Bad Baserunning? | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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Bad Baserunning?

By on April 1, 2014

If you are a Brewers fan tiring of Ron Roenicke‘s aggressive baserunning approach, you had plenty to complain about by the end of the first inning of Opening Day. In an otherwise exceptional victory for the Brewers, Carlos Gomez made the first baserunning mistake on the very first play for the 2014 Brewers. After Justin Upton misplayed Gomez’s hit, Gomez reached 2nd and headed to 3rd on the error. Upton faked out Gomez and easily threw out the Brewers’ aggressive centerfielder, reducing a 2nd-and-no-out situation to a bases-empty-one-out situation. This definitely impacted the Brewers’ first chance to work their middle of the order with runners on (and, yes, it took away Gomez’s first chance at stealing third).

Despite Gomez’s play, the Brewers atoned for their aggressive mistake with a flawless fourth inning. During the only inning with scoring, the Brewers used two strong baserunning plays to directly increase their runs scored. First, Jean Segura reached third base on Ryan Braun‘s single. This set up a first-and-third situation with no one out, as Aramis Ramirez came to the plate. To eliminate a potential double play and get into scoring position, Braun stole second base. Ramirez promptly doubled home Segura and Braun. One can argue that had Ramirez doubled without a stolen base, Braun could have scored from first, but the stolen base basically guaranteed that run scored on the extra base hit.

Finally, Jonathan Lucroy completed the Brewers’ baserunning day with a two-out steal of second while Khris Davis batted. Although Lucroy’s stolen base appears useless in hindsight, the simple fact is he added yet another runner into scoring position for the Brewers. This is especially important with two outs in the inning, as Lucroy could have run home on any contact. Davis struck out, making the argument obsolete.

Inning Play Situation
1 Carlos Gomez out at 3rd after single and error 0 out
4 Jean Segura goes 1st to 3rd on Braun single 0 out
4 Ryan Braun steals second with Ramirez batting 0 out
6 Jonathan Lucroy steals second with Davis batting 2 out

Overall, these plays showcase the frustration of some of Roenicke’s Brewers’ players, as well as the benefits. It is impossible to argue against Gomez’s play without taking into consideration Braun’s and Segura’s baserunning advances.

Running Ron Roenicke
My opinion on Roenicke’s aggression has fluctuated over the years, as has the basic performance of the Brewers on the basepaths. If one follows publications such as the Bill James Handbooks, which isolate baserunning plays and present team baserunning performances, one gets the picture that a team can benefit from an aggressive baserunning strategy regardless of some individual mistakes. In the case of Roenicke’s Brewers, the jury is mixed; there is no single season during his tenure that sweeps stolen bases, advancing on hits, and reducing outs. While his 2012 Brewers presented the perfect storm of power and speed, delightfully pairing aggressive running with bigtime hits, the 2013 Brewers showed an inability to turn their replacement fielders into baserunning stars.

(The following stats are from Baseball-Reference, and not the Bill James Handbooks).

Event Best Year
1st-to-3rd 2011
1st Dbl to H 2012
2nd-to-H 2011
Total Outs 2012
SB2 2012
SB3 2013
SBH 2013

Advancing the Extra Base
While the 2011 Brewers did not post the best percentage on all baserunning advance plays, there is a sense that their comprehensive baserunning performance on hits was the best of Roenicke’s campaign. Specifically, the 2011 Brewers combined a high number of baserunning-play chances, solid success rates, and moderate out numbers compared to the 2012 and 2013 squads.

Year 1st-to-3rd % Est. Outs 1stD-to-H % Est. Outs 2nd-to-H % Est. Outs
2011 73 / 272 27 4 34 / 77 44 4 109 / 182 60 9
2012 56 / 247 23 2 47 / 83 57 - 98 / 177 55 7
2013 71 / 282 25 4 27 / 72 38 2 80 / 158 51 12

The 2012 team’s strongest baserunning claim is their general lack of outs on the basepaths, but it is worth noting that they did not advance on hits as much as the 2011 squad.

Year Overall SB2 % SB3 % SBH %
2011 94 / 125 82 / 105 78 12 / 17 71 0/3 -
2012 139 / 171 134 / 166 81 5 / 5 100 0/2 -
2013 142 / 192 120 / 161 75 21 / 25 84 1/6 17

This is the wager that an aggressive team makes; they could produce more outs (14 more, comparing 2011 to 2012) in return for more bases advanced (15 more, comparing 2011 to 2012). It is worth noting that the 2011 and 2012 swapped extra-base-scoring plays; while the 2011 Brewers excelled at scoring from 2nd on singles, the 2012 Brewers excelled at scoring from 1st on doubles. Not surprisingly, the Bill James Handbook agrees that the outs saved by the 2012 Brewers make them the better squad (it is worth noting that there are some counting discrepancies between the Handbook and Baseball-Reference. Depending on how one categorizes baserunning plays, the outs or gains may be presented in different ways).

Stealing Bases
If the 2013 Brewers’ baserunning looks bad on advancing runners, they looked even worse in the stolen base department. Ironically, the 2013 Brewers were Roenicke’s best and most aggressive at stealing third base. However, their five outs stealing home, and a decent 120 for 161 performance stealing second ate into those successful steals of third.

Year Overall SB2 % SB3 % SBH %
2011 94 / 125 82 / 105 78 12 / 17 71 0/3 -
2012 158 / 197 134 / 166 81 24 / 29 83 0/2 -
2013 142 / 192 120 / 161 75 21 / 25 84 1/6 17

The 2012 Brewers were a model of efficiency, whipping even the successful base thieves on the 2011 squad. Certainly a performance like the 2011 Brewers’ is not bad for steals. However, the 2012 Brewers simply added to the volume and efficiency of their steals (for steals of both second base and third base).

Conclusion
As Opening Day proved, it is difficult to take the good without the bad in terms of baserunning. While an aggressive team will make mistakes, Roenicke’s previous ballclubs have also proved the benefits of that aggression. The success of the 2014 Brewers on the basepaths will not only depend on their opportunities to advance, but also on the health of their main actors. As Joe Block noted during yesterday’s broadcast, Roenicke wants Gomez, Segura, and Braun to be able to cause some problems on the bases at the top of the order. While those players will make some mistakes, their ability to stay on the field will impact their opportunities — and hopefully success — to impact the game on the bases.

Resources
Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference, LLC., 2000-2013.
James, Bill. The Bill James Handbook. Chicago: Acta Sports.

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Comments

Tell us what do you think.

  1. Jason says: April 1, 2014

    In fairness to Roenicke he talks about smart, aggressive base-running. There is no nice way of saying it; Gomez’s out in the first was the stupidest of stupid base-running. I like our chances with no outs, and a man on second and the heart of the order coming up. The payoff for taking third on a bobble in left wasn’t there. I hope Gomez got a talking to in the dugout after that play.

    • Nicholas Zettel says: April 2, 2014

      I agree to an extent — I don’t think Gomez’s play is what Roenicke wants to see.

      But, I wonder — does Roenicke simply give his guys a 100% green light?

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