As I firmly plant my flag in the “Red Sox suck at baserunning” section, I realize it’s not exactly the hottest take out right. With that said there are some conflicting schools of measurements that leave a possibility that the Red sox are more aggressive than they are incompetent.
Outs on Bases is a simple statistic used to track the total number of outs made while making a baserunning play. This does not include pickoffs, caught stealing, or force plays. Let’s check in to see how the Red Sox rank in this category:
Total OOB: 67 (Last) (Next closest: Houston, 55)
Outs made at 1B: 8 ( T-25th)
Outs made at 2B: 18 (T-Last)
Outs made at 3B: 16 (Last)
Outs made at home: 25 (Last)
These numbers alone, combined with just an old-fashioned eye test, can probably tell you the Red Sox have thrown away plenty of runs already this season. Or have they?
FanGraphs created a metric, known as BsR, which serves as the baserunning component for a player’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Put together, BsR is designed to capture a player or team’s total value on the bases based on risk, reward, and the odds of future runs being created or negated. Here is the formula for BsR courtesy of FanGraphs:
BsR = wSB + UBR + wGDP
wSB is Weighted Stolen Base Runs which estimates the number of runs above or below average a player contributes to his team by stealing bases and being thrown out trying to steal. You can read more about wSB specifically at the link provided, but the calculation is as follows:
wSB = SB * runSB + CS * runCS – lgwSB * (1B + BB + HBP – IBB)
League stolen base runs (lgwSB) is:
lgwSB = (SB * runSB + CS * runCS) / (1B + BB + HBP – IBB)
As with all linear weights-based metrics, the runs values are estimates. In this case, the run value of a stolen base is set at .2 runs for all seasons. The run value of a caught stealing changes from year to year to reflect the changing value of runs and outs over the season.
runCS = 2 x RunsPerOut + 0.075
Runs Per Out is simply runs scored in the season divided by outs in the season. The seasonal constants for wSB can be found alongside the wOBA constants here.
Calculating Ultimate Base Running (UBR) is more difficult in practice, but it is theoretically quite easy to understand. UBR essentially takes the run expectancy of the advancement (or lack thereof) and credits that to the base runner depending the frequency with which the average runner advances in the same situation. For more specific detail about the types of plays it considers, check out the UBR Primer.
The same goes for wGDP. All you’re doing is taking the extra outs a player costs his team (or saves) by hitting into more double plays (or fewer) than average given his opportunities.
BsR is simply wSB, UBR, and wGDP added together with no further adjustments.
If you’re still with us, the BsR grading scale is set as such:
Above Average: 2
Below Average: -2
The Red Sox are currently average according to BsR, sitting at 0.5 (14th in MLB). Their positive rating may be thanks to the increased double steals and hit and run situations manager John Farrell has green-lit this year in an effort to manufacture runs. Remember this stat is taking into account both the runs you create and the ones you lose.
At this point a year ago the Red Sox were one of the elite baserunning teams in the league with a rating of +10.5, good enough for 5th among MLB teams.
Their youth might be factoring into their increased baserunning blunders, as rookie Andrew Benintendi leads all players with 10 total OOB made.
This past week only added to the frustration for Red Sox faithful as Brock Holt was caught stealing on a 2-0 breaking ball to Jackie Bradley Jr with one out in the 9th to pretty much seal a Yankees win. Rafael Devers was picked off at first to stunt a two-out rally in Sunday’s game and Hanley Ramirez can’t keep his helmet on. The list goes on and on.
Sabermetrics has changed the foundation of baseball over the past decade and as the Red Sox are showing, the traditional laws of baserunning may be the next to go.