Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Running Into Outs

The radio airwaves were filled today with people discussing the base running woes of the Red Sox. I assume it's because Dustin Pedroia made yet another boneheaded play on the bases, and the only way they could bring it up without actually pointing out a fault in the Great Pedroia was to make it a team-wide epidemic.

The Red Sox are too aggressive.

Of course, they went about their argument the completely wrong way. As usual. They kept bringing up the number of outs they've made on the base paths, and pointing out that it was the most in the league. That was a terrible argument for two reasons.

First, ranking means nothing to me. Someone has to be first, and someone has to be last. If the Red Sox had the most outs with 30, but the team with the least had 26, does it even matter?

The other fault is by going with number of outs. First I'll give them too much credit, and assume they're not including force outs. Those are really just a factor of having runners on base, and really a good thing. After all, you can't ground into a double play if you don't have a runner on first. But, even if they're only counting outs made trying to take an extra base...what is that number in relation to? How many times did the Red Sox have an opportunity to take an extra base? How many times did they succeed? Have they gone first-to-third 100 times, and been thrown out five? I'm OK with that. At one point Xander was leading the league in scoring from first on a double (I'll assume he led with a high number). Was he thrown out once or twice along the way to accomplishing that? 

Because, most anyone will tell you, proper base running requires making outs. If you're never thrown out, you're not talking as many chances as you should. Sometimes you need to make a good throw get you out, and just tip your cap.

It's about success rate. Most people agree taking the extra base works if you make it about 75% of the time. So, being thrown out 30 times while making it 100 times is perfectly fine. If you're thrown out 30 time and only making it ten, that's a problem.

But even that, I'll allow as a transitional period at the moment. This is a bit of a shift in team philosophy. They don't have Ortiz there anymore to hit a home run. Being in better scoring position is important. You're not in scoring position at first base anymore. (Unless, apparently, you're Xander.) So the team needs to figure out how to do this. How far can they stretch the aggressiveness? Especially someone like Hanley who doesn't have the speed to fall back on, or Benny Baseball who may not quite realize what his speed can accomplish against major league fielders. There's a feeling out period.

Which is fine, because it seems to be working. After all, they have the third most wins in the league, on pace for a 92 win season. Last year, if the Sox had 92 wins, they still would have won the division.

So, let's see where this aggression takes us. How many errors can the Sox force other teams into? How many extra runs can they score because of it?

How foolish will you feel for ever doubting it?

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