Minnesota’s Base Running Resurgence
Image courtesy of Harrison Barden-USA TODAY SportsAccording to FanGraphs, Base Running (BsR) is an all-encompassing base running statistic that turns stolen bases, caught stealings, and other base running plays (taking extra bases, being thrown out on the bases, etc.) into runs above and below average. It is a combination of Weighted Stolen Base Runs (wSB), Weighted Grounded Into Double Play Runs (wGDP), and Ultimate Base Running (UBR).
The Twins were the top team in baseball when it comes to BsR as they ranked 1.3 runs higher than the Arizona Diamondbacks. Tampa Bay was the closest AL team and they finished 2.8 runs behind Minnesota. To rank this highly, the Twins needed help from some of the American League’s best runners.
Leading the way for Minnesota was Byron Buxton, who might have been the best base runner in the big leagues. Buxton was the lone player in baseball to crack double-digits in BsR. His 11.7 BsR bested Billy Hamilton by 2.2 runs and Mookie Betts by 2.5 runs. When it came to raw numbers, Buxton was successful in 29 of his 30 stolen base attempts and he didn’t get caught in the second half.
Buxton also ranked well on MLB Statcast’s new sprint speed leaderboard. Sprint speed is foot speed metric, defined as “feet per second in a player’s fastest one-second window.” As with BsR, Buxton ranked as the fastest player in baseball with a 30.2 ft/sec sprint speed. Hamilton was the only other player with a sprint speed over 30.0 ft/sec while Bradeley Zimmer finished just below at 29.9 ft/sec. Even with Buxton’s speed, other Twins players fared well on the bases.
Jorge Polanco and Brian Dozier each ranked in the top 15 of the American League in BsR. Dozier’s 3.6 BsR only trailed Whit Merrifield and Jose Altuve among AL second basemen. Polanco finished just better than Dozier with a 3.7 BsR. Among AL shortstops, he finished fourth behind Xander Bogaerts, Francisco Lindor, and Elvis Andrus.
Besides the Twins middle-infield combination, three other players scored above 3.0 BsR. Even while being limited to 70 games, Ehire Adrianza (3.6 BsR) finished tied with Dozier for third on the team. Max Kepler (3.1 BsR) and Eduardo Escobar (3.0 BsR) were the other two players to finish north of 3.0 BsR. The three lowest BsR totals on the team belonged to Joe Mauer (-6.2 BsR), Miguel Sano (-3.9 BsR), and Jason Castro (-6.0 BsR).
As a team, Minnesota also ranked well with sprint speed. MLB’s average speed is 27.0 ft/sec. Only two qualified players on the team finished more than one ft/sec behind the league average and they were both catchers (Jason Castro and Chris Gimenez). Zack Granite ranked 18th in sprint speed and was one of 21 players to clock in above 29.0 ft/sec.
Base running will be key for Minnesota in 2018 especially with a young core. Minnesota’s roster isn’t built on power-hitting sluggers so the team needs to be able to steal bases and take the extra base when the opportunity arises. The Twins saw a base running resurgence in 2017 and now it is time to push it to the next level.
Did any of the base running numbers surprise you? Who can make the most adjustments on the base paths? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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