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Friday, August 05, 2005

Circle the Wagons Discussion

Here's a little discussion on my first baserunning article on Baseball Think Factory. I especially liked this insight posted by "John DiFool2".

"What surprised me was how few times they got thrown out per season (5 was the max, for Juan Encarnacion in 2003). When I saw George Bell inthe early 90's for the Cubs, seemed like he got nailed at least a dozen times. I'm sure it was much higher for Hal McRae in his heyday with KC...

If you compare extra bases gained to extra baseopportunities for say Bill Mueller, who got nabbed10 times, it works out to 65/75 or 86.7%. That likely was the worst percentage-several guys never got thrown out.

So why would major league players not risk being thrown out by an OFer, vs. being thrown out by a catcher on a stolen base attempt, where thepercentage chance of making it is much lower? Is it because the spread of opportunities (always make it/maybe make it/never make it and everything in between) is much greater than it is for a stolen base? That is, most of the time it is easy for the baserunner to make an informed decision ofhis chances, and most of the time it is black andwhite, and few real gambles. On a SB attempt tho you have already rolled the dice by the time the catcher has thrown, thus giving you little chance to change your mind (well sometimes a runner will "bluff" towards second, probably because he saw he would be dead-mainly from reading the pitcher tho).

Or is it because being thrown out on the bases carries much more of a stigma than being thrown out attempting to steal? I know listening to broadcasts it seems like announcers will harp on a guy who got nailed by an OFer, but a CS is seen as a "worthwhile", honorable gamble."

1 comment:

Dan Agonistes said...

I'm not too proud to be the first to comment on my own post :)

I just read where in the 1986 Baseball Abstract Bill James had this to say regarding some baserunning data he gleaned from Project Scoresheet for the Mariners.

"I am particularly surprised that so few runners are thrown out during a season attempting to stretch a hit - only 5 for the Mariners, 7 for their opponents and 4 for the Rangers in 1983. In 1977, when Hal McRae had 86 extra-base hits, I would bet that he was thrown out stretching about 30 times. Seeemed like more than that.

This implies, anyway, that hitters don't try to take second on a hit unless they are...what, 98.5% sure of making it. The Mariners hit 277 doubles last year, and...had no more than 5 runners thrown out trying to stretch a single. Doesn't that seem strange? Why are teams so reluctant to challenge outfielder's arms, when they will try to steal second base with no more than a 60% chance of making it."

Two idea spring to mind. First, it could be that runners have much better information when making decisions about stretching as mentioned by the poster. The other is that they simply don't know the real odds. I would bet on the latter.