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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Baserunning for the Ages


I've been writing mostly about defense over at Baseball Prospectus and here in the past couple of months and so I thought I'd revisit the topic of baserunning today.

Although in my column I talked about the greatest baserunners of the Retrosheet era and here have extolled the virtues of Tim Raines, Robin Yount and others, I noticed that I've failed in either venue to list the top and bottom single seasons of that era.

So today here are the top and bottom 50 baserunning seasons in terms of total Equivalent Baserunning Runs (EqBRR). And don't forget that an essay describing the system and its metrics titled "The Tortoise, the Hare, and Juan Pierre" appears in Baseball Prospectus 2008, which I'm told, is shipping now. Also, I'll be talking about the book with Christina Kahrl and Nate Silver Wednesday, March 5th at 7:30 pm at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Historic LoDo in Denver.

First, the top 50 seasons.


Name Year EqGAR EqSBR EqAAR EqHAR EqOAR TotOpps EqBRR EqBRRate
Maury Wills 1962 0.8 13.8 2.3 3.6 0.1 848 20.6 1.26
Willie Wilson 1980 0.5 10.0 4.2 3.9 0.5 741 19.1 1.35
Rickey Henderson 1985 2.6 9.8 1.0 3.1 2.3 663 18.8 1.43
Vince Coleman 1986 0.0 11.0 0.3 0.9 4.2 627 16.4 1.26
Willie Wilson 1979 2.1 9.2 0.7 2.8 0.9 563 15.7 1.33
Eric Davis 1986 -0.3 10.2 0.5 1.7 3.2 403 15.3 1.55
Rickey Henderson 1988 2.3 9.0 1.3 -2.0 3.8 650 14.4 1.27
Vince Coleman 1987 2.5 7.1 1.2 2.4 0.8 723 14.1 1.28
Tim Raines Sr 1983 0.9 7.6 1.8 2.7 0.6 762 13.6 1.22
Bobby Bonds 1972 2.0 6.0 1.6 3.6 0.5 517 13.6 1.42
Kenny Lofton 1993 1.5 8.1 -0.1 4.3 -0.5 717 13.3 1.17
Lonnie Smith 1985 2.8 1.4 2.5 2.9 3.1 460 12.8 1.85
Willie Wilson 1987 0.4 7.1 0.6 3.9 0.7 581 12.6 1.24
Juan Pierre 2007 0.3 4.2 1.9 5.0 0.6 666 12.0 1.40
Davey Lopes 1978 0.6 5.8 1.9 1.4 2.1 580 11.8 1.24
Vince Coleman 1985 1.2 10.7 0.7 0.6 -1.4 665 11.8 1.06
Rickey Henderson 1983 0.9 7.8 1.3 0.1 1.6 609 11.7 1.17
Gary Pettis 1985 2.1 7.4 0.7 0.2 1.3 470 11.7 1.31
Johnny Damon 2000 3.1 2.7 -0.7 4.2 2.2 743 11.5 1.33
Ron LeFlore 1979 2.3 5.6 1.3 1.9 0.4 602 11.5 1.30
Davey Lopes 1975 0.4 8.6 -1.3 2.2 1.4 685 11.4 1.14
Barry Larkin 1995 1.3 5.5 1.2 1.3 1.9 526 11.2 1.31
Tim Raines Sr 1985 1.6 9.4 0.8 -0.6 0.0 726 11.2 1.08
Willie Wilson 1983 1.9 7.0 -0.6 1.4 1.5 532 11.2 1.24
Ivan DeJesus 1978 1.0 2.2 1.7 4.5 1.7 625 11.1 1.38
Hanley Ramirez 2006 3.1 1.7 1.3 3.5 1.5 576 11.0 1.50
Joe Morgan 1975 0.8 6.3 0.9 2.0 0.9 618 10.8 1.27
Ron LeFlore 1980 0.1 11.0 0.3 -0.1 -0.5 611 10.7 0.99
Tim Raines Sr 1987 -0.5 7.2 0.3 2.5 0.9 567 10.4 1.17
Ray Durham 1998 1.2 2.0 1.8 3.6 1.8 611 10.4 1.37
Juan Pierre 2005 3.6 1.7 -0.3 2.5 2.9 665 10.4 1.43
Chone Figgins 2005 4.4 0.7 1.9 2.5 0.8 619 10.3 1.43
Marquis Grissom 1992 -0.3 6.5 2.1 0.1 1.8 567 10.2 1.19
Rickey Henderson 1984 0.9 2.4 2.1 3.9 0.9 599 10.2 1.31
Tim Raines Sr 1982 3.3 5.7 -0.2 1.2 0.1 626 10.1 1.25
Tim Raines Sr 1992 0.3 5.3 1.5 3.0 0.1 669 10.1 1.24
Al Wiggins 1983 0.3 4.1 0.9 0.4 4.4 582 10.0 1.29
Bert Campaneris 1969 1.3 5.8 -0.5 2.5 0.8 565 9.9 1.29
Kenny Lofton 1994 1.7 4.5 -1.1 3.4 1.4 574 9.9 1.23
Ron LeFlore 1978 2.3 5.2 0.6 2.3 -0.6 720 9.9 1.20
Chone Figgins 2006 2.1 0.8 1.6 4.9 0.4 577 9.9 1.48
Omar Moreno 1979 1.5 3.8 0.7 3.0 0.8 619 9.8 1.29
Scott Podsednik 2003 1.8 4.6 1.0 3.2 -0.6 542 9.8 1.34
Joe Morgan 1976 0.1 5.5 0.4 2.7 1.0 504 9.7 1.28
Tom Goodwin 2000 1.0 3.9 1.3 2.9 0.5 445 9.7 1.37
Milt Cuyler 1991 0.9 3.1 2.0 0.8 2.8 438 9.7 1.47
Davey Lopes 1976 0.6 7.3 0.5 1.7 -0.5 508 9.7 1.12
Willie Wilson 1984 1.7 5.1 2.1 0.8 -0.1 530 9.7 1.24
Tony Gwynn 1987 0.3 2.0 1.4 3.5 2.3 682 9.6 1.36
Luis Castillo 2007 1.0 0.6 1.1 3.1 3.8 528 9.6 1.51


As you can probably tell most of these top 50 are driven by high EqSBR scores with Maury Wills 1962 season at the top of the heap. There were a few players though, like Lonnie Smith in 1985 who excelled despite pedestrian work stealing bases. Related to that point you'll also notice that the final column we have a rate statistic titled EqBRRate. I explained the idea behind it in the column cited above.

...it turns out that when many folks talk about baserunning, they're not really thinking about discretionary stolen base attempts, but instead that combination of speed, risk taking, and judgment that goes into evaluating situations, and that when aggregated leads us to assert that a particular player is a good baserunner. Since EqSBR is primarily comprised of stolen base attempts (with a few pickoffs thrown in) our new rate statistic, which we'll christen Equivalent Baserunning Rate (EqBRRate), will omit this aspect.

So...we'll define EqBRRate as the ratio of actual or total runs to expected runs contributed across the four remaining metrics. Since both values for individual opportunities consider the context and are weighted appropriately (an EqOAR opportunity has both a lower expected and usually actual run value associated with it than an opportunity of EqHAR) and since we're eliminating EqSBR, both weaknesses discussed above addressed. To illustrate how this works, let's consider Chone Figgins' 2007 season:


Metric Opps TotRuns ExpRuns
EqOAR 314 0.1 1.2
EqGAR 31 3.2 2.6
EqAAR 44 5.7 4.7
EqHAR 53 10.1 5.6
442 19.0 14.2


Taking the context of the opportunities into account, we would have expected Figgins to net +14.2 runs across the four metrics, but he actually contributed +19.0 runs. When we divide the total by the expected we get a ratio of 1.34, indicating that he contributed, or manufactured if you will, 34 percent more runs than expected.
So as you can see Smith's 1985 season actually comes out on top with a EqBRRate of 1.85 easily topping the 1986 season of Eric Davis at 1.55. The lowest rate out of the top 50 is Ron LeFlore's 1980 season where he was actually below 1.00 at 0.99 but made the top 50 by virtue of his 11.0 EqSBR.

And now the bottom 50...


Name Year EqGAR EqSBR EqAAR EqHAR EqOAR TotOpps EqBRR EqBRRate
Carlos Delgado 2007 -0.4 -0.2 -2.9 -3.6 -0.4 394 -7.5 0.41
Jose Offerman 1992 0.5 -4.9 -1.3 -1.1 -0.7 505 -7.5 0.86
Eddie Murray 1990 -1.2 -4.2 0.2 -3.5 1.1 521 -7.5 0.82
Scott Cooper 1994 0.1 -2.3 -0.4 -5.2 0.3 306 -7.5 0.45
Rick Wilkins 1996 -0.4 -1.7 -1.3 -4.3 0.2 264 -7.6 0.41
Pat Burrell 2005 -0.5 -0.2 -0.7 -5.6 -0.7 368 -7.6 0.42
Randy Milligan 1991 -0.5 -3.7 -0.5 -2.1 -0.8 414 -7.6 0.67
Manny Trillo 1982 -0.1 -4.1 -1.9 -1.9 0.3 430 -7.6 0.72
Larry Sheets 1988 -0.7 -4.3 -0.8 -1.8 -0.2 286 -7.7 0.58
Bill Freehan 1971 -1.1 -3.1 -1.8 -1.7 -0.1 331 -7.8 0.43
Dave Parker 1977 -0.4 -6.4 -0.9 0.7 -0.8 531 -7.8 0.93
Jorge Posada 2007 -1.3 -0.1 -0.7 -4.2 -1.6 507 -7.8 0.59
Ted Simmons 1975 -1.5 -1.7 0.3 -4.8 -0.2 573 -7.9 0.72
Ed Bailey 1963 0.0 -3.9 -0.4 -3.3 -0.4 231 -7.9 0.35
Gene Richards 1982 -1.3 -4.8 0.0 -2.0 0.1 455 -8.0 0.81
Jim Thome 2004 -0.5 -1.4 -3.2 -3.2 0.3 436 -8.0 0.59
David Justice 1997 -0.7 -3.3 -0.3 -3.0 -0.7 398 -8.0 0.61
Dan Meyer 1977 -0.9 -2.0 -1.3 -4.6 0.7 409 -8.1 0.60
Jim Norris 1977 -0.1 -3.8 0.2 -2.9 -1.5 447 -8.1 0.73
Felix Jose 1991 -1.8 -3.5 -2.5 0.7 -1.0 482 -8.1 0.62
Lance Parrish 1979 0.0 -3.7 -2.6 -1.5 -0.4 361 -8.1 0.62
Steve Garvey 1980 -0.4 -5.5 -0.9 -0.8 -0.6 467 -8.1 0.78
Steve Henderson 1983 0.2 -7.5 0.6 -0.7 -0.8 362 -8.2 0.93
Carlos Delgado 2000 -0.6 -1.4 -1.4 -3.6 -1.1 618 -8.2 0.58
Al Oliver 1977 -0.1 -7.0 -0.2 -0.1 -0.8 474 -8.2 0.88
Tom Foley 1988 -0.1 -4.4 -0.4 -1.6 -1.7 279 -8.3 0.53
Dale Berra 1984 1.2 -2.8 -0.9 -5.2 -0.7 297 -8.4 0.57
Tommy McCraw 1972 -0.5 -5.9 -1.5 -0.5 0.0 299 -8.4 0.76
Joe Cunningham 1959 -0.8 -2.3 0.4 -5.3 -0.4 504 -8.5 0.60
Pete O'Brien 1984 -0.4 -3.1 -1.4 -2.9 -0.6 428 -8.5 0.52
Kenny Lofton 1997 0.4 -9.4 -0.1 0.6 0.0 539 -8.5 1.06
Frank Thomas 2000 -1.0 -1.6 -1.6 -3.4 -1.0 535 -8.6 0.47
Harold Reynolds 1988 -0.7 -7.8 1.0 -1.2 0.0 535 -8.7 0.95
Eddie Yost 1957 0.3 -5.4 -0.9 -2.8 0.0 394 -8.7 0.62
Joe Morgan 1980 -0.2 -2.0 -0.3 -6.5 0.3 434 -8.8 0.55
Clete Boyer 1970 0.6 -1.6 -0.2 -6.9 -0.8 307 -8.8 0.21
Ed Kranepool 1967 -0.8 -1.9 -0.1 -5.7 -0.4 323 -8.8 0.39
Mike Hargrove 1979 -1.8 -2.3 -0.2 -4.2 -0.5 522 -8.8 0.69
Jose Cruz 1977 -0.1 -8.3 0.5 -1.3 0.3 483 -8.9 0.95
Ernie Whitt 1989 -1.4 -1.0 -1.7 -4.0 -0.9 313 -9.0 0.34
Harmon Killebrew 1970 -0.8 -2.1 -0.7 -4.6 -1.0 435 -9.0 0.56
Tom Pagnozzi 1991 -1.5 -4.8 -0.7 -1.5 -0.8 391 -9.3 0.61
Bob Kearney 1984 -0.1 -2.6 -2.0 -3.8 -0.9 290 -9.4 0.29
Ryan Garko 2007 -1.0 -0.4 0.2 -7.7 -0.5 403 -9.4 0.32
Rod Carew 1982 0.1 -5.5 -0.2 -3.2 -0.7 558 -9.5 0.71
Tom Brunansky 1992 -0.6 -3.1 -1.8 -3.4 -0.7 373 -9.6 0.43
Todd Zeile 1997 -0.5 -4.8 0.0 -4.5 -0.4 484 -10.2 0.64
Mike Epstein 1971 -0.2 -2.5 -2.4 -4.4 -1.1 311 -10.6 0.38
Todd Zeile 1992 -0.7 -4.0 -1.1 -5.4 0.0 425 -11.2 0.52
Tony Bernazard 1984 -0.1 -6.9 -0.3 -3.4 -0.6 364 -11.2 0.62


There are some real "ice wagons" here (in the parlance of the dead ball era referring to poor baserunners) of course although many of these as well are here because they did so poorly in EqSBR (Tony Bernazard, Jose Cruz, and Kenny Lofton are three notable examples). The Indians Ryan Garko makes the list with his 2007 campaign primarily because he was thrown out trying to advance on hits five times - all at the plate - on his way to an historic -7.7 runs on EqHAR.

From a pure baserunning perspective Clete Boyer with his 1970 campaign ranks dead last at 0.21 with Bob Kearney in 1984 at 0.29 and Garko close behind. Lofton's 1997 season is the only one with a rate of 1.00 or higher at 1.06 but his EqSBR of -9.4 sinks him.