If you watch the Rays on a daily basis in 2010, you might find it easy to take for granted how often they steal a base. I’m not talking about stolen bases, though the Rays were pretty solid at that taking off in roughly 10% of their opportunities at a 79% success rate, but I am talking about stealing a base on the defense. Excellent baserunning is just as valuable as flat out speed when you can routinely go first to third or score from second on a single. Luckily, B-Ref tracks all of this for us here. With a couple of calculations we can glean a bit of data from this that goes beyond the raw numbers (Click to Enlarge):
Allow me to break this down for you. Moving from left to right, 1stS is the number of times that a guy was on first base when a single was hit, 1stS2 is the number of players that made it to second base on that single while 1stS3 is the number of times that runner made it to third on a single. Likewise, 1stD is the number of times that a player was on first base when a double was hit with 1stD3 the number of times that runner made it to 3rd and 1stDH is the number of times a runner scored from first on a double. Lastly, 2ndS is the number of times a runner was on second base when a single was hit with 2ndS3 the number of times that runner made it to third base and 2ndSH the number of times that runner scored from second base on the single.
With the definitions out of the way, what does it all mean? Well, we can see from the percentages that the Rays are above league-average going first-to-third on a single (6% higher than league average), first-to-home on a single (7% higher), and scoring on a double from second (3% higher). One negative that isn’t portrayed here (at least directly) is how often a player was thrown out trying to advance the extra base. We can draw that forth by looking at the Bases Lost set of the data. If we add up the 1stS2 and 1stS4 (and you can do this for each pair of outcomes across the board) you will notice that it doesn’t add up to 100%.
The difference is the percentage of base nabbers that were gunned down. If we multiply that difference with the number of opportunities, we get the number of times that a base runner was thrown out trying to advance in each scenario, which is what is shown in that particular set of the data. You can see that the Rays had four guys thrown out trying to go 1st-to-third on a single, none trying to score from first on a double, and 10 different guys were thrown out at the plate trying to score from second on a single (save your Foley jokes, I think this flies in the face of people that think he’s too conservative). Overall, the Rays lost 14 guys on the base paths due to aggressiveness.
Ok, so they did a good job of limiting the downside of aggressiveness, but how did they succeed with this philosophy? To look at this I put together the Bases Gained subset of the data. Basically, we’re comparing the rate of success of each scenario compared to the league average and then multiplied by the number of opportunities for each scenario. This can probably be better understood with this formula:
Where SRi refers to the particular teams rate at the more desired outcome (1st to third on a single as opposed to stopping at 1nd)
SRla refers to the league average of achieving the more desired outcome
Opps refers to the number of chances for each scenario
You can see that the Rays went first-to-third on a single 16 times more than if they were only as successful as the league average. They scored from first on a double seven times more than if they were league average at moving up, and scored from second on a single five times more than if they were league-average in that scenario. Add it all up and the Rays “gained” 29 bases over a league average offense while losing 14 base runners due to that aggressiveness. Add these up and you get a net of 15 extra bases taken or about .09 per game. It’s not a stretch to believe that most of these guys come in to score considering the bases that they are taking are the most important on the diamond (third and home if you’re slow-witted). If you subscribe to this philosophy, then you would assume that that is an extra .09 runs per game achieved solely on the base paths.
Only four teams had a positive “Total Bases” with Tampa Bay leading the charge and followed by the Angels, Rangers, and Athletics (AL West must have some exciting play, too bad it’s too late for us East Coasters), while the Royals, Orioles, Indians, and Mariners were the worst with more than 36 base runners playing station to station or getting thrown out trying to advance. I thought Jesse Wolfersberger was right on the money with this read. As you can see, the Royals were pretty good at getting guys on base, but then they’d leave them out there. This could be some insight into why that happened. It could be an easy fix and if you’re curious, those 42 runners left out there translates to about .26 bases per game. Again, if you think that each of those guys would have scored, then you’re talking about an offense going from 4.17 to 4.43 runs per game, just by being league average at taking that extra base.
Losing Carl Crawford is a significant blow to the offense, but with great base runners, top to bottom, the Rays should still be one of the more aggressive, and more successful at being aggressive, running teams in the league.
Here’s a look at the NL if you are so inclined: