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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MtGrizzlyWow, Montero. Comedic points to the guy that bought an ice cream sandwich and sent it to him in the dugout.1 hour 51 min ago
Gordon GrossWell , As Cab is a good hitter. Not our hitter, but a decent one.2 hours 50 min ago
Gordon GrossAlso TR, Torres is a nice bonus to squeeze in this ifa season. When the Yankees signed basically everyone and will pay a 15 million dollar fine or whatever for doing so, we got some bodies. Wish we'd gotten more pitching tho. I don't trust 16 year old bats. All our latin success is arms.2 hours 51 min ago
Gordon Grosshttp://m.milb.com/news/article/2014082992025546/montero_restrained_in_altercation_in_boise2 hours 55 min ago
Gordon GrossJesus Montero just had his Ryan leaf moment. An Ms cross checker yelled at him to hustle off the field, then ordered an ice cream sandwich and sent it to him in the dugout. Montero tried to go into the stands after him with a bat. Not good... and someone is getting fired.2 hours 56 min ago
GLSI like Chris Young, but he's a bit smoke and mirrors.9 hours 47 min ago
GLSAnd Chris Young probably isn't getting a multi-year deal from anyone. Not at 35 and not with his level of stuff.9 hours 51 min ago
Tacoma RainMariners sign Chris Torres - Dominican 16 year old SS. In an odd story, Torres who thought he was getting a $2+ million from Yankees ends up having to sign for roughly $400K with Mariners. Torres in 6 foot tall, lanky, with above average arm and speed, so he will have no problem staying at SS. Since he is 6 foot tall, he should develop average to above average power as well. Sounds like the kid now has a big chip on his shoulder too after this whole ordeal... Yeah Jack!!!11 hours 53 min ago
moethedogI figured young at $5-$6M. But he may want more than a year and he's no lock to eat up innings. That's why I like Dickey. The way he lobs the ball up there he's not going to have arm problems. If you could get $3M from the Jays, and if you weren't giving up more too much prospect..... I would love to have him. Way more than Young. Even if Walker develops, what are the chances you go through a year with no loss of your other 4 starters? Kuma and Paxton have 29 starts between them: Felix 27.16 hours 37 min ago
SABR MattDickey is too feast or famine for my taste. I like Chris Young just fine. He won't cost more than 6-7 mil/year I think.16 hours 56 min ago
rick82Yeah, not sure about RJ. When Dickey takes a lickin, he tastes like chickin.19 hours 48 min ago
mojicianHere's how the world's best clock works: "Within the clock, lasers push together a ball of 10 million cesium atoms and cool them to near absolute zero (which helps reduce noise). The ball is tossed up in a 3-foot chamber, passing through a microwave beam. The microwave beam kicks some of the cesium atoms up into a higher energy state, which causes them to emit light." This is the inverse principle of how Felix's changeup (the world's best pitch) works. the ball jump drops its energy state mid flight causing it to absorb light and temporarily dissapear. You heard it on SSI.20 hours 9 min ago
Tacoma RainWhat about Walker?... I'd rather go with Young, having Taijuan as a fall back, and then a couple guys like Wade Leblanc or Jack's reclamation projects waiting in Tacoma than spending our limited budget on a pitcher who may not be needed.20 hours 40 min ago
mojicianOr maybe Dickey is like my dad's temperamental Omega watch. It looks great but stops telling time accurately when it doesn't receive a $600 servicing every few years, or it gets too much or too little oil in its many, many moving parts.20 hours 41 min ago
mojicianI dunno Moe, Dickey seems like a good guy to take a flier on, but at $12 million bucks, he'd be the key off season add. In 2015, he could be Cy Young, or he could be a meatball, and that sort of stuff depends on the air pressure and humidity that day, and how he files his fingernails (saw the R.A. Dickey movie on Netflix. He has a set of emery boards). As fine as a Timex is, if you're going to pay top dollar, the watch should have a sapphire face, a sweeping second hand, and be waterproof to a 1000 feet or so.21 hours 4 min ago
moethedogoops21 hours 48 min ago
moethedogRamirez may have been given his last start. Walker is still a '14 work in progress who will probably get his chance to prove something in 2-3 more Seattle starts. Chris Young gets more expensive and is a bit of a gamble beyond this year. Wilhelmsen is a possibility. I mention all that in regards to this: Toronto is evidently dangling RA Dickey. He's good for 200+ innings, 33 starts and a 100 ERA+. But at $12M he's expensive for a #5. I hated it when Seattle let him go years ago because I love the way knuckleballers take the pressure off your bullpen and the rest of your rotation. They are the Timex watches of MLB staffs.21 hours 49 min ago
moethedogWe know we've got a rotation with #'s 1-4 for next year that looks to be Felix, Kuma, Paxton & Elias. That's strong stuff. It is safe to say that Hultzen starts no higher than AA and is on a short inning count next year. Seattle in September for a start or two may be all we can hope for. Ramirez may have been given his last start. Walker is still a '14 work in progress who will probably get his chance to prove something in 2-3 more Seattle starts. Chris Young gets more expensive and is a bit of a gamble beyond this year. Wilhelmsen is a possibility. I mention all that in regards to this: Toronto is evidently dangling RA Dickey. He's good for 200+ innings, 33 starts and a 100 ERA+. But at $12M he's expensive for a #5. I hated it when Seattle let him go years ago because I love the way knuckleballers take the pressure off your bullpen and the rest of your rotation. They are the Timex watches of MLB staffs.21 hours 53 min ago
moethedogIf the trade was right and Toronto paid down his salary a bit, would you be interested in adding a Dickey for '15? Is he a better get than signing Young at, say $5M, or so? If the trade was right and you got $3M in Toronto loonies, I would be in. He's a heck of a security blanket. Way more so than Young. Of course there's the FA market or a guy like Colon..but the sure bet 200 innings are sure nice to think about.21 hours 54 min ago
MtGrizzlyYeah - two things I doubt we see again this year: Erasmo in the rotation and Morrison in RF.1 day 15 hours ago