Saturday, September 6, 2008

Reds Baserunning Woes

The Reds have once again underwhelmed this year, so it's time to take a look at some of the reasons WHY they are consistently a second tier team. To me, they always seem to be a decent team on paper, but they never perform up to my expectations. Perhaps, even though I downgrade my expectations each year, I just continue to overrate them. Still, my expectations are never very high, but the Reds never fail to disappoint. I'm still trying to figure out why.

The new wave of statistical analysis has done a tremendous job flushing out hitting and pitching, but only recently has it started focusing on the less glamorous aspects of the game. One of the more interesting developments has come from a not so surprising source: Bill James. James has begun analyzing base running and identifying which players and teams are actually good at it. A novel concept, to be sure, but here is how his analysis is defined.

Team Baserunning Analysis

"The entire team’s overall contribution on the bases; their basestealing, avoidance of the double play, and success at taking the extra base while avoiding being thrown out.

For a summary of each team, look at the far right column called "Net Gain". Zero is
average. Plus numbers are above average and negative numbers are below average."

This is one unpublicized area where the Reds have performed very poorly this year. On the season, as a team, the Reds are only a +12. In comparison, the best baserunning team is the Colorado Rockies at +96, followed by the Phillies at +95, the Rangers at +86, and the Mets at +76. So, the Reds are one of the worst baserunning teams in baseball and well off the pace of the leaders.

Here is how the Reds' +12 baserunning breaks down:

From 1st to 3rd: 40 times in 164 opportunities.
From 2nd to Home: 70 times in 123 opportunities.
From 1st to Home: 14 times in 47 opportunities.

And, how successful they were at avoiding hitting into the double play:

Double Play: Grounded into 91 double plays in 960 opportunities.

And, how many extra bases they managed to take, which includes advancing on Wild Pitches, Passed Balls, Balks, Sac Flies, and Defensive Indifference.

131 bases taken

Baserunning Outs, including three categories: "Outs Advancing," which are outs made attempting to score from 1st on a double or 2nd on a single, and outs made attempting to go from 1st to 3rd. Also includes "Doubled Off," which is runners doubled off base on a ball hit in the air and "BR Outs," which includes outs made attempting to advance on a Wild Pitch, a Passed Ball, or a Sac Fly.

The Reds have 27 baserunning outs so far in 2008.

All of which works out to a +26 gain in baserunning so far in 2008.

Now, as for basestealing, the Reds have a -14 mark. On the season, they have stolen 78 bases and been caught 46 times, which is a very poor 63% success rate.

So, overall, the Reds have a +26 gain in baserunning and a -14 in base stealing, which gives them a total of +12.

While it's still difficult to translate the baserunning statistics directly into runs scored, it's clear that the more extra bases a team can take, the better the chances that they will score. The closer you can get to home plate, the greater the likelihood of scoring runs. The Reds just aren't very good at running the bases or stealing them. And, when you are a second tier team, you just can't afford to give away outs on the bases or miss out on opportunities to advance another 90 feet.

If the Reds want to compete in 2009, then they'll have to improve in a myriad of areas and baserunning is certainly one of them. Given their smaller resources and difficulty competing on a pure talent basis, the Reds need to maximize their play in every possible area. A lot of improvement in the small areas can lead to a big improvement in the W/L record.

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