Monday, May 18, 2009

Notice Pat Listach

Third base coaches are like offensive linemen, computer servers, and city government. You only really only notice them when they screw up. Nobody's noticed new third base coach Pat Listach much this year, and that's good.

Baseball Reference this year is for the first time tracking baserunning data that allows us see exactly how good teams have been at "taking the extra base." These tables, available on every team and player page in the section called "Baserunning & Misc. Stats," as well as the league pages, tell us how often a runner advanced more than one base on a single or two bases on a double, when possible. I simply added a column to the spreadsheet to show how often the runner disappears from the basepaths (a.k.a. gets thrown out) which you can check out here. My tables are sorted by the percentage of the time that runners made outs while trying to advance.

On average in 2008 runners "took the extra base" 39% of the time, while making outs 2.5% of the time. The goal of course is to take the extra base as often as possible while basically never making an out. Except in extreme late and close situations, the cost of getting caught trying to advance
in terms of run and win expectancy is so much greater than the benefit of advancing when you're already by definition in scoring position that the number of tolerable "caught advancings" is exceedingly low, essentially zero. That's why the league average 2.5% "caught advancing" rate is so low.

So far this year, the Nationals have made exactly zero outs while trying to take the extra base. It's early yet, but there are only two other teams in baseball, the Cubs and the Dodgers, that have this distinction. At the same time, the Nationals have taken the extra base 41% of the time. So they're being a touch more aggressive than average while never getting caught. That's exactly what you want.

Last year, with the much-maligned Tim Tolman as third-base coach, the Nationals were tied for 24th in baseball making outs 2.8% of the time. At the same time, we took the extra base 36% of the time, tied for next-to-last. Only the bopping, station-to-station Red Sox took the extra base less often.

Obviously we're dealing with small sample sizes and exceedingly tiny margins of difference. The gap between the best and worst teams in baseball in these categories represent fractions of wins. And if the Nationals get thrown out twice tonight, they'll plummet to the bottom of the rankings in no time.

Regardless, after suffering through some agonizingly ugly outs at home plate last year (and having so little else to enjoy), it's worth a moment to note that so far our third base coaching appears to be in very capable hands.


El Rey said...


I personally witnessed the ineptitude of the National's grounds crew on Saturday as they attempted to cover the infield with a tarp when it started to rain. If it wasn't for a bunch of civic minded Philly fans who ran onto the field to assist the grounds crew, the tarp would have never have been properly placed. I have seen enough; the Nationals are an unmitigated disaster from the ownership on down. Even the Presidents Race has become stale. Speaking of Philly fans, they outnumbered Nats fans by 2 to 1 by my estimation. As I walked from my "reserved" parking space at the Navy Yard onto M street, I felt like I was in Philadelphia. There were Philly fans everyway. I was just glad I was wearing my South Park hat instead of my Nats hat because I might have gotten beaten up. The parking lot across from the Navy Yard was full of drunken Philly fans tailgating. Jeez, Stan should just build a Gino's or Pat's cheese steak kiosk at the stadium for them. During the game, I was serenaded by two drunken Philly gumbas singing Queen's "We are the Champions" all night long. I hate that song. Queen's Fat Bottoms Girls is much better :O)! Baseball's return to D.C. has become a bad dream.

Rich said...

Milledge isn't running the bases anymore either, though.