Out West, the Angels' inability to take advantage of situations on the basepaths could cost them a division title.
Last season, there were two divisions (the NL West, from which the reigning world champion Giants arose, and the AL East) that were decided by a margin of three games or fewer. In 2009, there were two more division races (the AL Central, which the Twins captured by a single game, and again the NL West) that came down to a swing of three or fewer games. 2008? Three races. 2007? Four races. Over the last four years, every division in baseball has been able to boast at least one pennant race resolved within the final three days of the season—well, every division except the AL West.
Throughout the better part of the early- to mid-aughts, the AL West stood proud and tall as one of the more hotly-contested divisions in the game; four of the five division titles between 2002-06 were secured by a margin of no more than four games. But over the last four seasons, the average margin of victory in the AL West has been a far less suspenseful 11.5 games. That’s great for the conquering team but not so great for those fans of AL West teams who enjoy an ample dose of divisional parity, and definitely not so great for the distant second-place team whose late-season gate receipts are inhibited by their non-contender status.
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Talking KC's fleet feet with Ned Yost, plus Hosmermalia with AGM Dean Taylor and the man himself.
NEW YORK—The Kansas City Royals have an identity. It's an emerging one, of course, and it is sure to change as talent from its rich farm system begins to trickle into their big league clubhouse. But the Royals have established that they at least have the makings of a calling card, something for which they are known, something other than losing.
Really, when was the last time they could say that?
Is Ron Roenicke running the Brewers out of ballgames?
At times, you're going to say, 'Why are you running so much? Why are you getting thrown out trying to take extra bases?' It's going to happen, but that's the style I like to play. I've seen it win a lot of ballgames over the years. We're going to be aggressive from third base scoring, we're going to be aggressive from first to third and, at times, we're going to get thrown out. But over the course of the season, I guarantee we will score a lot more runs being aggressive."—Brewers manager Ron Roenicke in his introductory press conference, November 4, 2010
Ron Roenicke’s baserunning philosophy has been a matter of public record since day one of his managerial regime, when he essentially introduced himself to the city of Milwaukee with the above quote. In the lead-up to the season, it was practically impossible to find an article about Roenicke and the Brewers that did not mention Roenicke's aggressive style of play. As a storyline in Brewers circles, it has been a go-to choice for months now. However, as a policy, it hasn't proven popular.
The Rangers' work on the basepaths, led by leadoff hitter Elvis Andrus, has been a big reason for their post-season success.
If you've been watching this year's post-season games, you're no doubt aware of the role that the Rangers' aggressive baserunning played in their reaching the World Series. They've stolen 15 bases in 17 attempts thus far in the playoffs, and their so-called "antler plays"—in which their runners take an extra base on a hit, an out, or a ball skipping away from the catcher—were a key reason why they got past both the Rays and the Yankees. Particularly so in the final game of the Division Series, where their first three runs against the Rays owed to such baserunning, as Elvis Andrus scored from second on a ground out, Nelson Cruz scored on a throwing error after stealing third (admittedly, after initially dogging it to second base on a hit he thought was a homer), and Vlad Guerrero scored from second on a force out.
The differences are not large between good and bad baserunning teams but big enough to determine a pennant race.
We always remember the extraordinary moments in baserunning, those plays that come late in a game and tend to either win or lose the game. Dave Roberts' steal of second in Game Four of the 2004 American League Championship Series is perhaps the most memorable baserunning play of the last decade, but Chico Ruiz stealing home in 1964—or Jackie Robinson doing the same on numerous occasions—stand out as well. In many ways, these plays were important because of context. They came in high-leverage situations, often during the pennant race or postseason, and in hindsight we know that they mattered. Indeed, the most memorable baserunning plays are the ones that are necessary and nearly sufficient for victory, like Roberts stealing second. As a win expectancy matter, the most memorable plays precipitously alter the odds.
Sorting and separating the best and worst baserunners from the rest.
"I don't really like to run, and that's why I didn't go out for track in high school. I ain't no fool, I see those dudes running around a track for a living. I wouldn't want to run against them. I wouldn't want to embarrass myself." --Willie Wilson
Revisiting baserunning metrics to see how much credit, if any, should go to runners when a pitcher makes a mistake.
"We don't have a 40 home run guy anymore... We have to reduce mistakes, take advantage of every opportunity we get... We need to improve on moving runners over from second to third and our base running. There can be an eight- to 10-game swing in a season just from base running."
--Syd Thrift, in 2001, when he served as the Orioles Vice President of Baseball Operations
Dan backs up and provides an overview on what this summer's findings tell us about team-level baserunning, and what we can learn about baserunning in general.
When last we were together, we added up the various baserunning metrics we've been formulating all summer to come up with a total number of theoretical runs contributed on the bases for individual players. This included runs from advancing on ground and air outs, advancing on hits, and runs contributed from stolen base attempts (and pickoffs).