FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Clogging the Bases

Just in case anyone needed confirmation that Dusty Baker is not a very good tactical manager, there was the following gem from the Cubs website today. In response to a question about why the Cubs took so long to reach double-digit walks this spring Dusty replied...

"No. 1, I've let most guys hit 3-0 (in the count). That's one reason," Baker said. "I think walks are overrated unless you can run. If you get a walk and put the pitcher in a stretch, that helps, but the guy who walks and can't run, most of the time he's clogging up the bases for somebody who can run."

I certainly agree with his first point and taking 3-0 walks in spring training is not real productive. But, drawing walks simply "clogs" up the bases unless you can run? Implied in his comment is the belief that runners score more often as the result of their speed through the stolen base or taking the extra base than they do otherwise, and that getting more runners on is somehow detrimental to team success. While I haven't done a study on it there is no doubt in my mind that the sabermetric wisdom devaluing the stolen base is correct. The stolen base is a tactical weapon to be used in specific circumstances, not a general tool that can be used to generate a large number of runs.

Further, it's hard to fathom how someone who watched Barry Bonds day in and day out and Sammy Sosa last year could fail to perceive the value of a walk, especially in front of power hitters like these. While I think Dusty is a great manager in his primary role as team cheerleader and politician, he continually shows a lack of understanding regarding some fairly elementary aspects of the game. His approach to bunting being another example.

I guess I'm of the belief that since the base on balls is not exciting (like the stolen base, hit and run, and sacrifice) it gets lost in the noise of the game. Human beings probably have difficulty perceiving the cumulative value of such non-events over such a long stretch as 162 games while exciting events that do make the difference, albeit more rarely, stick out and are zeroed in on as a favored strategy. Of course that explains why the real value of plate discipline was "discovered" only after data could be analyzed separately from the pure experience of watching the games themselves. See my comments on Be The House.

No comments: