Sunday, April 4, 2010

The LVBR (Least Valuable Baserunner

In recent memory, I cannot recall there being so much rage over the new baseball statistics. OBP, OPS, UZR. The defensive stats that have been analyzed and have been pouring in for the past few years. Teams like the Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, and Washington Nationals have talked about (In the case of Seattle and Boston) setting up their teams based purely on defensive merit. On base percentage has become a rage since the book Moneyball came out a decade or so ago, and baseball players like Adam Dunn have benefited. On-base plus slugging percentage has become a popular way to show a players overall prowess at the plate. Can he get on base? Does he hit for power? That stat measures the two in the same---it doesn't do much for me. Players like Ichiro get on base with singles, then steal second base or can go first to third on a hit, which makes up for a lack of power.

I have tried for some time now to come up with a stat that shows how valuable you are when you do not hit a home run. Getting on base is great, but you don't win by getting on base---you win by scoring runs. To me, scoring runs is the most important thing there is. If you get on first, but cannot score how are you valuable?

If you've followed my blog, you know that I am not a fan of Dunn. He either homers, strikes out, or walks. When he does walk or get a single, it's almost meaningless. He is not a threat to steal, go first to third on a single, or score on a gap shot or score from second with less than two outs. He's almost worthless to have on the bases. You might as well put him on base because your odds of getting out of an inning without giving up a run almost go up because with him on base, the threat of him homering or scoring go down.

The stat I've come up with measures your value to scoring when you don't hit a home run. In other words, what is your value for most of the games? I've come up with a method to take how many runs you score in a season and subtract the amount of home runs hit. Then, you divide that by how many games the player played in. What I found was quite interesting. Let's take a look at some players.

Adam Dunn 2009: 159 games, 81 runs, 38 home runs....43 runs without a home run/159=27%

Nick Swisher 2009: 150 games, 84 runs, 29 home runs....55 runs without a home run/150=37%

Darryl Strawberry 1990: 152 games, 92 runs, 37 home runs....55 runs without a home run/152=36%

Reggie Jackson 1977: 146 games, 93 runs, 32 home runs....61 runs without a home run/146=42%

Nick Markakis 2009: 161 games, 94 runs, 18 home runs...76 runs without a home run/161=47%

As we can see, I have compared Dunn with power hitters past and present, and included a current player who is not known for power. In this new baseball era where athleticism and speed count, it's important to be able to run the bases because home runs are not going to be as common as they were in the steroid era. Teams like the Angels and Rays place a ton of emphasis on scoring from every base and taking advantage.

As I just showed, Dunn does not present any kind of threat as a baserunner. In fact, he is one of the least valuable players in the league when he is actually on base. That's why OBP can be a misleading stat. Getting on base is not the object of the game. SCORING is the object of the game. Can you score runs? Do you put pressure on opposing pitchers and defenses to score runs? I will take guys who score runs over those who hit a ton of home runs but don't score a lot of runs because home runs do not come every game. If you are only valable to your team for one day a week, then how are you really helping them out? I think that's why it shows that teams that Dunn has been on aren't totally successful, nor do they get much of an offensive boost when he's there. He's a station to station baserunner that does not pose a threat on the bases.

Players like Dustin Pedroia, Ichiro, Brian Roberts, and Derek Jeter (to name only a few) pose a much bigger threat and though they don't hit many home runs, they will score runs. The object of the game is to score---not to get on first base. Watch games this year with a watchful eye towards this stat, and tell me what you think.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting analysis and food for thought. Tyler Kepner in The NYT today suggested that home runs are the most important statistic in the game, using data from the past few years. He says the more home runs you hit as a team, the better chances you will win a game in which your team homers. I tend to agree with you on the value of guys who can score without having to homer.