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July 8, 2014

Baseball Therapy

What is a Fast Runner Worth?

by Russell A. Carleton


“He brings us that athletic dimension that we’ve been missing.”

“He’s can beat you in a bunch of different ways. That’s what we like about him.”

“He won’t clog up the bases.”

“He’s really fast.”

A confession: I reflexively recoil when I hear someone try to justify why someone is a good player by citing the fact that he’s fast. It’s not that I don’t get that speed on the basepaths has value to a team. In that weird part of the universe where everything else really is equal, I’d rather have a fast player than a slow one. The problem is that when I start hearing these arguments, it’s generally in the form of “Well, he’s not a very good hitter, but he’s fast. And his speed will cover for that fact that he’s not a good hitter.”

How much is speed worth anyway? Here at BP, we do have a baserunning metric (Base Running Runs, or BRR) that attempts to measure the additional runs that a player adds to a team by virtue of his performance on the basepaths above what we might expect from a league-average baserunner. For example, if a hitter goes from first to third on a single, he has “stolen” an extra base. Last year’s best baserunner by that metric was Matt Carpenter (seriously) checking in at 8.4 runs. (If you’re wondering how Carpenter, who’s no speed demon—seven career steals—won that title, it’s that he tended to be on base a lot when members of the Cardinals got hits, and he was adept at advancing.) If 8.4 runs is close to the upper limit, then why do people make such a big deal about speed? Sure, that’s nothing to sneeze at, but it’s also nothing to cough at.

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Related Content:  Batting Order,  Speed

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<< Previous Article
Notes About Baseball, ... (07/08)
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Premium Article Baseball Therapy: Do S... (07/01)
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Premium Article Moonshot: Survival of ... (07/08)

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