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Who's Responsible? Base Running and the Rockies, Part 3 - Rockies Zingers Colorado Rockies Baseball

Who’s Responsible? Base Running and the Rockies, Part 3

Today we bring to a conclusion our exploration of the 2014 Colorado Rockies and base running. In previous posts in this series we looked at the raw numbers of what the Rockies did on the basebapths, namely try (and often fail) to steal bases and get Tagged Out On The Bases Like A Nincompoop (TOOTBLAN). Then we dug into the advanced statistics of base running in order to see how the Rockies as a team stacked up to the rest of the league in 2014. Today we will look into the numbers of individual members of the Colorado Rockies and see if we can discern whether any particular members of the 2014 squad are to blame/praise for what the Rockies “accomplished” on the basepaths.

The Rockies TOOTBLANs Compared to MLB

First we will look at the Rockies individual TOOTBLANs. In the first post of the series we noted that the Rockies finished the regular season in the top 5 of TOOTBLANs with 77 total. We went on to discuss the impact of stolen bases and caught stealing on that number, but did not explore the other base running errors. Now that the good folks at TOOTBLAN Tracker have fully updated their database, we can look at what the individual Rockies players did. But before we do that, let’s get a broader picture of TOOTBLANs for the Rockies.

The TOOTBLAN Tracker is a very powerful and descriptive tool, as they catalog as many relevant details as possible relating to each individual TOOTBLAN. Because of this we know that the Rockies most common TOOTBLAN was the second out of the inning (35, compared to 15 first outs and 27 third outs). They came most often in the 1st and 7th innings (11 each). Broken down by time of game we have the following:

2014 TOOTBLAN Timing
Game State Rockies MLB Average
1st-3rd Inning 30 23.3
4th-6th inning 22 23.5
7th inning or later 25 17.1

It seems that the Rockies got less aggressive as the game went on–or at least they were less reckless as the game went on, compared to themselves. When you compare them to the rest of the league, however, it is clear that they may have risked a little too much late in games. We also have this breakdown of where the TOOTBLANs came:

2014 TOOTBLAN Location
First Base Second Base Third Base Home
Rockies 23 16 20 18
MLB Avg 18.4 17.0 11.9 16.4

It’s to be expected that more TOOBLANs would occur at first base than any other base; since singles and walks are far more common than doubles or triples we generally see more runners at first than at any other base. What is interesting is that, across baseball, players run into outs at home almost as often as they do at second base, and, in the case of the Rockies, even moreso. That’s just one way they are an anomaly, though.

TOOTBLANs at second base were the least frequent for the Rockies, occurring below the league average rate. When we look at all of baseball, the fewest TOOBLANs were at third base–which harkens back to the old adage your youth coach barked into your ear: “Don’t make an out at third base.” However, the Rockies ran into outs at third base more than any other base than at first base. Was it too many doubles that they failed to stretch into triples? Hard to say, but clearly the Rockies are outliers here in a lot of ways.

We know that the Rockies made outs on the base paths far more often at home than on the road (45 to 32) but occurred equally between wins and losses (38 in wins, 39 in losses). The Rockies were also caught trying to take the extra base (either stretch a single into a double, double into a triple, or going first to third/second to home) 23 times. This was also the most common TOOTBLAN in baseball, representing almost 35% of all TOOTBLANs.  The next most common was getting doubled off on a fly ball/line drive out (note: a straight Caught Stealing is not counted in TOOTBLAN Tracker). It is small solace that the Rockies problems paralleled those the rest of the league had on the bases, since, suffice it to say, the Rockies took it to another level. But who had the most problems?

Individual Rockies

Here are the individual TOOTBLAN leaderboards for the Rockies. Anyone who had a TOOTBLAN appears on this least . Just for fun, any time a player had more than 1 of any type of TOOTBLAN, I listed it under “Most Common.” The Rockies had a total of 77 TOOTBLANs, 2 coming from pitchers (and you thought you’d forgotten about the Jair Jurrjens experiment!).

2014 Colorado Rockies TOOTBLANS (minimum 1)
Name PA TOOTBLANs Most Common PA/TOOTBLAN
Drew Stubbs 424 1 Doubled Off 424
Nolan Arenado 467 2 234
Justin Morneau 550 4 Extra Base (3) 138
Michael McKenry 192 2 96
Carlos Gonzalez 281 3 94
Troy Tulowitzki 375 4 Extra Base (2) 94
Charlie Culberson 233 3 Doubled Off (2) 78
Charlie Blackmon 648 9 Extra Base (3) 72
Josh Rutledge 342 5 Picked Off (2) 68
Wilin Rosario 410 6 Sacrifice Fly 68
Ben Paulsen 66 1 Fielder's Choice 66
Ryan Wheeler 64 1 Fielder's Choice 64
Brandon Barnes 313 5 Doubled Off (2) 63
DJ LeMahieu 538 10 Doubled Off (4) 54
Corey Dickerson 478 10 Extra Base (5) 48
Tyler Matzek 43 1 Extra Base 43
Rafael Ynoa 71 4 Extra Base (3) 18
Jordan Pacheco 80 5 Doubled Off (2) 16
Jair Jurrjens 2 1 Picked Off 2

When we looked at the raw stolen base totals in the first post of this series we found that DJ LeMahieu and Corey Dickerson were the worst thieves in the bunch, successful in less than 60% of their attempts–and this while making more than 10 attempts each! When we expand our scope and look at all outs on the basepaths it should come as no surprise that LeMahieu and Dickerson were the biggest TOOTBLAN culprits of all. If you go on a rate basis we see that Jordan Pacheco and Rafael Ynoa were the Rockies most notorious TOOTBLANers, though I’m unsure whether the fact that they each played for the Rockies for about a month warrants the benefit of the doubt or a face palm. On the flip side of that, let’s all give Drew Stubbs some credit for being smart on the base paths, with only one TOOTBLAN to his name. We’ll see in a moment how that factors into his value. While we’re at it, Nolan Arenado and Justin Morneau deserve some credit for staying away from TOOTBLANs.

LeMahieu and Dickerson were both very valuable members of the Colorado Rockies, the former for his Gold Glove-winning defense and the latter for his breakout bat. How much did these TOOTBLANs hurt their overall value, and how did they compare with the rest of the squadron? For that, we dig into the sabermetric numbers.

2014 Colorado Rockies Base Running (min 20 PA)
Name PA UBR wSB wRAA wRC+
Drew Stubbs 424 1.5 2.5 15.7 113
Charlie Blackmon 648 2.1 1.2 14.6 100
Carlos Gonzalez 281 0 0.4 1.2 83
Michael Cuddyer 205 0.9 0.4 16.3 151
Kyle Parker 26 -0.1 0 -2.5 -5
Matt McBride 34 0.4 0 0.8 101
Jordan Pacheco 80 -1.8 -0.1 -1.3 65
Wilin Rosario 410 -1.6 -0.1 2.9 86
Rafael Ynoa 71 -1.4 -0.1 3.3 121
Ben Paulsen 66 -0.9 -0.1 4.4 139
Ryan Wheeler 64 -0.1 -0.1 -1.2 63
Nolan Arenado 467 0.1 -0.3 17.7 113
Charlie Culberson 233 2.5 -0.5 -12.1 33
Troy Tulowitzki 375 -0.6 -0.6 38.5 171
Brandon Barnes 313 0.5 -0.7 1.3 83
Josh Rutledge 342 -0.1 -1 3.2 88
Michael McKenry 192 -0.4 -1.3 13.2 141
Corey Dickerson 478 -0.1 -1.5 32.5 140
Justin Morneau 550 -2 -1.7 26.5 123
DJ LeMahieu 538 1.8 -2.3 -7.6 67

(Note: all data courtesy of Fangraphs)

Recall from our previous post that Weighted Stolen Base Runs (wSB) covers “stolen base runs created per opportunity” and Ultimate Base Running (UBR) covers pretty much everything else. I also included weighted runs above average (wRAA) for us to see how much the base running impacted each player’s overall run production, since it included wSB and UBR. There are a few things we can take from this table, especially when we supplement it with previous discussions.

Let’s look at DJ and Corey again. First of all, no surprise that they are at the bottom in wSB with Justin Morneau (more on him in a moment). But it turns out that, despite leading the team in TOOTBLANs, both these players graded out well by UBR, with DJ finishing 3rd on the team with 1.8 runs and Corey finishing just below average at -0.1 runs. What does this mean? Perhaps their aggression on the basepaths did not cost the Rockies as much as one might think. While it is certainly true that individual TOOTBLANs may have cost their team a run or more, they were successful enough at taking the extra base or going first to third on a single that they were able to overcome their mistakes. This was more important for DJ than it was for Corey, as LeMahieu still finished well below average in offensive production (imagine if he hadn’t graded out as positive on the base paths?) while Corey’s exploits hardly cost him at all considering his hitting ability.

Two other guys to look at are Charlie Blackmon and Drew Stubbs. They both contributed a lot with their base running, the only two players who had UBR and wSB greater than 1 (Michael Cuddyer was the only other player who was greater than zero in both of these categories–probably why the Rockies extended him the qualifying offer, I think*). In fact, base running made up more than 20% of their overall offensive value. This would seem to make them both prototypical lead-off hitters, even if their on-base percentage was only a little higher than league average (Stubbs, .339, Blackmon, .335, league-average, .320). With both players under contract for next season, they would certainly make for an intriguing platoon, considering their numbers against righties and lefties:

2014 Handedness Splits, by OPS
Player v RHP vLHP
Stubbs .757 .944
Blackmon .801 .657

This, of course, does not take into account their defense or what the heck the Rockies front office is planning on doing with their glut of outfielders, but based on the numbers we see here, Stubbs and Blackmon are each others’ doppelganger from the opposite side of the plate. Now, if we could just get one of them to hit on the road…

*I don’t think this.

The rest of the players who were net negative both in UBR and wSB can be put into three categories. The first is Those Not Expected to Play A Major Role in 2015 (Jordan Pacheco, Rafael Ynoa, Ben Paulsen, Ryan Wheeler). The second is Those Who Should Hit Better Or Else It’s Curtains (Wilin Rosario, Josh Rutledge). The final group is Those Who Aren’t Paid To Run Only To Mash (Justin Morneau, Troy Tulowitzki, Corey Dickerson). Really, Justin Morneau should stop trying to steal bases; he went 0-for-3 in 2015.

And then there’s Charlie Culberson. He had a 33 wRC+ this year, making him a significant Drag Factor contributor. And that was even factoring in his team-leading 2.5 UBR. As Matthew Gross at Purple Row has pointed out time and again, this team needs depth, not a remodel. Upgrade the utility infielder and maybe the Rockies can do something.

Conclusions

When you break it down to an individual level, it’s hard to figure out just what the Rockies can do differently next year. It’s fairly clear that DJ LeMahieu and Corey Dickerson can improve their stolen base totals, but beyond that it’s difficult to say.

The numbers offer no real conclusions as to whether or not Walt Weiss‘ vow to run the bases aggressively (as heard on every 850 KOA game intro) is a net positive or a net negative.  The team UBR and individual UBR numbers don’t variate too far from average (remember, UBR is scaled so 0 equals league average). However, it is clear, by every measure, that the Rockies lack-of-success at stealing bases is costing them. Really, Drew Stubbs, Charlie Blackmon, and maybe Carlos Gonzalez (if he comes back healthy) should be the only ones permitted to steal bases. Of course, this is a sabermetric rallying cry from before the dawn of time, and Major League Baseball is only slowly–very slowly–starting to heed that call.

The fact remains that, while it is an important part of the game, base running does not seem to contribute that much overall to a player’s offensive output. Since the Rockies produce more runs than anyone else in baseball year-after-year, the relative gains and losses on the base paths will forever pale in comparison to the runs they can score on the road.

About Adam Peterson

Born and raised in Denver, I stopped playing baseball in high school due to a lack of what some would call “talent,” but then my passion for the game, and the Rockies, only grew. I went to the University of Colorado at Boulder to study Civil Engineering, where I picked up a minor in Applied Statistics. After college I took a job in suburban Memphis, over 1,100 miles away from Coors Field. While my Rockies-loving wife and I enjoy spending time out and about in Memphis, any free time spent not doing something baseball-related is a rare moment indeed.

1 Comment on Who’s Responsible? Base Running and the Rockies, Part 3

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