Ichiro's Baserunning

Added 9-10 runs per year on the bases?

John Dewan, in the public area at BJOL, writes

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The Bill James Handbook 2013, which will release on November 1, will include a new section on career baserunning. A baserunning gain is the total of all types of extra baserunning advances minus the penalty for baserunning outs against expectations, including both stolen bases and all other baserunning situations. Among active players with a minimum of 1,000 games played, Ichiro Suzuki leads the way with +371 Net Gain, which is the cumulative total of all gains minus penalties in his career. As a frame of reference, think of it this way: a baserunner gets one "gain point" for each extra base taken, and loses about three "gain points" for each out on the basepaths. With a +371, Suzuki has a lot of extra bases taken despite the occasional out on the bases.

When the Yankees traded for Suzuki, his defensive upgrade over the Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones platoon received the majority of the headlines. However, the Yankees also upgraded on the basepaths. Neither Ibanez nor Jones has a positive career total, and neither has the speed they once had. Suzuki has done little to help his new club offensively, but he can still contribute off the bench as a pinch runner.

Here is the top-five in career baserunning:

Best Career Baserunners
Player Net Gain
Ichiro Suzuki +371
Carl Crawford +347
Jimmy Rollins +335
Juan Pierre +323
Carlos Beltran +309

 

Unsurprisingly, Suzuki, Carl Crawford, and Juan Pierre are second, third, and first in career stolen bases among active players, and Jimmy Rollins is not far behind in sixth.

On the other end of the spectrum, Paul Konerko and Juan Rivera managed to beat out a trio of catchers for the worst career baserunners:

Worst Career Baserunners
Player Net Gain
Paul Konerko -181
Juan Rivera -175
Ramon Hernandez -159
A.J. Pierzynski -155
Yadier Molina -151

 

It has been three years since Rivera had his last solid season, and the Dodgers have spent their way out of needing to give him playing time. Meanwhile, Konerko continues to hit well enough into his late 30s to make up for his poor fielding and baserunning.

Note: Totals are career totals for active players since we began collecting this data in 2002.

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Bases taken while running are usually worth, depending on the situation, +0.25 to maybe +0.30 runs.  Baserunner kills, such as John Jaso has come to specialize in offensively, are usually worth -0.70 to -0.80 runs, depending.  Here is a run expectancy chart and here's one that isolates the gain and loss for you in each situation.

I used to think that SB's were worth 0.30 runs and CS's worth -0.60, based on Pete Palmer's first chart about a thousand years ago.  But come to look at the RE matrix a little closer and you can see why it's better to weight a "baserunner kill" as worth three stolen bases.  For example, leading off the inning with a walk you're at +0.94 expected runs; swipe second, and you're at 1.17 runs, a gain of 0.23 runs.  But get killed at 2B and the run expectancy is down to 0.29 -- you've lost 0.65 runs.  That's an x3 multiplier, not an x2.

So in retrospect, Ichiro's odd conservatism on the bases turns out to be several yards ahead of the curve.  (However, his tendency to let an out go by, before stealing the base, did not help the Mariners.)

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Counting not only SB's and CS's, but also 1st-to-3rd bases, James' and Dewan measure Ichiro as being THE most deadly baserunner of his decade.  And by a long ways.  Carlos Beltran is in the top 5 in the entire game - and Ichiro is 20% ahead of him.  Imagine a player whose AVG was 20% higher than the #5 AVG in the league for a decade - say, .375 vs .313.

At +371 bases in ten years (2002-2011), those 37 net bases are fully one every fourth game - about 9.5 runs per season.  The Fangraphs system credits Ichiro with a piddling 2.1 runs per season for his legs.

What happens if you posit +9.5 yearly runs on the bases instead of +2.1 runs for Ichiro?  His WAR for the decade goes from 53 to 60, moving him ahead of Barry Bonds into #3 in baseball.  While Ichiro was at 60, only fifteen players were over 40 for the decade.  Mike Piazza, Vlad Guerrero and Todd Helton have fewer than 60 WAR for their careers.  Half of Hall of Famers do.

We watched a clinic out there.

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Ichiro had several multi-hit games this week for the Yankees and his NYY line is up to .291/.318/.411 in 47 games, closing in on 1/3 of a season for them.  He is swinging at drastically fewer pitches outside the zone than he was in Seattle, is contacting many fewer of them, and is hitting the ball much harder.  My guess is that he'll stay around .300/.325/.400 for several years now, if he plays for an elite team.

.300/.325/.400 is fine for a leadoff hitter.  However you slice up the UZR, an old Ichiro is still +10 runs defensively over the Nelson Cruzes and Nick Swishers of the RF world.  If he's still getting 5-10 runs on the bases, and is about league average OPS'ively, he's a leadoff hitter who is helping a good team win.  If a GM pencils in that 5-10 runs on the bases, then along with the 10 runs with the glove, Ichiro may project to be the only 40-ish player in the game who could slog along at 3 WAR per season.

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It was not realized, for a long time, what the problems were with UZR.  If Fangraphs' baserunning numbers have issues also, then it could be that Michael Saunders, Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley and Trayvon Robinson are being short-sold for their running production.

Saunders is at 2.2 WAR this year; Seager's at 3.3.  It's possible that Saunders is already a 3-WAR player, Seager a 4-WAR player. 

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Comments

No, Seager and Saunders probably are already a 4-WAR player and a 3-WAR player, even without baserunning upgrades. WAR uses three-year park effects, which means that they're undercompensating for whatever is happening at Safeco this year. This means that the entire Mariners offense is undervalued by offensive WAR, especially the guys (Seager, Saunders and Montero) getting hit hardest by Safeco.

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mojicianSurfed over to Spec's site and saw an ad that the fleet is coming. This has raised several questions: 1. What is the Fleet? 2. When is it coming? 3. Is it Iwakuma, Paxton and Walker or something a little further off? Fleets can't have too many aircraft carriers, but subs and destroyers are also necessary. 4. Will the Mariners play better when the fleet comes?3 hours 48 min ago
SABR MattThat...is a small number of events, rick. :) But yes...it may turn out that Almonte works the count well but does not have enough contact skill to do anything with a strike in a long count. I think Almonte's track record in the minors suggests that he'll never hit for a high average...not quite proficient enough at making contact.4 hours 39 min ago
rick82Yesterday Almonte worked hard to get to the 3-2 count, and right on cue struck out. Interesting how well he hits the first and second pitch, but after that, has so much trouble hitting anything. You'd think a 3-2 pitch would be hittable, because no one would want to put him on base. But he can't hit it. In 16 full count at bats this year, Almonte has struck out in 9 of them, and has not drawn A SINGLE WALK. That to me is real strange. Anyone else here think that's strange?5 hours 30 min ago
SABR MattGillespie should steal ALL of LoMo's time..and some of Almonte's time. I am not "fed up" with Almonte...he's still getting deep into counts and making the pitchers work...I just would like to see him get some rest.5 hours 43 min ago
SABR MattLOL...Kuma comes back and pulls a Japanese high school championships...18 innings, one day.5 hours 44 min ago
mojicianI already have Kuma scheduled to pitch both games on May 7.7 hours 24 min ago
SpectatorDrayer tweets that E-Ram to High Desert to keep him on proper rest schedule to start one of May 7 double header in Oakland. Makeup for the soggy grounds game.7 hours 53 min ago
moethedogYou know what, I would love to see a OF trio (in some configuration) of Saunders/Gillespie/Romero w/Saunders in CF for Friday and Saturday's games, regardless of the handedness of the opposing pitcher. I'm pretty fed up with Almonte right now...so sit him. And Ackley? The last 4 games have been somewhat discouraging, but hopefully the hitting Ackley soon appears. I'm not married to him, however. Or perhaps we get a LH and we sit Smoak with Hart at 1B.8 hours 24 min ago
KingCorranIt'll be interesting to see whose playing time ends up suffering in the wake of Gillespie's arrival. Does this precede a Romero demotion? Are Saunders and Morrison going to be even more limited in their respective opportunities? Or is this the wrench thrown into the gears which finally jars Almonte loose from his 'untouchable, unrestable, Certified Leadoff Guy' status?8 hours 40 min ago
SABR MattGlad to see Cole Gillespie up. I think he will outhit Saunders/Morrison in the short term. But we shall see.8 hours 45 min ago
JDDubI knew what you meant for sure Moe, just joking around :) We have quite a few guys that we can't live with in our lineup, but for some reason we can't live without 'em either.10 hours 1 min ago
moethedogRight on, JD. My point was that he can't live there and help us much. Clarity would help, wouldn't it.10 hours 7 min ago
JDDubSure he can Moe, he's been doing it for years! Career ISO 110, he's cranked it up to 127 this season. Ackley has shown a couple little flashes this year of what could be, but not nearly often enough. Mark Kotsay-lite, with more K's. And now we get to enjoy the added bonus of this at a corner outfield slot!10 hours 31 min ago
moethedogAckley with only 2 BB's in his last 67 PA's. I'm also a bit worried about his lack of pop right now. Only one 2B in ten games. he's gone frigid over the last 4 games, which happens. but he can't live as a .280-.330 guy without a truck load of doubles.11 hours 37 min ago
phxterryCan anybody discern a semblence of a plan in bringing Franklin up for the last few days, playing him in RF one day, and then sending him back down to AAA? Maybe GMZ & Lloyd thought the combination of having Franklin go 3 for 20 and having him demonstrate that he can't play the OF added to his trade value.11 hours 39 min ago
moethedogBTW, Spec....Was that Dutton guesstimating or was it based on some contact with the FO?11 hours 43 min ago
moethedogInteresting Spec. That gives the M's 5 pure OF's, plus Bloomquist and Hart who have played out there. If he gets the CF time that Almonte doesn't (if that ever happens) then it would indicate that Saunders is not going to get much time at all, as long as McClendon is the Skip. Gillespie certainly deserves a shot, but I would have thought that moving Almonte down was the move that would predicate Cole's call-up. I would imagine that the move clears some OF space for Franklin in Tacoma, as well. Mostly I would like to see him play 2B/SS down there with a touch of CF. I might think that Gillespie could be used in a platoon with Ackley, but Ackley has no split difference over his career (he just isn't very good against anybody). Or we may see Hart go to 1B vs. LHP with Gillespie/Romero filling DH/RF. But I really hope the move is designed to get Almonte out of the lineup for 5 or 6 days.12 hours 21 min ago
SpectatorReports are that Cole Gillespie will be the guy to come up, so I've bumped by February post on him back up to the front: http://marinerbrainstorm.com/2014/04/24/q-is-cole-gillespie-worth-paying-attention-to/20 hours 48 min ago
moethedogGuys, unless we give Franklin the 3B or SS job there is no real IF role for him. Unless we demote Almonte (which I'm all over) and put Saunders in CF he gives us nothing more than we have in RF (and probably less). He isn't playing 1B and he isn't going to DH over Hart. Where do you want him to play? Barring injury, Cano likely ended the Franklin era in Seattle (If 1/2 a season is an "era?"). I'm a fan, really......but his greatest value to us is in what he brings in return. We've got SS's up the wazzu and DJ about to arrive, remember. I think bringing him in this week was a bad move, because if he struggled (as he did) it may have dinged up his trade value. Send him to Tacoma and bring him back if we get an IF injury or Miller stays lost. And try to trade him for something nice in the meantime.1 day 8 min ago
MtGrizzlyPineda kicked out a game for having pine tar on his neck.1 day 30 min ago