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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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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rick82I'd rather have Saunders than Kemp in right at this point, and I'm not certain which one is less injury prone. I do know which is more affordable :-)38 min 13 sec ago
drmI actually really worry about the rumors that he was terrible off the field. It's the main reason I want to wait. I want nothing to mess with our chemistry. This team seems really close and I worry that a guy who doesn't work hard, will mess with the chemistry. I got the impression teammates were not impressed.38 min 49 sec ago
tjmSome interesting info on the outfield trade candidate front: LA Times piece today on Matt Kemp says he hates playing left field, doesn't play it very well, and is below average in center. He really only sees himself as a right fielder, which limits his value to a team like the M's, I'd think.40 min 29 sec ago
rick82Seems prudent, drm, but seriously, what does Montero have to prove? The guy will mash lefties falling out of bed, even if his kid's been crying all night. We have some important games coming up and we could really use a lefty masher on our bench for them. Move Hart to first and dh Montero against lefties. If Hart is coming back, that should scare a few left handers.42 min 50 sec ago
rick82The AME (Ackley Mirage Effect) is here: .802 OPS over the past 14 days ("wind aided" by a four day layoff), 1.056 over the past week. Here's something interesting, his "Late and Close" batting average is .283. So, another week of this, and Dustin could become a very valuable chip as well. Or, will Moe's nightmare come true and will we decide Dustin is "fixed"? Stay tuned!48 min 24 sec ago
drmLet's see Montero do it another week at home, then I'll be ready to bring him up. That will be a month of time in AAA.50 min 43 sec ago
rick82Something about Zunino: his numbers are less than impressive, but you know what? Those are very, as Doc would say, "hard rbi's". Mike doesn't pad his numbers in meaningless games. It seems every home run, every RBI, has an important role in a victory. I think WAR understates his real value, and not just behind the plate.55 min 30 sec ago
rick82Now, let's see Franklin get hot, and get a bidding war of sorts going, so at least we can bury these "throw in Maurer and you have a deal" demands.1 hour 4 min ago
rick82I had suspected recent games were better than the overall home numbers suggested, benihana, but I didn't realize they were that good. That is significant. Thanks for doing the legwork. Hart better have a good week if he wants to keep is job. And if he does, I would strongly consider a LoMo/Hart first base platoon sharing DH duties with Montero.1 hour 8 min ago
OBFIt's like the Mariners as a franchise are allergic to good DH's... Ever since Edgar left our DHs have been terrible... call it the Edgar curse I guess...1 hour 11 min ago
Gordon GrossAnother year, another liner to the face for our top hitting prospect. Alex Jackson lost a ball in the lights and left the game after it tagged him in the head. http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20140722&content_id=85676790&fext=.jsp&vkey=news_milb&sid=milb1 hour 21 min ago
benihana*7/17 2 hr, 1 2b, 3 BB, 4 k - 6 games. Cherry picking stats is cherry picking stats - but performance since last call-up seems more relevant to me.1 hour 23 min ago
benihanaSince Montero was sent back down to AAA (June 28th) he's batting .411/.588/.824 at HOME! In TACOMA!2 hours 10 min ago
rick82I thought Hart looked better last night as well.2 hours 57 min ago
rick82Last night in Tacoma he hit a homer and a double. We'll have to monitor it, but I suspect a lot of it simply coincides with road games. Maybe he's getting better rest away from the crying baby :-)2 hours 58 min ago
MtGrizzly@ProspectInsider: Re: last tweet -- That strongly suggests his 'hot streak' has been fed very much by the munchies ALB, ELP, SLC, RENO offer. #hitterparadise4 hours 35 min ago
MtGrizzly@ProspectInsider: In his last 23 HOME gms, Jesus Montero is batting .259/.340/.395. That dates back to late May, covering his entire 'hot streak.'4 hours 36 min ago
drmWhen Montero starts hitting at home, then they can bring him up. He's hitting like .240ish at home.8 hours 13 min ago
bsrDontrelle Willis and Carlos Zambrano are both available, and they are both lifetime much better hitters than our DH's.9 hours 35 min ago
bsrrick you are on to something with our DH woes. Can we even fathom the fact that our collective DH this year is hitting 195/272/292 with 8 HR? Even in 2010, we managed a 194/269/340 with 21 HR. Guys - you realize there are EIGHT PITCHERS in the NL with >10 PA's who are hitting better than our DH's. I just...I just don't understand.9 hours 41 min ago