One of the biggest plays in game two came in the ninth inning, when Josh Hamilton lofted a fly ball to right field. Ian Kinsler, on third base, at the time, scored; Elvis Andrus, on second, tagged and went to third. He’d score the winning run on another sacrifice fly from the next batter.
We can construct a table of values to show us how many runs scored, on average, from every base/out situation. These are the numbers for the major leagues in 2011:
0 1 2 1-2 3 1-3 2-3 1-2-3 0 outs 0.480 0.849 1.062 1.431 1.311 1.680 1.893 2.262 1 out 0.258 0.502 0.648 0.892 0.898 1.142 1.288 1.532 2 outs 0.097 0.218 0.314 0.435 0.354 0.476 0.572 0.693
Hamilton’s fly took the Rangers from a situation that averaged 1.893 runs, to one that had 1 run definitely in, plus an average of 0.898 runs more to come. That’s a gain of just 0.005 runs, which makes the play seem almost inconsequential. It goes to show that flying out to get the run has a lot less intrinsic value than banging out a hit would have carried.
That’s one way of looking at it. Compared to just striking out, though, or popping up or doing anything that would have left the runners in place, the real result was a clear gain of 0.61 runs. A quarter run of that comes from Andrus’ getting from second to third, which perhaps should be credited more to him than to Hamilton, but that is besides the point.
In turns out that a play like this should come as no surprise. Perhaps because he did frequently have players like Elvis Andrus on base in fron of him, Josh Hamilton was the #1 hitter in the majors in terms of value gained from his outs, and by a wide margin:
Josh Hamilton, Tex 20.1
Derek Jeter, NYY 16.2
Juan Pierre, CWS 15.7
Omar Infante, Fla 15.5
Carlos Lee, Hou 15.2
Hideki Matsui, Oak 14.9
Angel Pagan, NYM 14.8
Ichiro Suzuki, Sea 14.6
Elvis Andrus, Tex 14.5
Alcides Escobar, KC 14.4
To get to these figures, I used the run matrix above to define a baseline value of a simple out – one with no runner advancement. That was compared to the real value after the play was over whenever the batter hit a sacrifice fly, a sacrifice hit, or had a hitless atbat. Reaching on an error counts in your favor – looks like an out in the boxscore, plays like a single or better as far as the game is concerned. Grounding into a double play sticks a minus on you – from the game point of view, and Earl Weaver’s, you should have just struck out. So does hitting a fly ball deep enough to tempt a runner into trying to advance, but not enough for him to succeed.
There is no question that these values are dependent on the men on base for you; I’m only trying to reconcile what happened while hitters were up, not what they might have done with “average” baserunners. And there is also no doubt that my no-advance baseline can be questioned.
As you can see from the above list, it helps on this measure to be fast – that’s going to help you reach on errors and avoid double plays, and those will help you score well by this metric. It clearly isn’t the only thing, though, since that adjective does not remotely apply to Lee or Matsui. A look at the bottom ten, though, does reinforce the speed angle:
David Ortiz, Bos -5.1
John Buck, Fla -3.3
Ryan Adams, Bal -3.0
Matt Holliday, StL -2.8
Matt Wieters, Bal -2.0
Pedro Alvarez, Pit -1.9
Brian McCann, Atl -1.9
Brad Hawpe, SD -1.9
Matt Domiguez, Fla -1.5
Brian Bogusevic, Hou -1.3
An big, old DH leads the way, three catchers, an out-of-shape third baseman, three short-time players unlucky enough pull some big negative plays.
The World Series also offers quite the clash of teams, in this stat. The Rangers are the only team to have two players in the top 10, with Hamilton and Andrus, and were also the only team in the majors to have no negative players at all. Its not too surprising, then, that they accumulated a major-league best 103 runs above the default, beating out the Mets by two and a half runs.
At the other end of the spectrum, Holliday’s place in the bottom ten is a clue to the Cardinals, who finished with a major-league worst total of just 46 runs above baseline. Holliday (-2.8), David Freese (-0.7), Colby Rasmus (-0.2), and Albert Pujols (-.005) gave the Cards four regulars who just weren’t going to advance anybody without a hit. Their best player, semi-regular David Descalso, had just 8.5 runs, equaling the worst mark for any team leader.
The team totals look like this:
Do the team’s abilities in making productive outs have any relationship with their projected run totals? The question is slightly confused, in that SH and SF are included in EqR, but there was essentially no correlation between the difference in productive out deltas and EqR deltas – and what little correlation there was was slightly negative. Boston, the Yankees, and St. Louis had top-five offenses, despite getting low advancement value on their outs, because of the frequency and strength of their non-outs. If you get enough hits and homers, it doesn’t matter how often someone moves from second to third on a grounder.
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