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Greatest Baserunner of All Time? A completely new take...

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  • Greatest Baserunner of All Time? A completely new take...

    Quantifiable base running... for once!!!

    Top 10 Base Runners in MLB Since 1954

    This article made me reconsider how we evaluate baserunning, productive outs, "small ball", among other things. I started to look up the actual baserunning stats (currently, the complete PBP data extends back to 1950 only).

    What are people's thoughts on the quantifiability of baserunning?

    How about how we frame baserunners, and how we evaluate baserunning, as a skill?
    Last edited by csh19792001; 02-10-2012, 06:17 PM.

  • #2
    PS- Not a coincidence that Willie Mays has BY FAR the greatest % "extra bases taken" in history (63%) of all the great modern players. To me, this is yet another piece of evidence lending to the conclusion that Mays is very likely the greatest baseball player that ever lived.

    Willie's complete baserunning record
    Last edited by csh19792001; 02-10-2012, 06:19 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by csh19792001 View Post
      PS- Not a coincidence that Willie Mays has BY FAR the greatest % "extra bases taken" in history (63%) of all the great modern players. To me, this is yet another piece of evidence lending to the conclusion that Mays is very likely the greatest baseball player that ever lived.

      Willie's complete baserunning record
      you don't even know how many guys were measured, and he was a whopping 2% ahead of Leflore.
      And I guess you think that there were only eight guys better than Victorino? Once he was actually higher than 6th in the league in SB. Run-scoring %, extra bases taken % depend upon your teammates. Doubles don't necessarily indicate speed.
      Mythical SF Chronicle scouting report: "That Jeff runs like a deer. Unfortunately, he also hits AND throws like one." I am Venus DeMilo - NO ARM! I can play like a big leaguer, I can field like Luzinski, run like Lombardi. The secret to managing is keeping the ones who hate you away from the undecided ones. I am a triumph of quantity over quality. I'm almost useful, every village needs an idiot.
      Good traders: MadHatter(2), BoofBonser26, StormSurge

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by csh19792001 View Post
        Quantifiable base running... for once!!!

        Top 10 Base Runners in MLB Since 1954

        This article made me reconsider how we evaluate baserunning, productive outs, "small ball", among other things. I started to look up the actual baserunning stats (currently, the complete PBP data extends back to 1950 only).

        What are people's thoughts on the quantifiability of baserunning?

        How about how we frame baserunners, and how we evaluate baserunning, as a skill?

        His system is fatally flawed. You can't just look at SB%. You have to look at the frequency of steal attempts too.

        Who is a better baserunner, a guy who can steal 17 out of 20 for 85% or a guy who can steal 85 out of 103 for 83% ?

        The second guy stole 68 of 83 above what the first guy stole. Do you really believe that makes him a worse baserunner than the first guy?

        Great baserunners can steal at a high rate even when the defense is working real hard to prevent the steal, like Wills, Brock, Henderson, etc......lots of guys can steal at a high percentage (McReynolds) when they only run at times when the defense is not paying much attention to them.
        .


        19th Century League Champion
        1900s League Champion
        1910s League Champion

        1930s League Division Winner
        1950s League Champion
        1960 Strat-O-Matic League Regular Season Winner
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        1971 Strat-O-Matic League Runner Up
        1980s League Champion
        All Time Greats League Champion

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by RuthMayBond View Post
          Doubles don't necessarily indicate speed.
          Definitely not. Case in Point: Edgar Martinez ("Mr. Double") once had the best doubles rate all-time and he certainly was not speedy.

          Comment


          • #6
            RS% is team dependent.

            I actually think the XBT% has merit.....it is different from XBH%. It can be used as a rough estimate to see if a baserunner was good at outrunning outfield arms.

            Why is Pick Off % not considered?
            Chop! Chop! Chop!

            Comment


            • #7
              The categories mentioned rely too much on the ball park factor, teammates, and the players' power. Vince Coleman, imho has no peers for peak value except for maybe Tim Raines. Vince Coleman had no power whatsover. So he had a very low number of doubles. I think a stat that might be more accurate than the ones mentioned(other than of course SB%) would be the doubles/triples ratio. This still depends on the ball park and the players power. But this ratio is not subjective, like how many times a player STRETCHED a single into a double, etc. Here, Vince Coleman goes 176/89=1.977 for his career. This is a miniscule ratio. If we look at Vince's best 6 yr run from 1985-90, he stole 549 bases with SB% of 82.7. His 2b/3b ratio was 106/56=1.89. Tim Raines best 6 year run was from 1981-86. Here, he stole 454 bases with a SB% of 86.8. His 2b/3b ratio was 180/55=3.27. Similarly, Henderson's best 6 year run was from 1980-1985. Here, Rickey stole 540 bases and his SB% was 79.8. His 2b/3b ratio was 144/31 or 4.64. Deion Sanders played the equivalent of 4 seasons(only 2325 Plate appearances) and he stole 186 bases with a SB% of 74.6. His 2b/3b ratio was 72/43=1.67. The 2b/3b ratio really shows the player's speed. I'm sure there are counter examples to this ratio. I just thought of it off the top of my head. But I bet that you won't see an Edgar Martinez, Jim Thome, or any other slow runner with a ratio under 2.0. If we were to go back to Cobb's era when the ball parks were much bigger, then I'd like to also see the 3b/hr(inside the park) ratio.
              Last edited by pheasant; 02-11-2012, 01:55 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Getting back to Willie Mays, if we look at his peak years from 1954-1958, we'll see that he stole 141 bases with a SB% of 76.2%. His 2b/3b ratio was 106/56=1.89. Granted, parks were bigger then. But this is still a very small ratio. I'm convinced that Willie Mays was a great baserunner. To quantify all of this, I'd place 75% of the value on SB% and 25% of the value on 2b/3b ratio. Granted, the SB/3b ratio is more than 3/1. But good baserunning also stretch stretch some singles into doubles and can get some extra bases on wild pitches, passed balls, etc. Thus, I believe that stolen bases should carry about 3 times the vaue of the 2b/3b ratio. Actually, I should reverse this and call it a 3b/2b ratio. Also, we would still need to look at quantity as well. Thus, I'd weight this 50% for quantity and 50% for effectiveness. Effectiveness=.75xSB%+.25x3b/2b ratio. Based on all of this, Mays falls just short of Deion Sanders in his prime.
                Last edited by pheasant; 02-11-2012, 02:20 PM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Edgartohof View Post
                  Definitely not. Case in Point: Edgar Martinez ("Mr. Double") once had the best doubles rate all-time and he certainly was not speedy.
                  I never send doubles had a strong positive correlation with speed, or hustle, necessarily. For a guy like Edgar, doubles were "trot into second, if I had any speed or aggressiveness I would go for third"....with a guy like Hal McRae, he was regularly stretching singles into doubles. He left the box thinking two. Pujols usually does that, but doesn't have the footspeed McRae did.

                  Speaking of aggresiveness and great baserunning, I was lamentably NOT shocked to see how low Ichiro's "extra bases taken percentage" is. I've watched the guy his entire career, and he's one of my all time favorities, but frankly, he does not play hard AT ALL, and doesn't hustle on the basepaths.
                  Last edited by csh19792001; 02-11-2012, 03:23 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Bigfoot 88 View Post
                    RS% is team dependent.

                    I actually think the XBT% has merit.....it is different from XBH%. It can be used as a rough estimate to see if a baserunner was good at outrunning outfield arms.

                    Why is Pick Off % not considered?
                    PO % is considered and measured directly. For the first time ever, we have complete baserunning stats back to 1950.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Great article on this topic!


                      Willie Wilson and the Lost Art of Baserunning

                      1/12/12 by Alan Barrington

                      Quick – Who is the greatest Royals hitter ever? That’s easy, the answer has to be George Brett. Baseball Reference has Brett listed as the 22nd greatest hitter of All-Time on their EloRater, and he’s in the Hall of Fame, so it’s a no brainer. Who is the greatest Royals fielder ever? Few would argue that it’s Frank White and his 8 Gold Glove awards. (He should have won more.) Now, how about the greatest Royals baserunner? Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran, Tom Goodwin, Amos Otis and Freddie Patek all had tremendous talent, but without any doubt the answer has to be Willie Wilson. Willie excelled in what I believe is a long lost skill today, the fine art of tearing up the base paths and setting defenders’ nerves on edge.

                      When Willie Wilson started his career with the Royals, he was used as a pinch runner, much the same way that Jarrod Dyson has been used the past couple of years during the short periods of time he has spent in Kansas City. However, the difference between them is significant. Dyson is now 27-years-old and is never projected to hit very far above the Mendoza line. He’s a pinch runner and a late-inning defensive replacement, and in all likelihood, that’s all he’ll ever be. If you can’t get on the field, you’ll never be considered historically great no matter how quickly you cover the gaps or how fast you can circle the bases.

                      On the other hand, Willie Wilson was being used as a pinch runner in KC starting when he was 20-years-old, and was a regular player batting .315 with 83 stolen bases when he was 23-years-old. I’m sure you’ve seen pitchers get distracted by runners on the bases. If you look up “Pitcher Distractions” in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Willie Wilson standing on first base, leaning toward second. Then you’ll see a picture of him on second base. Then on third base. Then an image of the pitcher pulling his hair out. With the exception of the fact he didn’t hit the ball over the fence very often (although he did stroke 13 inside-the-park home runs, more than anyone in the majors since 1950), he was a complete player with a gift for running the bases as well or better than anyone in the history of the game.

                      In the 110 year existence of the American League, only three players have stolen more bases that Willie Wilson who had 668. You may have heard of two of these guys – Rickey Henderson and Ty Cobb. Rickey Henderson’s base stealing percentage was 80.8% compared to Willie’s 83.3%, so by this comparison Willie was more successful than the man with the greatest career number of base thefts in MLB history. I’m not certain Ty Cobb’s ranking on this list is completely legitimate. Baseball legend says he would slide into second base with his sharpened spikes in the air to intimidate any defender that dared to tag him out. Without his lethal shoes, Ty Cobb may have run the bases with no greater success than the rest of the mortals. The third guy is Eddie Collins who played in the early 1900’s during a completely different era. Willie Wilson is the only one of this group who is not in the Hall of Fame. Pretty lofty company I must say, and in my opinion, his overall baserunning skills may have been better than any of them.

                      When you compare Willie Wilson’s talent to all the greatest base stealers in the history of the game (with at least 400 career stolen bases), only Tim Raines has a greater stolen base percentage at 84.7% compared to Willie’s 83.3%. This is particularly impressive when you consider Vince Coleman once stole 50 consecutive bases without being thrown out.

                      As you know, there’s a lot more to baserunning than just stealing bases. In the Sabermetrics world, there’s a stat called “RSP” or Run Scoring Percent which is the percentage of times a baserunner eventually scores a run. Willie’s career run scoring percentage was 43% – an astounding number. For comparison, Albert Pujols is 32%, Ichiro Suzuki is 36%, Vladimir Guerrero is 30%, and Chipper Jones is 31%. Rickey Henderson, the all-time stolen base leader and Lou Brock were both 40%. The only player I can find with a higher percentage than Willie is Vince Coleman at 44%. How would you like to have a player on your team that scored 43% of the time he got on base? You’d like it a lot I’m quite certain.

                      In 2011, the Royals had a pretty good year at running the bases. Alex Gordon had a 33% RSP. Alcides Escobar had a very good year at 40%. Melky Cabrera had 38%. Jeff Francoeur had 29%. Do you think the Royals could use an everyday player with a CAREER average RSP of 43%?

                      In 1979, Willie’s first year as an everyday player, he had a run scoring percentage of 50%. 50%!! Exactly half of the time he got on base he came around to score. It’s almost unbelievable. And, it’s not as if he only got on base a handful of times giving us a small and inaccurate sample size – he had a .315 batting average in 154 games. And then, he doubled down the next year when he led the league in hits with 230, 15 triples, and 133 runs scored while achieving 50% again! Willie’s baserunning skills were a huge contributing factor to the Royals ALCS and World Series visits.

                      Willie’s speed was a weapon and it was wielded with great success on the Astroturf of what was once called Royals Stadium. There was no such thing as a routine ground ball when Willie made contact. He was a switch hitter and when swinging left handed he was next to impossible to throw out at first base. I loved seeing him slap the ball over the First or Third Baseman’s head and watching the outfielders run like crazy to get the ball back to the infield before Wilson could round the bases for one of his 133 career triples in a Royals uniform. Other than George Brett, no other Royal has half as many triples as Wilson.

                      I have a theory about Willie Wilson’s success that stems from my time playing softball. When I was a little younger, and a lot faster, I was a pretty reckless baserunner. I thought that if I ran with my head down as fast as I could and forced the other team into a hurried throw, there was a good chance they would make a mistake. So I just kept running and running until the ball was back on the infield and positioned between me and the next base. Most of the time my theory worked and I frequently ended up on third when most of my teammates had been screaming for me to stop at second.

                      Willie took this theory to the next level. There’s another stat called “ROE” or Reached on an Error which records the number of times a batter reaches base due to a fielder’s mistake. This statistic isn’t dependent on being a fast runner, because you can reach on an error whether or not you are fast. However, I believe Willie’s speed forced other teams into mental mistakes, to hurry their throws, to react too quickly and throw the ball away. During his career, Willie reached base on errors 107 times. Mickey Mantle also reached on an error 107 times in his career. Again, pretty lofty company.

                      One of the things I dislike about watching baseball highlights on TV is the constant barrage of home run replays. Borrr-innng. I want to see a double stretched into a triple, a dropped fly ball, a well turned double play, a diving catch, an umpire missing a bang-bang call, Jeff Francouer or Alex Gordon gunning down a runner at the plate, a Salvador Perez snap throw to pickoff a runner at first, or Alcides Escobar skidding into the grass of left field and rifling a throw to Eric Hosmer which he digs out of the dirt, spins, and tags the runner just before he crosses first base. That’s what I want to see on Baseball Tonight. Watching Willie Wilson create havoc with the defense night after night was one of the most exciting aspects of nearly every Royals game throughout the 80’s and one of the things I miss most about the Royals golden era.

                      The Royals have been blessed with several outstanding baserunners and base stealers throughout their history including the following players who led the American League:

                      1971 Amos Otis – 52 stolen bases
                      1977 Freddie Patek – 53
                      1979 Willie Wilson – 83
                      2000 Johnny Damon – 46

                      You might wonder how in the world Willie Wilson only led the American League on one occasion. I can answer that question with two words: Rickey Henderson. Rickey’s career almost exactly overlapped Willie’s, except that Rickey refused to retire and continued to play until he was 44-years-old, long after Wilson had hung up his cleats.

                      Willie Wilson possessed an astounding combination of hitting prowess and speed making him one of the key ingredients of the Royals championship teams. His career is somewhat tainted by his cocaine conviction with three of his Royals teammates, causing them to be the first active major leaguers to be sentenced to jail time, and his ill-conceived decision to ride the bench on the last day of the 1982 season to preserve his batting title over Robin Yount. (Yes his plan worked, but his “respect stock” definitely dropped a few points that day.) However, I suppose neither of these issues has anything to do with the fact that IMHO (and I realized I’m a tiny bit biased), Willie may very well have been the greatest baserunner in the history of the Major Leagues.

                      Thanks for visiting Kings of Kauffman. You can stay current on all the Kings of Kauffman content and news by following us on Twitter, Facebook, or by way of our RSS feed. You can also send your questions to our mailbag at KoKMailbag@gmail.com and follow Alan Barrington on Twitter to be notified each time he posts a story.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by pheasant View Post
                        Based on all of this, Mays falls just short of Deion Sanders in his prime.
                        Interesting methodology, pheasant...my main point with Mays is that he took the extra base 63% of the time. 1st-3rd on a single, scoring from first on a double, and scoring from second on a single.

                        This is particularly phenomenal because he played from age 19-42. His baserunning numbers are not only better than anyone else I've seen, the sheer number of extra bases he took was incredible. Mays was regularly above 65% per season (most guys never even approach that)...and several times around however around 75%.

                        I just went down the list of SB leaders since 1950, just to see who fell where:

                        Bert Campaneris: 60%
                        Willie Wilson: 58% (one year, he was on first 12 times when a double was hit, and scored all 12 times)
                        Rickey Henderson: 55%
                        Kenny Lofton: 55% *best % for a full season I've seen, 78% in 1993 he went 1st-3rd 29 of 36 times)
                        George Brett: 54%
                        Brett Butler: 54%
                        Maury Wills: 53%
                        Ozzie Smith: 53%
                        Lou Brock: 53%
                        Vince Coleman: 53%
                        Joe Morgan: 51%
                        Hank Aaron: 51%
                        Tim Raines: 50%

                        Active:
                        Juan Pierre 51%
                        Reyes: 51%
                        Rollins 48%
                        Crawford: 46%
                        Jeter: 46%
                        Ichiro: 41%

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Best baserunner of all time might be Ty Cobb, when you take into consideration the intimidation factor. How many pitchers/infielders did he rattle with his antics? And his greatness can never be measured in statistics, because (at least according to legend) Cobb sometimes would allow himself to get thrown out in a meaningless situation, with an eye toward fooling the competition at a later time when a game was on the line.

                          Rickey Henderson also gets intimidation points, although for a different reason. He just took up so much of the pitcher's concentration when he was on the basepaths. That sort of thing can never be quantified, but it's an important part of the game.
                          "Hey Mr. McGraw! Can I pitch to-day?"

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by csh19792001 View Post
                            Kenny Lofton: 55% *best % for a full season I've seen, 78% in 1993 he went 1st-3rd 29 of 36 times)
                            With that small of a sample it does not mean every much. Could be there were two outs more often than not, could be there was a 3-2 count with two outs 7 times giving him a huge start. Could be some other players only took one base a few times because they were down 3-4 runs late in the game. If a leadof hitter without much power only gets 36 oppurtunities to go from 1B to 3B in a full season, most players probably only get about 20-25 chances. Not really enough to mean very much.
                            .


                            19th Century League Champion
                            1900s League Champion
                            1910s League Champion

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                            1960s League Division Winner
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                            1971 Strat-O-Matic League Runner Up
                            1980s League Champion
                            All Time Greats League Champion

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              From 1901 to Present, I'd list [in NO particular order]:

                              Tim Raines
                              Willie Wilson
                              Ty Cobb
                              Bert Campaneris
                              Luis Aparicio
                              Barry Bonds
                              Ron LeFlore
                              Carl Crawford
                              Kenny Lofton
                              Ichiro Suzuki
                              Amos Otis
                              Max Carey
                              Juan Pierre
                              Johnny Damon
                              Brett Butler
                              Honus Wagner
                              Davey Lopes
                              George Case
                              Bill Bruton
                              Lou Brock
                              Marquis Grissom
                              Omar Moreno
                              Richie Ashburn
                              Willie Mays
                              Kiki Cuyler

                              Of the current crop of players, Jacoby Ellsbury just hasn't put up that many seasons; but he has to be up there so far. The most exciting one-on-one, baserunner vs. picher and cartcher I have ever seen was Jackie Robinson; but his abbreviated career and late start did not allow him to pile up a large record in his prime. Another similarly limited [by segregation] player was Sam Jethroe, smart and swift as they ever were, and passed 30 when he got his shot.

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