Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

Last night, the Phillies made two base running blunders against the Marlins. In the second inning, Darin Ruf was on first base when Kevin Frandsen hit a ground ball single to right field. Ruf decided to test Giancarlo Stanton, well-regarded around the league for his cannon of an arm, by attempting to advance to third base. Stanton’s throw reached third baseman Chris Coghlan on the fly and Ruf was a dead duck.

In the bottom of the third, starter Brian Flynn uncorked a wild pitch with Carlos Ruiz on first base. Ruiz easily advanced to second, but upon seeing that catcher Jeff Mathis hadn’t yet corralled the ball, attempted to get to third base as well. First baseman Ed Lucas retrieved the baseball and fired to Coghlan at third. Ruiz was out with plenty of room to spare.

Fortunately for the Phillies, that was the last of their base running blunders but it was just the latest example of the Phillies trending in the wrong direction when it comes to avoiding outs on the bases. From 2008-11, the Phillies made a combined 39 fewer outs on the bases than the average National League team. In fact, in 2009-10, they made the fewest outs on the bases of any team in the league. In 2011, they made the second-fewest outs. This year, they have made 56, tied for the third-most in the league.

What hurts most is that the Phillies’ on-base percentage has dropped in each season since they were last in the World Series (2009). So not only have the Phillies made more outs on the bases, but they have done so when outs are relatively more hurtful.

We have cataloged many different instances when Ryne Sandberg, then the third base coach of the Phillies, sent runners to their doom needlessly. But it isn’t just him. Juan Samuel, the new third base coach, sent Brown home last night on Cody Asche‘s single to right field, testing Stanton’s arm. Brown was only safe because the catcher, Mathis, couldn’t corral the ball (Brown also collided with him but it didn’t affect the outcome).

Some of the problem is poor third-base coaching; some of the problem is poor decision-making by the runners themselves; and some of the problem is formerly-agile players succumbing to Father Time. The Phillies can’t afford to give away outs the way they have over the last two seasons. And while base running isn’t as important an area of the game as starting pitching or hitting for power, it is not insignificant and when added up with all of the other mistakes the Phillies have made in recent times, it adds up. Base running is just one of many areas hurt with personnel decisions like signing Michael Young and Delmon Young.

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14 comments

  1. prs130

    September 18, 2013 08:16 AM

    An uptick in outs made on bases indicates more aggression, but does not necessarily indicate worse overall outcomes. As you noted, Brown was “safe because the catcher, Mathis, couldn’t corral the ball.” Safe is good, and less aggressive base-running might not have led to a run scored.

    Yes outs are a product of aggressive base-running, but so are runs and extra bases. You can’t just count the bad outcomes and draw a conclusion.

    I’m not saying that Ryno or Samuel is good or bad, just saying outs made on the bases, taken alone, is a bad metric to make your case with.

  2. Bill Baer

    September 18, 2013 08:21 AM

    Ruiz and Ruf are also not the types of players that should be aggressive on the bases. Rollins and Brown? Knock yourselves out.

  3. Mark66

    September 18, 2013 11:53 AM

    At this level you either have the intelligence on the bases or you are plain stupid. Agressiveness is one thing, being plain stupid is another.

  4. WayneKerrins

    September 18, 2013 01:24 PM

    Friend was over with me from England and he’s seen only 4 or 5 ball games. He played rugby to high level and was an athlete. We were up in Hall of Fame club and on both the occasions Bill cites from last nights game even he said Whoa as our 2 ‘runners’ labored round second. Terrible decision making especially from Ruf.

  5. adam_s

    September 18, 2013 03:24 PM

    Could the gambling on the basepaths bepsychological with the players and coaches? the coaches and players have to know they don’t have the offense that they have had in years past and are trying to make that up for that by making more risky decisions to garner more runs. It’s a lost season, they could really not care as much about playing good quality mental baseball and are playing loose on the paths knowing it doesn’t matter in the end.

  6. Stupid is as Stupid Does

    September 18, 2013 04:14 PM

    I’d love it if the poor base running was leading to losses but the damn Phils keep on winning ensuring themselves of an unprotected pick. Another reason why firing Choolly was a bad idea.

  7. Phillie697

    September 18, 2013 05:19 PM

    @prs130,

    If only there exists an objective stat that measures the number of runs generated or lost because of base-running. Oh wait, there is!

    Phillies team BsR, -9.9 runs, 3rd worst in all of MLB.

  8. LTG

    September 18, 2013 05:42 PM

    697,

    In fairness to prs130, that BsR score may or may not be caused by overly aggressive baserunning. It could just be caused by the team being slow. A team can accumulate a negative BsR score simply by not taking extra bases that other teams are taking, and this can happen simply because slow runners are not even trying to advance. Most likely some teams are not running into as many outs as the Phils this year; so, bad decision making is contributing to the BsR score. But I bet it is a small portion of it. The Phils are just slow.

  9. Phillie697

    September 18, 2013 06:01 PM

    @LTG,

    If one is going to give credit to a positive phenomenon, one probably has to point to some concrete evidence of said positive phenomenon. Unless you’re Albert Einstein, I don’t trust thought experiments.

  10. Jeff

    September 19, 2013 07:55 AM

    Base running is just one of many areas hurt with personnel decisions like not re-signing Davey Lopes.

    There, fixed it for you.

  11. Paul Jenkins

    September 19, 2013 02:08 PM

    What’s up with ME’s comment? He pointed out that Lucas did throw out Ruiz.

  12. LTG

    September 20, 2013 07:58 AM

    697,

    What? Teams with faster runners will take more extra bases than teams with slower runners. The BsR score tracks this primarily. It’s not a thought experiment. It’s how BsR works. More extra bases = more runs. Fewer extra bases = fewer runs. Outs are obviously worse than simply missed opportunities because a baserunner is lost entirely. (You can check the game state differences for the relative values.) BsR measures both and is not a measure of whether a team is overly aggressive. You can’t just cite it to make this point and that is probably why BB didn’t.

    Also, why would you trust Einstein’s thought experiments? The 1905 paper’s thought experiments are inessential to the resolution of Maxwell’s equations. And his later thought experiments are pure and misguided rhetoric against quantum mechanics.

  13. Mark66

    September 20, 2013 10:27 AM

    Not resigning Davey Lopes was a MAJOR mistake. The stats prove it. A NO_BRAINER.

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