Even the most casual of Rays fans would admit the baserunning in 2015 has been sub-par. Many plays come to mind, but the play that sums up the baserunning the best in 2015 happened on July 19th in Toronto.
That day, Tim Beckham had doubled earlier in the inning and advanced to third base with two outs. With John Jaso at the plate allowing the catcher, Dioner Navarro, a clear view of Beckham at third base, Beckham inexplicably wandered off of third base and was picked off to end the inning.
Fangraphs tracks baserunning using the BsR metric. The Fangraphs Glossary defines BsR as 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 the combination of Weighted Stolen Base Runs (wSB), Weighted Grounded Into Double Play Runs (wGDP), and Ultimate Base Running (UBR) which are all available on the leaderboards and player pages.
The Rays’ BsR totals over the past ten years has been mostly positive, but not so much in 2015.
If we look at the individual components that make up the overall BsR measure, one trend in particular stands out from the others.
UBR looks at the value of baserunning using linear weights. The following events are part of UBR:
1) On a hit, advancing an extra base, not advancing an extra base, or getting thrown out trying to advance an extra base, as long as no other base runner is blocking an advance.
2) A batter getting thrown out trying to advance an extra base on a hit (if he successfully does, we don’t know it, as he is simply awarded a double, for example, on a usual single where he advances an extra base).
3) On a hit, the batter advancing, not advancing, or getting thrown out when a runner is safe or out advancing an extra base.
4) Trailing runners advancing, not advancing or getting thrown out when a leading runner is safe or out trying to advance an extra base on a hit or an out. This is basically lumped together with #1 above.
5) Runners trying to advance on fly ball outs – i.e. tagging up.
6) As mentioned above, on ground balls to the infield, runners on first staying out of the force or DP at second base, whether the batter is out or is safe on a FC.
7) Also as mentioned above, a runner on second advancing or not (or getting thrown out) on a ground ball hit to SS or 3B.
Runners on third base advancing, not advancing, or getting thrown out at home on a ground ball are not considered (on air balls they are). Runner advances or outs on WP or PB are not considered either (until 2015)
Anyone reading this article is likely to recall egregious events throughout this season that fall into one of those categories, but it takes a team effort. To put the -12.6 figure into context, the chart below shows how that compares to the league-average:
18 players on the roster had at least 100 plate appearances in 2015 but just 7 of the 18 had non-negative UBR scores. Steven Souza Jr. was the best on the roster while James Loney was far and away the worst.
Loney’s -7.8 UBR is the worst of any Rays player has produced in the past 10 years. Prior to Loney, Dioner Navarro had the worst at -6.4.
In all, the Rays have lost nearly 13 runs on the bases and while that may not seem like a large number, a low-scoring offense cannot exactly be giving runs away. The roster will see some adjustment in the offseason, but many of those names are going to be back. If Loney is one of those names, he isn’t likely to get any better so it will be up to the other players to pick up the slack.