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Tortoises vs Hares Part II: What Scutaro and Trout Have in Common

San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro
San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro

July 24, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro (19, left) scores against Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco (39, right) during the third inning at AT&T Park. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

We explained in Part I that the leading base runners in Major League Baseball in the “Scoring from First Base on a Double” scenario are mostly players who are more known for their power bats rather than their blazing speed. In this chapter of this series, we take a look at the leaders in the “Reaching Third Base or Scoring from First Base on a Single (or 1stS3)” scenario. Yes, on a single! So surely, this list will be full of these super fast base runners that baseball purists always preach about needing to be on almost every single team. Well, the results might prove to be surprising:

ON THEIR HORSE: Top Baserunners Reaching 3B or Home from 1B on a Single

Player

1stS3

WAR

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

SB

SB%

UBR

wSB

wRAA

Marco Scutaro

14

2.1

0.367

0.394

8.0%

6.6%

1

100.0%

0.0

-0.2

6.7

Mike Trout

12

5.9

0.401

0.569

11.1%

16.8%

21

84.0%

3.5

2.3

34.0

Austin Jackson

12

1.8

0.350

0.393

10.3%

20.9%

6

75.0%

4.6

0.1

3.9

Matt Carpenter

12

4.5

0.398

0.501

9.8%

12.2%

1

25.0%

2.4

-1.4

25.1

Andrew McCutchen

11

4.8

0.383

0.494

9.6%

14.4%

21

81.0%

2.6

1.9

19.9

Dexter Fowler

11

2.8

0.385

0.477

12.1%

21.5%

14

82.0%

2.6

1.3

16.5

Justin Upton

11

1.7

0.356

0.463

12.4%

25.4%

6

86.0%

3.9

0.5

12.5

Howie Kendrick

11

2.5

0.352

0.469

5.2%

17.3%

6

75.0%

-4.2

0.1

12.0

Ben Revere

11

0.9

0.338

0.352

4.8%

10.7%

22

73.0%

1.4

1.0

-2.2

Joe Mauer

11

4.1

0.406

0.476

12.4%

18.2%

0

0.0%

-0.5

-0.4

22.7

Yes, 37-year-old Marco Scutaro leads the league in this category. Scutaro has a total of one stolen base this season. We explained what UBR and wSB are in Part I. Clearly, Scutaro doesn’t add much value as a base runner and will not be confused for a speedster on the base paths. He does have a few things going for him: he plays a majority of his games at cavernous AT&T Park, he bats second for the San Francisco Giants, in front of Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval, and finally, Scutaro can get on base and is a tough out. Mix those things together and you have a player who gives himself a good number of chances to be in a scenario where he can move up two bases and sometimes scores—on a single.

Not impressed with old-man Scutaro? Well there’s this guy named Mike TroutBut Felipe, of course Trout would be on this list because he is a fast base runner. However, as one will see from the table, of the 10 players listed on this table, there are only three other players, along with Trout, with more than 10 stolen bases:

  • Andrew McCutchen
  • Dexter Fowler
  • Ben Revere

And even though they have the speed to steal a lot of bases, Trout and McCutchen are relied upon to drive in runs for their teams. Including Fowler, Trout and McCutchen are in the top five in wRAA among this group of 10 baseball players. Fowler has a higher wRAA than Justin Upton. Let that sink in for a bit.

It’s not so much Trout’s speed that can get him from first to third (or even home) on a single, but it’s the simple fact, judging by his .401 on-base percentage, he increases his chances to be in this scenario. The higher the on-base percentage, the more likelihood a teammate hits a single that gives the player an opportunity to take two more bases, even on a single.

Felipe, you’re just stubborn. Just admit that Trout is a baseball talent who knows how to take full advantage of his speed. Ok, fine, the 21 stolen bases are nice and he’s only two away from Scutaro in this category. Then why is catcher Joe Mauer only one behind the uber-talented Trout? All year long, I’ve mentioned how much I enjoy analyzing a player like Joe Mauer. He is just a great hitter with good plate discipline. What he lacks in athleticism and speed, he makes up for it by possessing an overabundance of baseball instincts and skills. He actually has a better on-base percentage and BB/K than Mike Trout. Admittedly, he adds almost no value as a base runner, yet he is not too far behind Trout in 1stS3 category. So Mauer is very slow, yet he finds himself on this list. Pretty amazing when you think about it.

Yet, the player with the best UBR has not been racking up the stolen bases or have an extremely high on-base percentage. Austin Jackson leads this group in UBR despite having only swiped six stolen bases and having just an adequate on-base of .350. Jackson has also shown to be pretty quick on the base paths in his career, but for some reason, he has been given the red light when he gets on base. Now why would the Tigers decide to put on the brakes on such an athletic player? Because as the leadoff man for the Detroit Tigers, he is setting the table for Torri Hunter, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielderand Victor Martinez. As I explained in Part I:

…base stealers not only “distract” pitchers from concentrating on the hitter, but the batter has to change his approach to take into account the moving target trying to swipe a base, therefore cutting into that batter’s effectiveness. Also, if a base thief attempts to steal a base and is caught stealing, he has crippled his team’s chances of scoring runs for that particular game. Furthermore, the stats show that a team’s chances of scoring a run after a runner successfully steals a base only shows a slight increase in producing a run off the stolen base. Teams have everything to lose and very little to gain from a stolen base attempt.

Looks like manager Jim Leyland is fully aware of this and that is why Jackson is constantly given the hold sign because he wants to make sure his big boppers have a chance to drive in Jackson with their big bats or give him a chance to take bases with the safer approach of moving him along by putting the ball in play instead of the high risk method of letting him attempt to steal a base. So somehow, the Tigers have managed to turn Austin Jackson into a more efficient base runner despite the decrease in his stolen bases and stolen base attempts.

Conversely, Howie Kendrick has the worst UBR on this list of players. Even though he has a similar on-base percentage as Austin Jackson, Kendrick strikes out too much and doesn’t walk enough to balance those strikeouts. Yet, Kendrick is more counted on to drive in more runs, usually batting fifth for the lowly Angels. That explains why his wRAA is much higher than Jackson’s. Nevertheless, the whole point is to show that you don’t need blazing speed to be able to reach third base or even score from first base on a single. Kendrick’s on-base is still adequate enough where he increases his chances of scoring in this scenario.

Finally, we take a look at what might just be the most one-dimensional player on this list, Ben Revere. He leads this group in stolen bases, but almost in a sick twist of irony, he also has the lowest stolen base percentage among base stealers who have more than 10 stolen bases. That would explain why his wSB is also the lowest among the four players with high volume of steals on this list. Even Dexter Fowler who only has 14 stolen bases is ahead of Revere in wSB. Revere also has the worst on-base percentage of this group and has the fourth worst UBR as well. Nonetheless, he made it to this list because he is actually very fast and can naturally run around the bases and make it as far as home plate on a single. Just imagine how much he would be killing it in this category if he only had a bit more discipline at the plate and had a higher on-base percentage.

CONCLUSION

Once again, we see another category taken over by players that don’t steal a lot of bases and is littered with players considered slow:

  • Marco Scutaro
  • Joe Mauer
  • Matt Carpenter

These players make up a third of this lineup and are part of the 60 percent of players on this list that have accumulated less than 10 stolen bases so far in 2013. The secret in being at the top of this list is not the blazing speed a player might possess, but it’s the skills at the plate to draw a walk and get on base that makes up for the lack of speed and athleticism. Even the players who can steal a lot of bases have high on-base percentage, are more known for being run producers (though Fowler is hitting leadoff for the Colorado Rockies), and are not above drawing a walk (excluding Ben Revere). Yet another quick review that shows that discipline is not only important at the plate, but on the base paths as well.

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