Do runners perform worse when they're inserted late in games?
With the end of the playoffs last week, we’ve reached the end of designated pinch runner season. Quintin Berry had a good run on the Red Sox postseason roster, appearing three times (once in each of Boston’s three postseason series) as a pinch runner and stealing a base each time. Over the past few years, it seems that teams have been more willing to use that strategy in the playoffs. The nice thing about a playoff roster is that with plenty of off-days, having guys on the bench who can cover for tired regulars isn’t as important. A lot of times it frees up a spot for a designated runner, a guy who is really, really fast, but has very little value in any other part of the game.
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How the Mets became by far the best baserunning team in baseball.
It’s a few hours before first pitch at Citi Field, and for now, at least, the National League’s best baserunner is standing still. But in his head, he’s already on the lookout for empty bases to annex. “There is no reason to ever check into a bag,” Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy says. “You always come around every bag trying to get the extra base. It’s kind of the mindset we’ve taken as an offense. When we get on the basepaths, we want to get the extra 90 feet.”
The clubhouse is still almost empty, though batting practice has yet to begin. It’s Wednesday afternoon, and the Mets are only about 18 hours removed from their latest demonstration of what Murphy means. With the team tied 2-2 against the Rockies on Tuesday night, left fielder Eric Young led off the eighth with a single. After the next batter, Daniel Murphy, flied out and failed to advance him, Young got himself to second, tagging up and advancing on another fly to center hit by Marlon Byrd.
Some pitchers are vastly superior to the rest when it comes to holding on baserunners. What are their secrets?
Last Tuesday night, in Baltimore, Wei-Yin Chen was in a tough spot. Chen had loaded the bases with two outs, and was one pitch away from escaping the inning with minimal damage. He took his sign, came set, and looked toward first base. But before he could start his delivery he heard J.J. Hardy yell to throw home. By the time Chen fired the ball, Astros rookie shortstop Jonathan Villar was three-fourths of the way to a successful swipe of the plate.
Flip the diamond around, and Chen now understands the difficulties every right-hander faces holding runners on with a blind spot. The differences in dynamics between stealing second base and home plate are, of course, numerous. A steal of second rarely merits the GIF treatment. Still, somnambulant righties, especially starters, pay a price for disregarding baserunners—those free bases turn into free runs, and those free runs turn into quick exits. The only thing for a right-handed starter eager to keep his job to do is to learn the tricks of the trade from some of the best, and worst, at holding runners.
Juan Pierre is too old and bad at getting on base to steal this many bases. But he's doing it anyway.
On a Miami team that’s going to stand out on leaderboards for all the wrong reasons, Juan Pierre finished the weekend with 11 stolen bases, one ahead of Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte for the NL lead. The story of a 35-year-old with a .280 on-base percentage who might lead the league in steals isn’t bringing fans to the ballpark, but it is one of the most interesting stories on a Marlins team without many of them.
It’s been 12 years and six address changes since Pierre won his first stolen base crown. He was then a member of the Rockies, a team on which you wouldn’t expect to find a top basestealer, given the ease of hitting home runs in pre-humidor Coors.
The 2013 Tigers will be heavy, slow, and probably bad at baserunning. How much will it hurt them?
We’re not great at holding a lot of small details in our brain for a long period of time, so we summarize and categorize, often remembering only the nut graph of a story rather than the specifics. I think we do this for baseball teams, too, and I’m sure I do it for baseball teams. I know a little bit about every Tiger, but when I think about the Tigers I mainly think along the lines of these bigger, summarizing narratives:
Is it worth paying certain pitchers more for what they do when they're not on the mound?
I was talking to a friend the other day who pointed out that, had Johnny Cueto not been knocked out in the first game, and had not Mike Leake been the Reds' uninspiring only option to replace him, the Giants probably wouldn’t have won the NLDS or, consequently, the World Series. That seems reasonable:
The National League East could come down to baserunning. The Nationals have the edge in the standings, but the Braves' baserunners have kept it close.
On Wednesday night, the Braves shut down the Padres behind another strong start by deadline trade target Paul Maholm. Thanks to a 27-13 run since the start of July, Atlanta’s record stands a season-high 18 games over .500. However, while the Braves have nipped at the first-place Nationals’ heels—at times this month, only two games have separated the NL East’s top teams—they haven’t been able to close the gap completely. The Nats, who won their own game Wednesday on the strength of six precious innings from Stephen Strasburg’s dwindling supply, have matched them win for win.
However, while the Nationals own the NL’s best record, they haven’t yet locked up a division title. Washington won’t have Strasburg on its side for much longer, and the Braves will be right behind them, waiting to capitalize on any sign of weakness. Both teams boast playoff odds north of 90 percent, so neither is likely to miss the postseason (though after the way things went for the Braves last September, they probably aren’t taking a trip to October for granted). But the real prize—a first-place finish, and a guaranteed ticket to the first round of the playoffs—remains at stake. The Nats have the better pitching staff and defense, and both teams are evenly matched on offense. But the Braves do have a sizeable advantage over the Nats in one often-overlooked area: baserunning.
Max crunches the numbers and comes up with the top 10 catchers of the 2012 season based on overall value both at and behind the plate.
The season has reached its midpoint, so this seems like a good time to take a look at some rankings. I debuted here at Baseball Prospectus with a series on evaluating catchers defense, so catchers are the subject of the top-10 list that follows.
The catchers will be listed with four numbers beside their names. The first three cover batting, baserunning, and defense. The fourth is the sum of the numbers pertaining to each of those areas.