I’ve written about 2500 words on baserunning at You Know, And That this week. Time to spread the wealth here.
The Brewers lost 5-4 last night and most of the fault for the loss should fairly go to either:
- Shaun Marcum, who gave up a grand slam to young Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford; or,
- Ron Roenicke, who left Marcum in the game after Marcum allowed the first three Giants batters of the 7th to reach base.
But, in the words of Arlo Guthrie, “that’s not what I came to tell you about.”
Came to talk about expected runs.
In the 5th inning, the Brewers were up 3-0. With one out and Ryan Braun at the plate, Corey Hart was on first and Rickie Weeks was on second. Braun hit a lazy fly ball to Giants left fielder/notorious poor defender Pat Burrell. The ball was not hit particularly deep. Rickie Weeks tagged from second on a ball he had no reason to try to advance on, and Burrell threw him out at third base, ending the inning with Prince Fielder in the on-deck circle.
In the 8th inning, the Brewers were down 5-3. With two outs and Jon Lucroy at the plate, Braun was on third, Fielder was on second and Casey McGehee was on first. Lucroy hit a line drive single to Cody Ross in left field. Braun scored easily. Fielder, for some unknown reason, also tried to score but was gunned down on a play at the plate that could be conservatively described as not really very close at all. That ended the 8th inning, and the Brewers’ best scoring opportunity for the rest of the game.
The chart shows different baserunner/out situations, and the expected number of runs that would score in that situation given the data that has been compiled on offense across MLB this year.
Had Weeks decided not to test Burrell’s arm in the 5th inning and remained at second base, the Brewers’ expected run total for the rest of that inning was about .4129 runs. Had Fielder decided not to do a wind sprint into a waiting catcher holding a baseball and remained at third base in the 8th, the Brewers’ expected run total for the rest of that inning would have been .6617 runs.
That means the Brewers left about 1.0746 expected runs on the field with two inexplicably horrendous baserunning decisions. They lost by a run.
Which is not to say the Brewers would have scored a run had Weeks and Fielder both made competent baserunning choices, though it’s likely they would have scored at least one. They may have scored nothing, or they may have scored four more runs. It’s an unknown.
The point is that while bad baserunning will not usually kill a team’s chances of winning a game, it can be a serious impediment to victory.
There’s also the question of who to blame for last night’s circus. You can spread it around. Weeks and Fielder have to hold part of the blame. In the end, the decisions to try for the extra base were theirs. Third base coach/windmill Ed Sedar presumably gave both of them the green light to run. And much has been made of manager Ron Roenicke’s aggressive baserunning preachings.
Aggressive baserunning is good, but it is altogether different from bad baserunning, which the Brewers were guilty of last night. Aggressive baserunning is running hard out of the batter’s box and taking an extra base when you have a good shot at making it. It is not running foolishly into outs.
The Brewers are a talented team, but they are not talented enough to get away with what happened last night on any sort of regular basis. They are at a pretty steep point on the playoff probability curve: a win or two could truly make or break their playoff chances. Weeks, Fielder, the rest of the offense, and the coaching staff need to cut out the baserunning stupidity. It may not sink the offense, but as expected runs fall by the wayside, it could sink their chances at playing baseball in October.