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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Bat571Or is it just that JackZ and Jeff Luhnow are too far away from NY to take the East Coast Media to their favorite restaurants to explain the long-term strategy to build a winner.4 min 20 sec ago
Bat571And now the articles on how the Yankees farm system is actually pretty good, with prospects enough to make any trade they want. Bleccch!7 min 38 sec ago
Bat571Meanwhile, the Philly, KC, Dodger, Astro, and Ms ownership groups are creating dysfunction throughout the sport by their inability to : rebuild/develop/trade/sign/manage in the manner their franchise deserves. Yeah.9 min 42 sec ago
Bat571Meanwhile, it seems the gamesmanship is getting nasty - I've read that Ruben Amaro jr., Dayton Moore, Ned Colletti, Jeff Luhnow, and Jack Zduriencik are each the worst GMs in the history of baseball, and that each has created a train wreck in their organizations. Meanwhile, Andrew Friedman and Billy Beane have been sighted walking across their respective Bays. And Brian Sabean, who was once vilified in the same terms as the first group, is praised for getting Peavy for two middling 'spects. Sounds like a lot of posturing going on, with Rosenthal and Heyman and Morosi gleefully feeding.14 min ago
IcebreakerXI'd like to see Doc's opinion on the article, but it sounds like GMZ is falling on the sword for The Committee in that article. Lack of focus, organizational schizophrenia, incoherence: It may be sour grapes, but it also sounds like a GM who's not at the helm alone.19 min 25 sec ago
Bat571Spec, what's your take on Lara - I'm about to take back all the nasty things I've said about the M's inability to develop Latin hitters and then you give me pause. What's your concern?22 min 19 sec ago
SpectatorIt's become pretty clear that Z is not strong in the strategic & negotiation aspects of the job. He's a scout, and a very good one. I'm getting the feeling there's no July 31 earthquake either. If I had better confidence in Z's strategic approach, I'd be thinking he's got an early August deal planned for Cliff Lee and Marlon Byrd after they clear waivers. But I don't really.28 min 33 sec ago
moethedogI agree Matt. Said so. In March he was a great get. In the heat of the WC race, if he's our "big" RH bat....then Z messed up. He would allow us to dump Endy, however. But I"m sensing that we L-O-V-E Endy. But he does nothing for Harts black-hole bat.41 min 36 sec ago
moethedogGreat post, terry. We've indicated that about Z. Man, how hard is it to say, "He're my offer. Take it or leave it." I'm convinced that Souza/Grichuk/Lake all could have been ours a month ago (well...2 out of the 3) for Franklin who we won't even use. Rios was there for Smoak, maybe straight up. It would be really interesting to see the deals he backed out of one they were there to be had. And make that "...take CARP back" (not Hart) in the Shout below. Sorry Spec!44 min 5 sec ago
SABR MattDenorfia. Color me completely unimpressed. He helps...but...not enough to make a real difference at all. If Morales and Denorfia is the best we got...I'm out.44 min 35 sec ago
moethedogDenorfia is clearly better than Hart at this point. He may actually be an Endy replacement as he does play CF. I would take Hart back, too Spec. Give 'em something expendable and tell him that 1B is his. Catch some lightning in a bottle, perhaps.49 min 14 sec ago
phxterryMoney quotes on GMZ from the foxsports article quoted by okdan below: "...in numerous conversations, executives from other teams have singled out Zduriencik as one of the most difficult GMs in the sport with whom to do business. Zdurincik’s peers express frustration with his methods – and their complaints are not new." "Zduriencik ... baffles rival executives with his inability to close deals. 'He has made offers and then pulled back after we have said, ‘This is something we would do,' one executive said. 'he responds (by saying) it wasn’t an offer and that he will need to discuss it with his guys.' " Another executive added, “I don’t always get the sense that he knows what he wants to do. One day, he’s interested in one thing. The next day, he’s interested in another."52 min 54 sec ago
SpectatorI personally am not anywhere close to buying in on Jordy Lara. Just me.57 min 39 sec ago
SpectatorI would take Carp back for a marginal prospect. Why wouldn't you? Even though he's LH, he can't be any worse than the guys we've been using.58 min 53 sec ago
SpectatorWell, Chris Denorfia is a upgrade if all your other outfielders are below-average. Oh wait ...1 hour 5 min ago
moethedogTo follow-up my earlier Denorfia Shout: MLBTR--4:11pm: The Mariners and Braves are the two teams pursuing Denorfia most heavily right now, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.1 hour 6 min ago
mojicianDay 4 of Beast Mode Strike: I'll bet any of y'all, (limited to the first five takers) a family size bag of Skittles that Beast Mode ends his hold out before practice on Wednesday and avoids getting hit with a serious fine.1 hour 16 min ago
okdanCot's Contracts for this season have us at ~$90M, so what's Mather thinking of?? Cot's: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0Ah4PW47PiAi-dDB3cjNSRWVmNUVSTDExUEJkSjBVQVE&output=html1 hour 38 min ago
okdanThis quote from Kevin Mather stuck out to me: “I have an ownership group that’s as tired of losing as our fan base is,” team president Kevin Mather told FOX Sports last week. “I get tired of reading that our player payroll is $89 million or $90 million. We’re well over $100 million, and we just added Morales. We feel good about where we are, and we do have some flexibility.”1 hour 40 min ago
okdanCurious article full of sour-grapes about Zduriencik's negotiating style: http://www.foxsports.com/mlb/story/trader-jack-as-seattle-s-gm-struggles-to-complete-deals-some-rival-executives-wonder-0728141 hour 40 min ago