Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Thursday, May 04, 2006


Base-running is one of those fun things you work on in little league when home plate and first base look like they are miles and miles away. Your heart is racing as you run, desperately trying to outrun the throw, trying to get 90 feet closer to scoring.

The Bill James Handbook includes data this year on base-running. Principally, the Handbook looks to see how often a player scored, and how often they advanced to an extra base when they had the opportunity to do so (e.g., how often they went from first to third, scored from second, scored from first).

First, how often they scored:

Scoring Percentage:
Rollins: 40%
Victorino: 30%
Utley: 28%
Abreu: 28%
Howard: 26%
Lieberthal: 23%
Bell: 22%
Burrell: 19%

This isn’t a really accurate stat in the sense that it almost entirely relies on the players behind you. I don’t think you can fault Ryan Howard to failing to score after he drew a walk if Mike Lieberthal, David Bell and the pitcher follow him up by striking out to end the inning. So with that in mind, I’d say that the data isn’t all that surprising: J.Roll hit first, so chances are he’d be the guy who got home the most with Abreu, Utley, Howard and Burrell behind him. The fact that Lieberthal and Bell were so much lower isn’t much of a surprise either: when you have the pitcher hitting behind you, you don’t get many chances to advance on the base-paths.

A mild surprise was Burrell, who hit fourth or fifth in the lineup the entire season. Maybe he’s a victim of having Bell and Lieberthal at the bottom end of the order, but that struck me as low. How could Bell have more success than Burrell when he has a pitcher batting behind him?

Here is how the new Phillies did with their old teams in 2005:

Dellucci: 40%
Nunez: 34%
Rowand: 28
Gonzalez: 28%

Consider opportunities to advance overall:

Rollins: 51%
Abreu: 48%
Utley: 44%
Bell: 35%
Lieberthal: 35%
Howard: 34%
Burrell: 31%

I’m not surprised that Jimmy Rollins and Bobby Abreu are the Phillies best base-runners, or that Ryan Howard and Mike Lieberthal are near the bottom.

I am surprised that Pat Burrell did as bad as he did. Pat advanced from first to third six times in fifteen chances (40%). In comparison, Bobby Abreu did so six times in twenty-two opportunities (27%). Pat struggled trying to make it home: he went from second to home six of sixteen times (38%), while Bobby went twenty-four of thirty-six times (67%). Pat also failed to score in eight opportunities from home, while Abreu did twice on eight opportunities.

I think this tells me that Pat Burrell is a timid base-runner. Interestingly, Burrell was thrown out five times in 2005, compared to two for Abreu. Perhaps his timidity is a product of being thrown-out and losing his confidence in his speed. I don’t know. But Pat Burrell does seem to be the Phillies weakest base-runner.

How did the new Phillies do?:

Rowand: 50%
Nunez: 47%
Gonzalez: 43%
Dellucci: 42%

Aaron Rowand is a demon on the base-paths and it shows: ten for twenty-seven going from first to third (38%), twelve of nineteen going from second to home (63%), and four of six going to home from first (67%). And he was thrown out once. I’d characterize Rowand as an aggressive runner who has shown himself to be very effective. He took about thirty extra bases in 2005, which probably contributed an extra seven or eight runs to the White Sox offense last year.

So those are the numbers on the Phillies base-running. I’ll revisit this topic in the coming days because I think it is so interesting.

Don't Look Now ... but the Phillies have won four in a row and have moved into second place. Sure, a one-game lead over the Braves in May is little to cheer about, but it looks like the Phils are breaking out of their April doldrums and are moving ahead to play some good baseball. Up next: the traveling carnival that is the San Francisco Giants and Barry Bonds.

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