Right now Eric Hosmer is the worst base runner of 2014 by a decent margin over Adam Dunn. This makes very little sense, well not the Adam Dunn part, but Eric Hosmer is an athletic player and not your traditional base clogging oaf. For his career, Hosmer’s Spd rating is 4.4, which says he is right at average for speed overall. Last year he was 11 of 15 on stolen base attempts and the year before he stole 16 bags in 17 tries. You expect that the best base runners are fast and the worst are slow, and generally that seems to be true. When it is not true though, there is an interesting difference in the groups.
I went out to look for two groups. The first was a group of really fast players who had bad years on the base paths. The cut-offs for them were an Spd rating of 7 or higher, considered excellent speed, and a negative Bsr and were therefore a liability on the bases despite their speed. For Spd below average is 4.0, so for the second group I looked for players below that who managed to have great base running years, anything above 5 Bsr.
The total sample went back through the 1980 season for batting title qualified players, which included 5049 player years. The group of fast players who had bad base running looks like this:
There are a lot of good players in there, and one legitimate superstar in Sammy Sosa. You will notice that none of them repeated the feat either. Only once in their careers did they manage to have the combo of excellent speed with negative base running value. Most of them were just not very good base runners consistently and happened to have an especially bad year to get on the list. Luis Castillo and Lance Johnson were decent on the base paths most years and had a few really good seasons. Rudy Law had a Bsr of 10.6 the year before, by far the best season of any of these players, so I don’t know what happened in 1984.
Now to the group of over achieving base runners. It is a small and accomplished list:
Again, no players repeated the feat, but this time the caliber of player jumps up. Albert Pujols is an all time great. Scott Rolen is a likely Hall of Famer, and Joe Mauer will probably get there. The only one that isn’t likely to get to Cooperstown is Ryan Zimmerman, but it isn’t inconceivable that he could get there if he can get healthy and put some good seasons up through his 30s. Even when they were young, none of these guys were particularly fast though Rolen managed to get a Spd of 6.1 once. For all of these guys you can Google and quickly find things about their great work ethic and/or leadership qualities, so maybe only the truly diligent can make up for their lack of speed by being hard working students of the game.
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