The Brewers dropped a frustrating 3-2 decision to the Phillies on Monday night. The loss was the Brewers sixth defeat in their last seven contests, their worst stretch of the season to date. The frustration from the piling up losses was compounded by the fact that the Brewers had ample opportunites to take the game from the Phillies, but couldn’t get out of their own way. From Caitlin Swieca of MLB.com:
Part of Milwaukee’s problem on Monday was poor baserunning; the team made avoidable outs on the basepaths with no outs and runners in scoring position in three separate innings. In the second, Carlos Gomez hit a leadoff double, but was picked off by pitcher Cole Hamels. In the fifth, Jean Segura was thrown out by right fielder Marlon Byrd while trying to advance from first to third on a Jeff Bianchi two-run single. In the eighth, Logan Schafer came in to pinch-run afterRyan Braun led off the inning with a double. He attempted to advance on Jonathan Lucroy’s grounder to the shortstop, but was thrown out sliding into third.
Those are three pretty meaningful gaffes, but just how bad were they? Using Tom Tango’s 1993-2010 run expectancy matrix, we can get a rough idea of about what the Brewers gave up. Below is a chart that has the number of expected runs lost. The first column has the number that would have been expected if Gomez, Segura and Schafer had just stayed put at second instead of pushing things, the second has the expected runs post-gaffe and the third has the resulting difference.
|Without Misplay||With Misplay||Net Result|
|Segura Out at Third||1.556||0.562||-0.994|
|Schafer Out at Third||0.721||0.562||-0.159|
Of course these are just estimates based on large samples of numbers from an era with a bit more offense than this one. We will never know if the Brewers would have come up with the big hit(s) with runners in scoring position or not. What we do know is that they definitely cost themselves some significant opportunities to score runs.
Did these mistakes “cost” the Brewers the game? That’s all a matter of perspective. After all, it’s not like any of these mistakes changed the expected runs total in a given inning to zero. They still had chances to score in the innings in question. In fact, you would expect a total of 1.415 runs to score in just those innings, even after the gaffes. That’s more than a two run drop from what they would be expected to do without the mistakes, but again, it’s not nothing.
Sometimes it seems like this kind of thing happens far too often to the Brewers under manager Ron Roenicke. After all, since day one in Milwaukee, he’s been stressing the importance of being aggressive on the base paths:
“At times, you’re going to say, ‘Why are you running so much? Why are you getting thrown out trying to take extra bases?’ ” said Roenicke. “That’s going to happen, but that’s the style I like to play. I’ve seen it win a lot of games over the years.
“At times we’re going to get thrown out. But over the course of the season I guarantee we will score a lot more runs by being aggressive. Also, when you let players be aggressive, they have more confidence. That’s what this game is all about – confidence.”
Comments like these may make some people see red, but it’s hard to argue with the overall results on the base paths this year. Coming into the game on Monday, the Brewers were second in MLB in total runs added on the basepaths as calculated by Baseball Prospectus.
There are a lot of numbers there, because what Prospectus has attempted to do is add up the relative value of all aspects of baserunning, including the number of extra bases taken on hits, outs made on the basepaths and the like, not just merely looking at stolen base success rates as an indicator. The key for the Brewers’ success in this department this year has been players advancing extra bases on hits, like Segura was attempting to do, and on ground balls fielded, like the Schafer situation.
Obviously, it’s never ideal when a player is thrown out on the bases, but when a team takes on added risk over the course of a season in attempting to gain an extra advantage here and there, it’s inevitable that things are going to go wrong from time to time. Even when teams are cautious there will be times when they end up making a foolish out on the basepaths. That’s just a part of the game for everyone, and sometimes the bad outcomes will stack up and seriously hurt a team in a given game, like Monday night.
It’s really important to remember that even “obvious mistakes” like Schafer attempting to advance to third on a ball to his right, that they are a product of the team’s overall aggressive approach. Baseball is a game where players have to make split second decisions, and the Brewers have clearly chosen to get their players to push the limits of what might and might not work in that split second. The coaching staff isn’t going to like that sort of choice, and they’ll surely try to correct it so it won’t happen again in the future, but they also understand that it’s the sort of thing that will happen from time to time when you push players to test their limits.
Ultimately, if the Brewers weren’t doing as well as they are in terms of adding runs on the bases, it would probably make sense to restrict the players more in their adventures on the bases. As things stand, though, they’re doing well enough that they’re generating positive value out there. It’s not always going to look pretty, and the team certainly should try and clean up what they can without seriously limiting the freedom the players have been given to this value, but they are adding value that we can quantify here.
Who knows, they may also be adding that “confidence” value Roenicke mentioned way back when he got the job. Such things are impossible to measure, and thus prove, but it does make a certain amount of sense that there would be value in pushing players in that way. If it helps keep guys engaged, interested, and focused over the course of 162 games to tell players that it’s on them to go out and make things happen as opposed to passively accepting what comes along, that can’t be a bad thing.
So yes, it’s going to be frustrating when the team makes needless outs on the base paths. Especially when those outs go as far as the outs on Monday did in helping the team lose a game. Just keep in mind that those outs are a product of an overall strategy and there are tangible numbers that say it’s working out just fine for the team overall.