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Minnesota’s Base Running Resurgence

When it comes to baseball, there are plenty of parts of the game that are underappreciated. A nicely turned double-play, an assist from the outfield, or a play at the plate can all be exciting moments that make a difference in a game. Base running can be another very important part of the game for a team built like the Minnesota Twins.

With a young core and some savvy veterans, the Twins might have been the best base running team in 2017. Can they continue this in 2018 or perhaps they will be able to get even better?
Image courtesy of Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports
According 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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18 Comments

I love base running.The days of Maury Wills and Rickey Henderson were wonderful.It is hard to remember how good and fun those teams were - Hank Aaron stole 240 bases in his career.Can you see any slugger today having SB totally 1/3 of his HRs?

 

The Go Go White Sox with Aparicio and Fox, and there was Lou Brock and the speedsters of Whitey Herzog's cardinals.  

 

The Minnesota Twins all time leader is back in the Senator Days - Clyde Milan followed by Sam Rice, but the all time Twin is fourth on the list - Chuck Knoblauch with 276 followed by Rod Carew 271 and Cesar Tovar - 186.

​Lets set some new records. Go Twins!

    • Carole Keller, glunn, birdwatcher and 5 others like this

Very interesting article on a subject that deserves more attention. Being from the o ld school of fans, I'm still trying to get my head around all these new stats, or sabermetrics, or whatever they are being called these days. BsR is a new one for me! But yeah, these sort of running skills are crucial in creating runs, or the opportunity to score more of them. Great to see the Twins scoring high in this area.

    • Carole Keller, Oldgoat_MN and Broker like this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Jan 11 2018 06:58 AM
Speed on the base paths tends to force the opposition to hurry throws and to worry the defense, especially pitchers. The Minnesota Roadrunners has a nice ring to it. Good article . Thanks.
    • Oldgoat_MN and gocgo like this
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ashburyjohn
Jan 11 2018 07:52 AM

It is hard to remember how good and fun those teams were - Hank Aaron stole 240 bases in his career.Can you see any slugger today having SB totally 1/3 of his HRs?

Through age 25, Hank Aaron had 179 HR and 20 SB.

 

Go refresh your memory and look up Mike Trout. :)

Probably THE single most underrated part of a baseball offense is baserunning and not just stealing bases. Taking that extra base is huge...turn a single into a double, a double to a triple, going 1st to 3rd.To me, that was the one of the funnest things to watch with this team in 2017.With the exception of Sano and Castro, the regular lineup runs very well for each respective position...even Mauer at 34 runs better than a lot of 1B.Looking forward to more improvement in 2018.

    • bizaff, Tom Froemming and caninatl04 like this

They say speed doesn't go in a slump, so it's nice to see the Twins with all the speed options. I would like to see bunting, particularly drag bunting, as maybe a larger part of our arsenal for next year. If not for the excitement it can generate, then for the fact that it forces some of our free swingers to see the ball a little longer.

 

One of the sweetest sights in baseball is watching Buxton hit a gapper or chasing one down. We have a great combination of speed and power which made watching the Twins so much fun again. Let's hope we utilize that speed with more SB's in '18.

 

Through age 25, Hank Aaron had 179 HR and 20 SB.

 

Go refresh your memory and look up Mike Trout. :)

I love Mike Trout doing it all, I would love to see more of this.I think you will agree, he is an exception.

 

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stringer bell
Jan 11 2018 11:38 AM

I'm old school, but with a dash of respect for today's metrics. I think speed and baserunning are underrated, but stolen bases are overrated, especially if the caught stealing percentage is high. The ability to take the extra base is often huge, but also is unnoticed. Molitor was the absolute master of baserunning when he was a player, both taking extra bases and stealing them with a minimum of outs and maximum reward.

 

I also think the numbers provided by Fangraphs might be arbitrary or not useful. BB Ref, for example made Dozier a negative base runner and had Adrianza at only a +1, both fared much better in Fangraphs. Buxton was +9 in BB Ref, so if you're really good it will show no matter what the metric.

    • birdwatcher likes this
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birdwatcher
Jan 11 2018 11:50 AM

 

I'm old school, but with a dash of respect for today's metrics. I think speed and baserunning are underrated, but stolen bases are overrated, especially if the caught stealing percentage is high. The ability to take the extra base is often huge, but also is unnoticed. Molitor was the absolute master of baserunning when he was a player, both taking extra bases and stealing them with a minimum of outs and maximum reward.

 

I also think the numbers provided by Fangraphs might be arbitrary or not useful. BB Ref, for example made Dozier a negative base runner and had Adrianza at only a +1, both fared much better in Fangraphs. Buxton was +9 in BB Ref, so if you're really good it will show no matter what the metric.

 

I feel the same way. I'm also of the opinion that Molitor was an exceptional baserunner based much more on his brains and instincts than on his foot speed. But yeah, I've long thought that base running is undervalued by most everyone but the managers and coaches. It's aleays been a source of curiosity that so often, when a manager gets asked about a player's skills, they mention things that the average fan wouldn't, with "knowing how to run the bases" a frequent observation.

As a whole, I think the Twins have been pretty good base runners for a while. They may or may not be the best at it, but they can apply enough pressure on the opposing team to where they have to take Twins baserunners seriously.

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ashburyjohn
Jan 11 2018 12:00 PM

I love Mike Trout doing it all, I would love to see more of this.I think you will agree, he is an exception.

Aaron was exceptional too. :)

 

Aaron's power and stolen base trend for his career are both unlike very many other players. Plus we don't know Trout's trajectory yet. So I don't know how the comparison will go as time moves forward. It's just that Trout leaped to mind.

    • mikelink45 likes this

Mauer's seems like a fine baserunner, but he doesn't steal bases and grounds into plenty of DPs, so I'm not surprised to see him with a bottom 5 sort of number...but looking at some of the other 1Bs around the league Fan Graphs basically just thinks he stinks at it. That's a surprise; I figured his issues would be around the no SBs and the GIDPs, but he's not that different from a number of other guys at his position in that regard. 

 

Not a surprise to see Buxton rank so well; he's electric out there and it's a delight to watch. I almost don't want him slugging HRs because it's so fun to see him on the bases. (swear to god, you could see fear in the eyes of LFs last year when he'd flip a single even a little bit towards the line knowing that he was fast enough to turn a routine single into a double if they didn't hustle after the ball)

 

Probably THE single most underrated part of a baseball offense is baserunning and not just stealing bases. Taking that extra base is huge...turn a single into a double, a double to a triple, going 1st to 3rd.To me, that was the one of the funnest things to watch with this team in 2017.With the exception of Sano and Castro, the regular lineup runs very well for each respective position...even Mauer at 34 runs better than a lot of 1B.Looking forward to more improvement in 2018.

Turning a single into a double won us a world series...Dan Gladden takes second on a blooper and a bounce.

    • Lee-The-Twins-Fan likes this
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Lee-The-Twins-Fan
Jan 11 2018 04:45 PM

 

Turning a single into a double won us a world series...Dan Gladden takes second on a blooper and a bounce.

Yes, he did, and he did it with style. 

 

I hope to see Buxton do that for the Twins in 2018's World Series!!

 

 

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theBOMisthebomb
Jan 11 2018 04:52 PM
I have to give some credit to Molly as his baserunning genius must have quite an influence on his club.
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yarnivek1972
Jan 11 2018 05:44 PM
Conspicuous by his abscence of the list of good Twins baserunners: Eddie Rosario. Which kinda confirms what our eyes were telling us last season. He’s plenty fast, decision making is poor, and that’s being kind.

As long as Buck steals second and third every time he's on base, I'm happy.

I dream of Buxton turning into Ricky Henderson... He's got the speed but he hasn't learned yet to take FULL advantage of it after a single... Dude should have a lot of SB's in his future. So excited to have him on our team.

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