individual baserunner sort of prohibits putting any real stock in it. All you can go by is basic generalities, and that’s got its own set of critical flaws.

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  4. John says:

    There doesn’t seem to be a correlation between bad base running and winning. I guess the better teams can make up for it in other ways.

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  5. Brandon says:

    I agree with some of the earlier posters in that these rankings are misleading. Surely aggressive teams (Rays, Angels, White Sox) will always dominate (in a negative way) these rankings. I’m sure if you ranked the teams in the amount of extra bases taken (on steals, WP, PB, 1st – 3rd, tagging on OF fly balls etc), the Rays, Angels and White Sox would all be top-5. The question is, how many extra bases are required to cancel one baserunning ‘out’? ~2.5?

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  6. Piccamo says:

    I’m actually kind of surprised the Orioles fare so well in this category. They have a 35% Caught Stealing rate as a team (39 SB to 21 CS) and the worst Speed score on the site (3.9). That CS% is 3rd worst, behind only SF(36%) and KC (38%). Add to that the interim manager, Juan Samuel, wants the team to be as aggressive as possible on the base paths and it seems a recipe for disaster, but here they are at 6th best on your ranking.

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  7. pack says:

    Does the outs on the bases count outs made at home? The Red Sox number could actually be lower if the 4 or 5 guys that got bogar’d this year weren’t counted.

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  8. MikeS says:

    It is not fair to call these teams bad or good at base running. You must also assess the positive aspect of their aggressive base running and the negative aspect of the conservative teams before applying that kind of label. It’s like calling the player with the highest K% the worst hitter in the league without even looking at any other measure.

    My experience with sabermetrics is that base running is not valued highly and difficult to measure because it is so reliant on other measures. Typically, high success rates are needed to make aggression pay off based on the models used. In general these models values plodding sluggers over speedsters. Regardless of whether that is correct (it probably is) or to the degree it is correct (maybe not as much as some people think) it is not fair to only look at any player’s or team’s failures and declare them bad without looking at their successes.

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    • Jason B says:

      Well there is the study that delineates the breakeven rate for SB attempts (somewhere around 75% I think? Give or take a couple of percentage points? Too lazy to look, then respond). Any success rate below that ends up costing more runs than it creates, and vice versa. So the value of baserunning/aggression has been studied in some detail before.

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      • Tony says:

        The breakeven point depends on the game situation. It is easy enough to find by looking at the change in Win Expectancy for a successful steal and the change in WE for a caught stealing for a given game scenario. The breakeven percentage can be in the 50’s in certain circumstances or in the 80’s for other game circumstances.

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      • Sam says:

        The WinEx framework does vary, as the other poster said, but an average extra base requires about a 70% rate.

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  9. Brian says:

    Please watch on infinite repeat:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZ94rkwdTvQ

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  10. Jeff says:

    Useless information for the most part. All this tells me is what teams are aggressive on the bases, not who is actually good/bad at it. Are you honestly saying that the Rays are bad on the bases?

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  11. Franco says:

    There is a difference getting thrown out at third with 2 outs, at home with no outs, etc. Getting picked off is always bad or your Butler example of making a wide turn at second. Conversely, CS, thrown out at home with 2 outs or on Sac Fly, drawing a throw away from the plate by trying to take third base, etc are not that bad.

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  12. oompaloopma says:

    I would like to see the average speed of the base runners next to the percentages. Just curious to see how they correlate.

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    • oompaloompa says:

      There is definitely a correlation between attempts with the percentages. I cant see how that the percentages reflect on how poorly a team is at base running.

      SB Attempts
      White Sox 7.9% 118
      Angels – 7.7% 91
      Rays – 7.6% 133
      Rangers – 7.6% 97
      Padres – 7.6% 99
      Royals – 7.5% 85

      Red Sox – 3.3% 38
      Phillies – 3.6% 50
      Blue Jays – 4.0% 39
      Tigers – 4.2% 46
      Braves 4.4% 56

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  13. Cidron says:

    nice concept. The problem is, as been posted is that there isnt a difference between sloppy and aggressive baserunning. That would take either case by case analysis (yeah, who wants to volunteer for that), or somehow factoring in “aggressive” somehow. (or, factoring in sloppy)

    Sloppy – Pickoffs would be here, regardless of base.

    Aggression – CS on true steals (or h/r steals) not simply those “cought between bags on a popfly” plays.

    there would be more.. but.. somehow.. aggression and sloppy have to be seperated. for this idea to work.

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  14. Jeff Zimmerman says:

    I see some good questions in here that I will investigate a little further in some up coming posts.

    1. What is the extra number of bases taken compared to the number of time players get thrown out.

    2. What are break even points for taking an extra base vice getting thrown out in the attempt?

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  15. kds says:

    I think you could look at the RE and WE of each play and get totals in runs and WPA. Others may already have done this, at least as measured in runs.

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  16. ibcbet says:

    You actually make it appear so easy along with your presentation however I find this matter to be actually something that I believe I’d never understand. It sort of feels too complicated and extremely vast for me. I am looking forward to your next submit, I?ll try to get the hold of it!

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