With a quarter of the season in the books, the Cardinals sit atop the division with the most wins in the league. Their starting pitching is firing on all cylinders, their offense is tallying runs at a 4.65 per-game pace and the bullpen has even settled down. Yet one aspect of their game continues to nag: their baserunning.
Earlier this week, Ty Wigginton on Tuesday earned the highlight for scoring from second on Matt Carpenter‘s infield single. The play overshadowed what has become all too common so far as the Cardinals hurt themselves again by running into an unnecessary out on the bases earlier in the game.
To review: Allen Craig doubled to score Carpenter and push Matt Holliday to third. But as Holliday scored on Jon Jay‘s flyout, Craig hung himself out to dry, apparently trying to tag up and go to third on the play. With two outs. And almost nullified Holliday’s run. We hope for baseball’s sake that this cannot pass for championship play.
Craig is the main culprit, leading the team in outs on the bases, but he’s certainly not the only one whose nonchalance costs the team. To wit, the Cardinals have made 19 outs on the bases, most in the National League. Couple those completely unnecessary outs with the club’s 19 sacrifice bunts, and you have a lot of wasted opportunities.
Those are counting stats, to be sure, and as is the case with just about any such metric, they’re better when put into context. After all, the Cardinals are a pretty good hitting team and therefore may simply have a lot more opportunities to waste themselves on the base paths. To that end, we’ve taken a comprehensive view of outs on bases and sacrifices — as well as other bad baserunning outcomes, like caught stealing and pickoffs — and weighed them against opportunities. We introduce you to BooBs — Bad Outs On Bases, that is. And we promise more than, er, simply round figures.
The equation is simple and relies on readily available data (read: Baseball-Reference.com):
BooB = (SH+CS+OOB+PO)
Opportunities = (H+BB+ROE+HBP-HR)
Without further ado, let’s review the teams:
You always knew that the Brewers were boobs, didn’t you? Now you have the data to prove it. But, seriously, before Cardinal fans start casting stones, they should be aware of the glass house in which their team dwells: 10th in baseball. Another way to put it is that two-thirds of MLB does a better job of not wasting outs on the bases. The Brewers may give away one out of every 10 base runners who reach, but the Cardinals aren’t far behind at nearly one every 11.
Now, to be sure, BooBs don’t give a detailed view of the value of the various plays — for example, it treats outs on bases equally with caught stealings and sacrifices, which at least hold the potential for adding some positive win probability. But hopefully the main idea is clear: Teams with high BooB rates are hurting themselves with their running games. The Cardinals have enough talent to overcome and obscure this fact. But if they want to win their division outright and vie to win the postseason tournament, they’ll need to pay attention to their running game and clean it up.