Sunday, November 3, 2013

Yes, But Who Finished Second?

More fun from the new Bill James Handbook.
The book has a section on baserunning. It lists each player's proficiency at not just basestealing and grounding into double plays; it also tracks baserunning errors, like getting doubled off a base or getting caught stretching to an extra base. This section of the book had a great statistic in 2011: Miguel Cabrera led the majors in going from first to third on singles. You think of guys going from first to third on singles, you think of fast guys. You don't think of Miguel Cabrera. The reason he was first, James explained, is that he was on first base a lot (230 singles, walks, and hit by pitches) and he batted ahead of Victor Martinez, who was a singles machine that year, racking up 126 of them. James called it "borderline unbelievable" and I can't disagree.

This year, the opposite occurred, in terms of surprise: Who do you think led in getting thrown out on the basepaths? These include times thrown out trying to advance, getting doubled off, or making an out when other runners score on a sacrifice fly  or advance on a wild pitch or passed ball. 

Making a baserunning out. This is not a trick question. It should be obvious. Anti-borderline unbelievable.

Think about. Getting thrown out trying to advance. We heard about it enough.

Right, Yasiel Puig. Thrown out eleven times. Most in the majors. All those sportswriters had a point, at least as far as the way he ran.

But here's what is surprising: Two guys tied for second with ten outs, just one behind Puig. They were Howie Kendrick, whom I think of as a decent runner, and Allen Craig, who strikes me as kind of a plodder who shouldn't be taking chances. At 30, Kendrick may not have realized that he's lost a step, while Craig probably never had one to lose. Kendrick played for an Angels team that's aggressive on the basepaths, finishing second in the majors in baserunning outs. Craig has no such excuse.

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