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June 28, 2010

Analyze This

Run Julio, Run

by Craig Brown

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Julio Borbon’s statistical low point came on May 6th. Following a game against Kansas City where he went 0-4 in a 13-run Ranger effort, Borbon’s slash line dipped to .184/.202/.230.  He had come to the plate 91 times, collected just two extra base hits (both triples) and had just a single walk against 14 strikeouts.  The following evening, he went 2-3 and effectively took his season off life support.  In the 143 plate appearances since then, he’s hit .364/.397/.477.

The improved batting average is great, but what you really want is for Borbon to use his wheels and rack up the steals for your team.  Unfortunately, while he’s been getting on base more, the steals haven’t followed.  In fact, it’s been an outright disappointing base stealing year for the Ranger outfielder.  Here are his various base running rates from his two years in the majors:

Run% is the number of times a runner attempts a steal divided by his stolen base opportunities.  Borbon hasn’t been running as much as last year, but he’s still near the top of the list when it comes to runners attempting to steal.  His run rate of over 20% ranks him 10th among all would be thieves in the American League.  Just for reference (and fun) here are the top 10 opportunists so far in the AL this year:

Rajai Davis - 34.1%
B.J. Upton - 33%
Scott Podsednik - 31.9%
Juan Pierre - 27.1%
Alex Rios - 26.7%
Chone Figgins - 25.8%
Carl Crawford - 24.5%
Elvis Andrus - 23.1%
Brett Gardner - 22.5%
Julio Borbon - 20.6%

What separates Borbon from his thieving counterparts is his abysmal 57% stolen base success rate.  The lowest SB% of the nine listed belongs to his Texas teammate, Andrus who is successful 70% of the time.  Davis, Pierre, Figgins, Gardner and Upton all possess a success rate above 80%.  

Borbon’s continuing misadventures on the bases ultimately means he will see more red lights than green.  Over his last 23 games, he’s attempted only four steals and was successful just once.  Plus, he hasn’t attempted a single steal in his last 13 games.  This is despite posting a .423 OBP in this stretch.

Thankfully, Borbon has rediscovered his plate discipline which was MIA during the season’s first two months, which has led to his recent bump in OBP.  He didn’t draw a free pass until his 60th plate appearance of the year and through his first 175 plate appearances, he drew a grand total of two walks.  Two walks. Borbon has always been a free swinger, but that’s crazy.  He’s finally exhibiting some needed patience, drawing seven base on balls in his last 59 plate appearances.  

While he may not be stealing as much, he still reaps the benefits of reaching base as he is coming around to score at a decent clip.  After he reaches, he’s crossing the plate 40% of the time.  

All well and good, but the batting average and runs are a consolation prize, as Borbon needs to be stealing for him to help your team.  He’s running less than expected and the overall lack of success is troubling, and will likely limit his attempts for the short-term.  Until he finds his stealing groove and wins free rein on the bases, there’s too much sizzle and not enough substance.

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

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