I’d been wanting to do an analysis like this for a while, but wasn’t quite sure which numbers to use as I’ve been primarily leaning on Fangraphs for a lot of my analytical reasoning this season, and as wonderful as the site is, they haven’t delved into situational hitting and baserunning all that deeply yet, although I’m sure they will soon enough. However, I didn’t realize that Baseball-Reference has even more of a treasure trove of comprehensive baseball statistics than I was aware of, and this discovery was made possible due to Steve S.’s spectacular post from last week looking at the Rays’ proficiency at scoring despite not possessing significantly high triple-slash numbers.
Given the Yankees’ ability to put men on base, but recent troubles in bringing those runners around to score, I realized that a traditional look at the playoff field featuring simply offensive and pitching comparisons wouldn’t quite tell the entire story. Especially in the case of the Rays, who clearly make the most of their baserunning opportunities. As wonderful as the Yankees’ league-leading OBP is (and don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have it any other way), that number is slightly hollow if the Yankees aren’t scoring as many of those baserunners as possible. Obviously they still score plenty — you can’t accidentally lead the league in runs and runs per game (5.31) — but it’s almost staggering to think the Yankees could be scoring even more runs if they could plate all of those stranded baserunners.
Here’s a look at a select group of the four teams’ baserunning metrics (bolded numbers represent leader in each category of this four-team field):
|MIN||4.88||54||32%||28||70%||58||onmouseout="" onmouseover="" style="border: 1px solid rgb(204, 204, 204); padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap;" align="right">8||21||58||167||40%||318||228||86||110||66||41||205||69||129|
|LgAvg||4.47||55||30%||38||73%||89||13||20||53||150||40%||293||205||84||89||seover="" style="border: 1px solid rgb(204, 204, 204); padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap;" align="right">51||36||179||67||103|
There aren’t too many surprises here. The Rays have the highest stolen base percentage of the four contenders (though believe it or not Oakland of all teams is actually tops in the AL, at 80%, due primarily to Rajai Davis and Coco Crisp), along with the most steals of second base and most steals of third (again falling second overall to the A’s). The Yankees have made the fewest Outs on Base of these four teams, but have also taken the fewest bases of fly balls, passed balls, wild pitches, balks and defensive indifference. Interestingly, Tampa, Texas and Minnesota rank 1-2-3 in the league in Bases Taken. Tampa Bay also leads the league in Extra Bases Taken %, at 46%, while the Yankees rank below the 40% league average at 38%.
Basically all this data does is confirm what we already knew: Tampa Bay is the class of the field in making the most of their opportunities on the basepaths, while the Rangers actually aren’t too far behind, though they may almost be a bit too aggressive at times. The Twins appear to play a similar brand of baseball as the Yankees do on the bases, though they too are a superior baserunning team (I realize we’re getting pretty granular here, but the Twins lead the league in instances where a runner on second scores after a single is hit, with 129. The league average is 103. The Yankees are at 105).
And here’s a look at some selected situational hitting stats:
Again, not a ton of surprises. Minnesota leads the field in Sacrifice Bunt Success rate, though surprisingly Boston leads the league (78%). Texas is tops in the field and league in Productive Out percentage. The Yankees have had more than 200 more baserunners than the next-best team, Minnesota, but their 15% baserunners scored rate lags Tampa Bay and Minnesota, and unsurprisingly underscores the team’s season-long inability to plate runners.
The Rays have been tops among this field in scoring runners on third with less than two outs (51%), though Kansas City randomly leads the AL (56%). And though the Rays have had the most opportunities with runners on second and no outs (the Yankees are 2nd), Texas has actually been the top team in the league in converting their opportunities in that particular scenario, with a 46% rate.
Taken together, the numbers tell us what we already know: The Yankees continue to rely on a offensive strategy of getting on base at a league-leading rate and hoping to slug those runners home with doubles and home runs, which has obviously worked and will no doubt continue to work; though to their detriment they haven’t been able to convert their baserunners into runs as efficiently as the other postseason teams.
Not that I expect or want the Yankees to get away from their game, but given the general decline in power we often see in the playoffs, taking walks and playing station-to-station ball while waiting for the big blast could be a bit more difficult this postseason. I know it worked for the Yankees in
2009, but the teams in the postseason playing field in the AL profile a bit differently this year, and the Brett Gardners, Elvis Andruses, Denard Spans and Carl Crawfords of the world may be playing a more prominent role.
It’ll be interesting to see whether the Yankees need to adapt and play what may have to be a more micro version of their game, especially against opponents who clearly are very comfortable controlling the game on the basepaths, or if they can continue to slug their opponents into submission.
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