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February 17, 2010

Hot Stove U.

Why All Third-Base Coaches Should Be Fired

by Russell A. Carleton

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The Setup

Consider the following situation: Jimmy Rollins is on third base with no outs. Jayson Werth hits a fly ball to medium deep left field; this is, essentially, a sacrifice fly waiting to happen. Jimmy knows what to do. He retreats back to third, puts his head down and waits for third-base coach Sam Perlozzo to yell-what?

Should he stay or go? How does Perlozzo make that decision? And how do his all-too-human failings mean that he'll probably end up costing his team, the Philadelphia Phillies, runs in the end?

The answer comes in understanding a good bet, as opposed to a bad bet. If offered the chance to lay $1 on a heads/tails coin flip with the chance to win $10, would you take the wager? What if you could call it in the air? Suppose you could play this game several times. You'd probably take that bet, even though you have a 50 percent chance of losing each time. Why? Because if you play the game long enough, you have a chance come out slightly ahead. You've instinctively applied what's known as expected value theory. You might lose an individual coin flip-but if you play over and over, you know you'll eventually be ahead of where you would be if you just held on to your dollar bills. This is how third-base coaches in MLB need to work and think.

The Proof

In our situation above, Perlozzo is playing the same sort of game-only he's not playing for money, but for runs. Let's go back to our potential sac fly. If Perlozzo yells "Stay," then the Phillies will have a runner on third with one out. In 2009, whenever a team was in this situation in an inning, the team scored 0.965 runs on average. That's the equivalent of hanging on to your dollar bill. If Perlozzo yells, "Go," one of two things will happen: Rollins will either be safe or out. If he's safe, the Phillies get that run, and have the bases empty with one out-which on average produced 0.279 runs, for a grand total of 1.279 runs in the two situations. If Rollins is out, there will be no one on base with two outs, which had an average run expectancy of 0.106 runs.

There's a run and an out at stake, both valuable in baseball. How can you tell if it's a good bet? Without going into all the algebra, it says that Perlozzo needs to be 73.2 percent sure that Rollins will make it before he sends him. So, if third-base coaches league-wide are playing the game correctly, we should see that about 73 percent of the runners in this situation wind up scoring.

In 2009, there were 97 instances where this sort of situation occurred: no outs, runner on third, fly ball to the outfield. When the runner tried for home, he was safe 96.2 percent of the time (75-for-78). In fact, Perlozzo himself was perfect in 2009: 100 percent of the runners he sent in this situation (and in all sacrifice fly situations) reached home safely.

This seems like a good thing on the surface-but it's actually not.

A 96-percent success rate means that third-base coaches are being far too conservative-and only sending the sure things. Suppose that after considering the speed of the runner on third, the distance of the fly ball, and the strength of the outfielder's arm, the third-base coach figures that the runner has an 80 percent chance of scoring. There's a 1-in-5 chance that he'll be gunned down, and we already figured out that anything over 73.2 percent is a good bet-so being rational, the runner with the 80 percent chance should make a mad dash for home. If third-base coaches are only willing to send the runners who have a 95 percent chance or better, they're leaving a good chance at extra money, er, runs on the table.

Why don't Perlozzo and his brothers of the third-base line send more runners? It's a human failing to which everyone falls prey. People are very loss-averse. We tend to see things not in a rational cost-benefit analysis, but in terms of how much chance of failure we're willing to stomach. On top of that, if a runner gets thrown out at the plate, who usually gets blamed? The third-base coach. If a runner goes for the extra base and makes it, who usually gets the credit? The runner. From this perspective, the coach has everything to lose and nothing to gain from yelling "Go," so it's best only to send the sure things. It's called blame avoidance. People do things not because they are the best things to do-but because they have the least chance of something being traced back to and blamed on them. It happens in your office too, doesn't it? If you use that same formula on several other similar situations (different configurations of runners, one out as opposed to no one out, etc.), they all show the same pattern. The "break-even" point is usually around 75 percent, but actual success rates are well above 90 percent. Through a little more complex math (it involves a technique called binary logistic regression), the average team leaves about four runs on the table per year on potential sac flies alone. Sacrifice flies are just one thing that a third-base coach does: He also has to decide whether to send a runner from first to home on a double, second to home on a single, and first to third on a single. All of these situations show the same gap between the break-even point and actual success rate.

If we look only at rates of runners being safe, there were actually seven third-base coaches who had perfect records sending runners on sac flies in 2009, oddly enough, all in the National League: Perlozzo, Pat Listach (Washington Nationals), Tony Beasley (Pittsburgh Pirates), Tim Flannery (San Francisco Giants), Dave Clark (Houston Astros), Larry Bowa (Los Angeles Dodgers), and Bo Porter (Florida Marlins); Porter is going to coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks this season. Only one third-base coach (Dave Owen of the Kansas City Royals) dropped below 90 percent success-but that's not the number you should be looking at.

Which third-base coaches said "Go!" the most in 2009? Across all potential sacrifice flies (runner on third, less than two outs, fly ball or line drive caught by an outfielder), Tom Foley of the Tampa Bay Rays was most likely to send a runner (88.9 percent), followed by Rich Dauer of the Colorado Rockies (88.4), Brad Fischer of the Milwaukee Brewers (87.9), Scott Ullger of the Minnesota Twins (87.9), and Chip Hale of the Arizona Diamondbacks (87.8). The coaches most likely to yell "Stay!" were Glen Hoffman of the San Diego Padres (70.9), Owen from the Royals (70.6), Mike Quade of the Chicago Cubs (70.5), Listach from the Nationals (69.6), and in last place, our friend Mr. Perlozzo of Philadelphia (69.2).

The Conclusion

Here's an interesting one: What would happen if third-base coaches just sent everyone, playground-style, on these potential sac flies, regardless of whether it was a good idea or not? It turns out that teams would probably score more runs than they do now.

Indeed, it was very rare that it was a bad idea to send the runner, even after controlling for the distance of the fly ball and the speed of the runner. It was almost always the case that the chances of the runner succeeding were above the break-even point. The runner might get thrown out this time, but if a team really committed to an old-school playground style, it would come out ahead.

Thus, the ideal third-base coach is a sign on a stick featuring the words "If the gentleman currently holding the ball is an outfielder, please turn left and run an additional 90 feet." It's counter-intuitive, but the third-base coach doing the most for his team is not the one who has the highest safe-rate, but the one who has the highest go-now rate.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Russell A. Carleton is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Russell's other articles. You can contact Russell by clicking here

Related Content:  Third Base,  The Who

69 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

kjohnson

Good article and points - I wonder how many MLB third base coaches are even conscious of this?

Quick question - your article says "In 2009, there were 97 instances where this sort of situation occurred: no outs, runner on third, fly ball to the outfield." Is that number accurate? If so, that specific situation would only occur about three times per season per team, which doesn't sound right.

Feb 17, 2010 10:32 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

In that case, I meant "runner on third, no other runners. Sorry, I wasn't clear." To be in that situation, you'd basically need a leadoff triple followed by a fly ball.

Feb 17, 2010 13:58 PM
 
Jivas
(649)

I feel as if I may owe Wendell Kim an apology or two...

Feb 17, 2010 10:46 AM
rating: 4
 
Sharky

Nah. The one doesn't necessarily follow from the other. Wavin' Wendell was probably still a bad third-base coach!

Feb 17, 2010 13:16 PM
rating: 0
 
Jared Cross
(694)

I think you're mistaking marginal for average in this article.


How do we know that Perlozzo isn't 96% successful b/c he can almost always tell when to send the runner? Let's say that there's usually a 100% chance of success and sometimes a less than 70% chance and only very rarely is the chance of success between 70-100%. (btw, I think this is likely the case; there are very few "tough calls" on sac flies usually it's fairly obvious) In this case, a 3rd base ump might make all the right decisions and have a success rate (like 96%) FAR above the break even rate.

The break even rate should be his marginal rate of success not his average rate of success. His average should be considerably higher than his marginal. If a coach has a 73% (or lower) success rate he's definitely making bad calls.

Feb 17, 2010 10:55 AM
rating: 11
 
danlbfaks

Russell, the one point of the article where some of your deeper analysis--assuming as others do, that ESPN Insider demands either shallower analysis or a truncated article--might best be stated here would be to support your signpost, "If the gentleman currently holding the ball is an outfielder, please turn left and run an additional 90 feet." There are allusions to evidence supporting this, particularly "even after controlling for the distance of the fly ball and the speed of the runner [the odds are still better than 73.2%]."

There's other things to control for that are not stated: the quality of the outfielder, the quality of the upcoming batters, the quality of the pitcher.

Could you talk about another type of flaw in the way we observe events? Not only are humans loss averse, we also do a very poor job of recollecting the occurrence rate of events. With a runner on 3rd and no outs, we take great notice of the rarest outcome (the runner getting thrown out at home), take good notice of the desired outcome (run scored), but perhaps fail to appreciate how often the runner gets stranded. Do you have a number for the strand rate of runners held at 3rd during a potential no-out sacrifice fly?

Feb 17, 2010 11:27 AM
rating: 10
 
YX

Above is very good point.

There is an article on Bill James Onine by Dave Fleming "Utley's Perfect Season" address the exact situation.

http://www.billjamesonline.net/ArticleContent.aspx?AID=1182 (subsciption only)

Feb 17, 2010 12:51 PM
rating: 0
 
YX

Well, turns out that's not the article I was thinking about. The one (forgot who was the Arthur since it was not Fleming) dissect rather Utley was too conservative on stealing, if anyone remember where that was.

Feb 17, 2010 12:59 PM
rating: 0
 
3n2sports

It's linked somewhere on the book blog. I'll see if I can scare it up.

Feb 17, 2010 14:12 PM
rating: 0
 
Tommy Bennett

My Hot Stove U article discussed this topic, if that helps.

Feb 17, 2010 15:38 PM
rating: 0
 
YX

AHA, that's it!
Guess it is closer than I expected.

Feb 18, 2010 08:11 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

That thought occurred to me too. However, I still think that the findings stand. If 3BCs sent everybody from the 73% chances to the 99.9% chances, we'd likely see an overall success rate around 85% or so. I'm consistently seeing 95%+ The other thing, and I was only able to allude to this in the piece, was that I have done other work suggesting that it's almost never a bad idea to send a guy on a possible sac fly. I generated "would he make it?" probabilities based on distance and speed, and they were almost always (98% of the time or so) above the break-even point.

Feb 17, 2010 14:07 PM
 
3n2sports

Isn't that 85% number assuming an even distribution of chances. It seems likely that the design of the ball field generates far more 100% chances than any other kind, which would pull up that average.

Feb 17, 2010 14:14 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

I am making that assumption. But if there are a bunch of 100% chances, then why aren't they all being sent?

Feb 17, 2010 14:23 PM
 
TheRealNeal

They are all being sent.

Look at your original numbers.

68 = cannot be made out
10 = good chance (seven made it)
19 = cannot be safe

You're article theorizes that by giving the other team an additional 19 free outs, you'll score more runs.

The theory is wrong.

Feb 17, 2010 17:15 PM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

19 stayed at third base. Had they gone, they might have been safe, they might have been out. We'll never know.

Feb 17, 2010 19:52 PM
 
TheRealNeal

Who were those 19 runners, how deep were the fly balls and who were they hit to?

If your math is correct, anyone with a greater than 27% chance of getting thrown out shouldn't be sent (game considerations aside). Think about it, 19 times in 100, the chances are about 1 in 3 that a guy gets thrown out - does that really seem out of line to you?

You're taking 97 different decisions and trying to apply the same equation to each of them. That's just wrong.

Feb 17, 2010 20:04 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

It's a lot harder than you might think. Consider that we're talking about a pinpoint 250 foot throw, under pressure. Get the angle wrong or the force behind the ball wrong, and you've messed up the throw. The runner just has to run straight ahead for four seconds and slide.

Feb 17, 2010 20:19 PM
 
TheRealNeal

So, each of those 19 situations had the outfielder 250 feet or farther from home plate? I missed that in the article.

Feb 17, 2010 20:27 PM
rating: 0
 
TheRealNeal

Sorry, we should be using 29. I pulled the 19 out of my backside.

Feb 17, 2010 20:29 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

I used 250 for illustration. It's probably better read as "a really long throw."

Feb 18, 2010 12:54 PM
 
Chad DeShon

Yes. I would guess that 95% of the time there is a fly ball with a runner on third it is a very easy decision. Most of the time the ball is hit deep enough that Billy Butler can walk home, or shallow enough that even the fastest runner isn't going to try.

All those easy scores push the success rate upward. The coach would have to be sending a lot of runners with the chance of scoring is well below %73 to end up with a success rate of 73%.

Feb 17, 2010 14:29 PM
rating: 0
 
Jared Cross
(694)

I think the findings stand too (and in retrospect I see that my comment might come off as negative whereas I really enjoyed this article) but I tend to agree with 3n2sports that the success% of a 3rd base coaching acting optimally might be over 85% for the reason he gives.

It sounds like you've done deeper analysis here so I'm really hoping there's a follow up article.

Feb 17, 2010 16:08 PM
rating: 0
 
Richie

Not sure this logically holds up. You should send the runner when it's a sure thing, when he has a 73.2% chance of making it, and all instances in between. If those are randomly distributed within that spectrum, wouldn't that then make the optimum success rate 86.6%?

Which still means that they're too conservative, but not by all that much.

Feb 17, 2010 11:03 AM
rating: 4
 
eighteen

I don't see how these aggregate percentages fit into the 3B coach's decision-making process. If Carlos Ruiz is on third, no outs, and a medium fly ball's hit to Alfosno Soriano, sending Ruiz is stupid. But if it's Rollins on 3d and Juan Pierre's catching the ball, sending Rollins is a no-brainer.

Pretending every baserunner and outfielder is an identical aggregate of league-average statistics, and every play has a league-average outcome, just doesn't translate to the real world.

Feb 17, 2010 11:53 AM
rating: 5
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

In a separate study, I was able to control for depth of the fly ball and speed of the runner. I still haven't found good outfield arm ratings. The findings were quite strong.

Feb 17, 2010 20:01 PM
 
TheRealNeal

http://www.tangotiger.net/scout/index5.php

Feb 17, 2010 20:06 PM
rating: 0
 
kdmelend

You state that the average team leaves 4 runs on the table per year, but your article leaves the idea of game situation unmentioned. Eighteen makes a great point about how deep the fly ball is, who is on third, and who is catching it. But equally important to a coach's decision making is inning and score. If I am up 1 in the eight I might make a very different decision than if I am up 8 in the eighth, or if it is early in the game. Thus, a conclusion of:

Thus, the ideal third-base coach is a sign on a stick featuring the words "If the gentleman currently holding the ball is an outfielder, please turn left and run an additional 90 feet."

is far too strong. At least until you can convince me that you have controlled for these factors.

Feb 17, 2010 12:11 PM
rating: 1
 
dianagram

Also to be considered:

* the ballpark (run-scoring environment ... is it a bandbox where one more run doesn't mean THAT much, or a canyon where one more run can stand up)
* the flyball/ball-in-play tendencies of the next batter (if the next batter puts many balls into play ... and puts then in the air, there should be less of a tendency to send the runner)

Feb 17, 2010 13:23 PM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

Good points there.

Feb 17, 2010 14:09 PM
 
kmbart

It's strange that you chose Sam Perlozzo as your sample 3rd base coach, since he's a vast improvement on his predecessor, Steve Smith. (Smith is currently participating in The Amazing Race and that's hardly far enough away from Citizen's Bank Ballpark for my taste, but Cleveland Indians fans will have to put up with his aberrant arm-waving this season).

Note that the Phillies are far and away the most successful team in baseball at the art of the stolen base for several years running (pun intended). Most analysts attribute this to the sagacity of one Davey Lopes, 1st base and baserunning coach extraordinaire, but perhaps a modicum of credit is due to the baserunning skills of Messrs. Utley, Rollins, Victorino, Werth, Howard (8 SBs, only 3 of which were back-ends), et al; and Mr. Perlozzo's success rate is a result of smart, speedy runners who give outfielders a reason to hurry their throws.

Feliz, Ibanez, Ruiz - them he don't run so much, for obvious reasons.

Feb 17, 2010 13:36 PM
rating: 0
 
Greg Ioannou

Four runs left on the table by each team. Thirty teams. So 120 runs left on the table. But the situation only came up 97 times. Buzzzzzz ... click ... that ... does ... not ... compute.

What am I missing?

Feb 17, 2010 13:39 PM
rating: 0
 
antoine6

The four runs per season involved situations beyond just runner on third, no out (meaning those situations with one out, as well as other baserunners). The 97 times was just that specific situation (runner on third, no out).

Feb 17, 2010 14:00 PM
rating: 1
 
Matt

Only the specific situation: no outs, runner on third, fly ball happened 97 times. The runs left on the table are for all sac fly opportunities.

Feb 17, 2010 14:04 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

You all beat me to it. BP readers are smrt.

Feb 17, 2010 14:08 PM
 
bokosox13

97 was just that specific situation (man on third, no one out). When he referenced the 4 runs left on the table, he was referring to ALL sacrifice fly situations, regardless of the # base-runners/outs.

Feb 17, 2010 14:08 PM
rating: 0
 
bokosox13

Too slow. Nice Simpsons reference Russ.

Feb 17, 2010 14:09 PM
rating: 0
 
Ogremace

I'd like to see leverage factored in here somehow. Others allude to a similar addendum that would consider game/ runner/ fielder situations. What I'm curious about is the effect to which the run on third is important to the team. As you point out (or seem to be) the third base coaches job is to score runs, not to have safe baserunners. Doesn't this mean that when you calculate the average runs scored in a given situation, inning should be taken into account? When your team is down a run in the 8th, the break even point may be different as would the overall chance of scoring a run before the end of the game.

It may be true that teams on average leave runners on base over the course of a year, but are all those runs of equal value? Wouldn't the break even point be context dependent?

Feb 17, 2010 14:06 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

There are situations where I wouldn't send the runner unless it was a total gimme. Ninth inning down by 2, why risk the runner when you're going to need another hit anyway comes to mind. However, runs are runs and the game is always about scoring more of them.

Feb 17, 2010 14:21 PM
 
Ogremace

What about the effect of game completion on run scoring? When you have 6 innings to score a run compared to 2 innings, doesn't the math change? That is, if we're going to consider run expectancy, shouldn't this be contextualized?

Feb 17, 2010 15:26 PM
rating: 0
 
TheRealNeal

It shouldn't be contextualized, other than as previous posters have stated, unless you've determined some way to score partial runs across innings.

Feb 17, 2010 17:05 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

I think this line of logic falls into the trap of "runs in the ninth inning are worth more that runs in the second." Runs are runs.

Feb 17, 2010 19:50 PM
 
Ben Solow

In this case I think you're right that "runs are runs", but I don't think that statement holds generally. Context matters in all sorts of baseball decisions, i.e. when the best relief pitcher should pitch. That's formally equivalent to an option-pricing problem and is highly dependent on the situation both in terms of inning and runners, etc.

Plus, there are all sorts of other decisions involving sending runners (advancing on singles) where you may want to hold or advance a runner based on the interaction between the probability of drawing from the thick right tail of the distribution and the inning. A four run bottom of the second is valuable, but you shouldn't include that possibility in your calculations in the bottom of the ninth if you're down by less than four runs.

Feb 18, 2010 07:14 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

You're correct that context matters in other decisions, and in a 15-2 game when both teams just want to go home, it's not a big deal whether the runner stays or goes. You've identified another specific situation where it might not hold (the ninth inning, behind by a few runs), but what about the other eight innings?

This is a very simple, well-defined decision (stay/go), that has definable outcomes (via the run expectancy matrix... if you want to monkey around for some other context, fine) and if the goal is maximizing the number of runs scored (which is kinda the point of the game) then this is a way to maximize run scoring.

Feb 18, 2010 13:18 PM
 
Brock Dahlke

Still sometimes it doesn't matter what the third base coach says because players will go or not go no matter what the coach is signaling or telling them to do. See: Punto, Nick.

Feb 17, 2010 15:25 PM
rating: 2
 
TucsonTumbleweed

What if any consideration should there be to the possibility of injury? Maybe you dont send your pitcher or a prone "Carroll Red" player unless it doesnt look like it will be a close play?

Feb 17, 2010 16:39 PM
rating: 3
 
rweiler

This is what I was thinking. Collisions at the plate are not a good thing for any player, and the runner isn't wearing any protective gear. Risking injury to an essential player that results in his losing playing time or under performing outweighs the upside of creating an extra run in one game.

Feb 17, 2010 17:57 PM
rating: 0
 
jtrichey

Another question. How easy is it for a human being to assess in the 3 to 4 seconds a fly ball is in the air, "Gee, I think that tagging up has a 75% chance of success, I should send the runner"? Or "Hmmm, that fly ball has only a 58% chance of success, he needs to stay"?

Feb 17, 2010 17:27 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

Well, when that's what you get paid to do...

It's not easy, but somewhere in the back of his mind, the 3BC is doing some sort of calculation. It's just skewed toward keeping the runner there more than it should be.

Feb 17, 2010 19:53 PM
 
TheRealNeal

I am not trying to stalk you here, but really...

Conventional baseball "wisdom" is that you don't send the guy with no outs. You've got evidence that shows the coaches are going against that convention 80% of the time, and you conclusion is that they're being overly conservative.

Feb 17, 2010 20:09 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

Conventional baseball wisdom is filled with all sorts of things that are demonstrably false. The run expectancy matrix builds in the fact that even with one out, the likelihood that the runner scores is high.

Feb 17, 2010 20:20 PM
 
TheRealNeal
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

True, unfortunately you've made 0 headway in 'proving' that you've found one here.

Feb 17, 2010 20:50 PM
rating: -5
 
dianagram

Or the third base coach can hope that the ump is watching the catch in the outfield, and not the runner, and the runner can get a millisecond jump on the catch.

(but of course, the ump COULD call the runner out without even seeing if he left the base early or not, as in last year's playoffs)

Feb 17, 2010 20:25 PM
rating: 0
 
TheRealNeal

I'll try to illustrate the flawed logic with some tangible examples.

Situation 1. Michael Bourn is on third base and Juan Pierre makes a diving catch running up the hill in center field at the Juice Box, slamming into the flag pole.

Conclusion: Runner should be sent, because he has a 73.3% chance of scouring, and thus a positive outcome.

Situation 2. Jorge Posada is at third and a pop fly is hit 150 feet from home into right field which Ichiro catches running at 70% of maximum speed directly facing home plate.

Conclusion: Runner should be sent because he has a greater than 73.3% chance of scoring, and thus a positive outcome.

If the article was done correctly it would have disregarded all of situation 1's above (plays where throws aren't attempted or reasonably done so), and weighted situation 2's to the correct chance of the runner actually scoring, (say 5% for that particular scenario up to 99.9% chance were an outfielder could theoretically throw someone out).
Then further weighted those numbers against the game situations mentioned by others.

Good idea, very poor execution.

Feb 17, 2010 21:03 PM
rating: 2
 
Randy Brown
(189)

I just want to know if Juan Pierre is OK.

Feb 18, 2010 09:15 AM
rating: 4
 
Sam Mauser

To call that the conclusion is a pretty big stretch, I think.

A third base coaches job in this scenario is, on some level, to assess the chances of the runner reaching home. The problem is that the statistics suggest that third base coaches are seeing the threshold for sending runners as being somewhere around 90%, rather than being somewhere around 73%.

The "always send" is probably not optimal, but is meant to show that it would be better than what teams currently do in these situations.

Feb 18, 2010 11:22 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

That about covers my thoughts on the issue. There are situations when the runner should hold, but they are much rare-er than is generally believed.

I used the "always send" to have a little fun with the data. The results surprised me. I went with it. It's not actually going to happen (and it isn't optimal), but it's better than what's being done now.

Feb 18, 2010 12:59 PM
 
TheRealNeal

We're still talking about a maximum of 29 decisions out of 97 that you were saying are potentially incorrect.

I will put the question to you again and to others. Does it seem likely that 30% of the time the third base coach felt that the player had less than a 73% chance of scoring?

To me that number seems perfectly in line with what I would expect. It may be a little high, but it's not outrageously high.

Feb 18, 2010 13:26 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

The weighting is done by the binary logit analysis that I alluded to in the text. I didn't fully report it, because ESPN wanted me to keep the numbers light. However, in that case, I controlled for both distance and speed.

Feb 18, 2010 13:03 PM
 
LyleCox

Seems rather simplistic to say that more runs would be scored if runner is sent 100% of the time instead of anything less than 100% of the time- just sayin...

Feb 18, 2010 09:09 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

Small tweak: more runs would be scored with 100% send than are scored now. There's probably a point around (just guessing here) 90ish% that would be the optimal point.

Feb 18, 2010 13:02 PM
 
Gordon

You have confused the break even point to make the decision on sending the runner (you give 73.2%) with the measured success rate. If a 3B coach had perfect knowledge of the odds, and followed the 73.2% rule for each runner, then his overall success rate would be much higher than 73.2%. You average in all the runners with higher chances when you calculate the success rate.

Feb 18, 2010 11:08 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

Yeah, that's a goof on my part. I still stand by the overall message. There's no reason for success rates to be that high.

Feb 18, 2010 13:00 PM
 
Fresh Hops

"it says that Perlozzo needs to be 73.2 percent sure that Rollins will make it before he sends him. So, if third-base coaches league-wide are playing the game correctly, we should see that about 73 percent of the runners in this situation wind up scoring."

No, no, no.

He needs to be *at least* 73.2% sure. If he's greater than 73.2% sure, he will send the runner. If he's 100% sure 50% of the time, 73.2% sure 25% of the time, and 0% sure the rest of the time, he's going to send the runner 75% of the time at an 86.6% success rate.

You could think of the events in three baskets:
-no doubt safe
-no doubt out
-grey area
This analysis should only involve the grey area, but you include the no doubt safe in the analysis.

Feb 18, 2010 11:18 AM
rating: 3
 
Fresh Hops

To be clear, 86.6% is the success rate he would have if a perfect judge of the situation, i.e., if his confidence and the real chance are exactly equal. The point is to illustrate that actual success rate should sometimes differ from the break-even point.

(BTW, if your analysis in this article is correct, then the best base stealers are those who succeed 73% of the time and guys like Ichiro should stop with their 82% success rates and steal more.)

Feb 18, 2010 11:45 AM
rating: 0
 
YaoPau

Actually, it needs to be even higher than 86.6%.

Using Russell's numbers of 97 events, 78 runners sent, and 96.2% success rate, 3B coaches delivered (75/97)*1.279 + (3/97)*0.106 + (19/97)*.965 = 1.182 expected runs per event.

Change those numbers to 97 events, 97 runners sent, and an 86.6% success rate, and expected runs is just 1.122 per event.

What it seems like is 3B coaches have this about nailed.

Feb 18, 2010 12:09 PM
rating: 0
 
Fresh Hops

My numbers were just hypothetical ones to illustrate how one would end up sending more than 73% of runners and still being doing a good job.

Feb 18, 2010 12:46 PM
rating: 0
 
stimetsr

I would guess that the distribution of out percentages is highly bi-modal and probably bathtub shaped, i.e. the vast majority of the time the runner will almost certainly be out if he runs or he will almost certainly score if he runs. If this is the case, then the vast majority of the time the runner will run precisely when he should run, which is what we seem to be observing (understand that there may be times that the runner would almost certainly score and decides not run anyway). Somehow one has to be able to identify those times where the end result of the play is uncertain and see what the results of those plays are.

One thing to note: it seems to me that it's pretty rare to even see a close play at the plate in these situations. Nearly every fly ball seems to end with the outfielder lobbing the ball to second while the runner trots home, or the runner taking three steps towards home and stopping while the ball reaches the catcher on a couple of hops.

Feb 18, 2010 13:13 PM
rating: 0
 
J Scott

Frankly, as a decades-long horseplayer, I had some difficulty working my way past the third paragraph. You seem to be saying that someone is offering 10-1 odds on a 1-1 proposition, and if accepting this wager I would, in the long run, come out "slightly ahead." Slightly ahead? Slightly? In the long run I would own Planet Earth. The whole enchilada. You would all be working for me. And I would be a very stern master. Very...stern.

Feb 20, 2010 11:58 AM
rating: 3
 
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