Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Best and Worst Base Runners of 2011

Steve Slowinski, Editor-in-Chief of who also has his own site (as well as writing for SB Nation and Fangraphs!) was kind enough over on Twitter last night (@SteveSlow) to explain to this old writer how to find base running stats over at And it was fun to look at the leaders and losers in this category in Major League Baseball. As many have pointed out, with runs per game down in the past couple of years, there is more emphasis on base running as a means of scoring runs.

It turns out that quantifying base running is far more difficult than it sounds. There are stolen bases and stolen base percentage. There are bases taken on hits (such as stretching a single into a double, etc.). There are base running events when on base (going from first to third on a single) and there is moving up a base on passed balls and wild pitches. That's complicated! This amateur won't even begin to try to explain all that. Fortunately, in this day and age of stats at our fingertips, others do that for us. All we have to do is know how to search and sort.

First up is your best base runners so far in 2011 along with their base running score as listed by Fangraphs:

  1. Michael Bourn (Astros): Bourn is considered by many to be the fastest player in the majors. It would be fun to see Bourn in a race with Peter Bourjous, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner. Score: 4.7.
  2. Elvis Andrus (Rangers): Andrus is very aggressive on the base paths and it works more often than not. Score 4.7.
  3. Alex Rios (White Sox): Rios is having a bad season. His WAR currently sits at -0.5. But he's still excelling on the base paths. And he must be really good on the bases as he only has six stolen bases. Score: 3.8
  4. Melky Cabrera (Royals): Another surprise. Add this up to the surprising season he is already having. His base running adds a lot to his WAR tally. Score: 3.5
  5. Drew Stubbs (Reds): His base running score really points out how much better a player he would be if he could cut down his strikeouts. His K's lead the National League. Score: 3.4
  6. Alex Gordon (Royals): We should call them the "Runnin' Royals" as Gordon is the second Royal on this list. Score: 3.4
  7. Curtis Granderson (Yankees): Granderson is not only hitting the snot out of the ball but he is using his speed and base running skills to have one of the best all around games in baseball this season. Score: 3.4

It's surprising that Jose Reyes isn't higher on this list. He sits at 18th in the majors despite all those triples and stolen bases. Peter Bourjos, who can flat out fly is 15th. And Brett Gardner is 28th, a ranking that bespeaks those who say he is too tentative on the base paths at times.

The other thing to note is that, other than Granderson, the walk percentage for the other six guys on this list are all less than nine percent. In Cabrera and Andrus' cases, both are under six percent. If only these guys could walk more, imagine what damage they could do!

And now for the worst base runners of 2011:

  1. Paul Konerko (White Sox): While Konerko's offensive numbers are overlooked in baseball, he is a really bad base runner and is rated far and above all others in base running ineptitude. Since he's also not a good fielder, his WAR is never as high as you would think it should be. Score: -7.3
  2. Casey McGehee (Brewers): McGehee's stock as a player has really taken a hit this season. While he is trying to pull every pitch, his average, on base percentage and slugging have all taken hits. Plus, he's a lousy base runner. Score: -4.7
  3. Brett Wallace (Astros): Wallace is hitting well and getting on base well. His power numbers are unexpectedly low. But he's a lousy fielder and a lousy base runner. Score: -3.8
  4. Bobby Abreu (Angels): The Fan doesn't get this one. Abreu always steals bases, even now that he's 86 years old, he steals bases. But he must not do anything else well on the base paths. Score: -3.7
  5. Aramis Ramirez (Cubs): Ramirez is hitting better lately. But his base running is substandard. Score: -3.6

Some other surprisingly bad base runners: Nick Swisher (-3.2), Andre Ethier (-3.2) and Austin Jackson (-2.7). That gives Jackson the trifecta for why he shouldn't be leading off. He's not a good base runner, he doesn't get on base and he strikes out too much.

The worst base runner last year was Adam LaRoche, who had a score of -8.4. Konerko is certainly in line to better (?) that score. Elvis Andrus was the best base runner of 2011 with a score of 8.2. Paul Konerko is the worst base runner for the last five years (2006 to present) with a scary score of -32.3, a full seven points worse than Prince Fielder. Chone Figgins has the best base running score over the last five years at 31.8 followed by Juan Pierre at 24.9.


Jonathan C. Mitchell said...

From my understanding the thing with base running (Bsr) is that it does not include stolen bases and caught stealings. Those are both included in wOBA and since wOBA and Bsr are components of fWAR they did not want SB/CS in the mix twice.

William J. Tasker said...

thanks for the correction!