There are certain things fans of every team think their favorite team is bad at – driving in the guy from 3rd with less than 2 outs, hitting with runners in scoring position, moving runners over, striking out in big situations, overall defense (most teams), terrible bench guys, and base running.
The last one is relevant in the Brewer world as they had a rough go of it on the base paths last night. Carlos Gomez was picked off 2B early in the game. Jean Segura was thrown out by 30 feet trying to go from 1st to 3rd on a single after getting a terrible jump and perhaps fatally, Logan Schafer got nailed at 3rd trying to advance on a ball hit to the SS in the 8th inning.
So of course last night the Brewers were the worst base running team on the planet, but are they any good at base running overall? Are they terrible?
Things the Brewers seem good at to the casual fan (aka me):
- They do a good job of grabbing the extra base when there is a play at the plate. Its almost automatic that if a there is a play at the plate on a single, the guy who hit the siingle gets to second base.
- Carlos Gomez is amazing on the base paths. He will have the occasional high profile mistake (like last night) but the amount of extra bases he’s able to grab is great. Earlier this year, from second base, I saw him watch a grounder to 3B, wait for the 3B to throw it to 1B and sneak over and take 3B anyways. Incredible.
- They had a rough start to the year stealing bases, realized the SBs weren’t happening and have picked their spots better, going 25-31 since June 1st.
- I feel like most Brewer fans would disagree, but I like Ed Sedar’s work at 3B. He generally does a good job of knowing the game situation and realizing the value in trying to scoring a guy from third with 2 outs. I’m often surprised at how many people would rather hold a guy at 3B and take a chance with the next guy getting a base hit rather than challenging the defense to make multiple good throws in order to get a guy out at home. You never remember all the times a player scored from 3B or when it easily worked because someone missed a cut-off or wasn’t close on the play at the plate.
Things the Brewers are terrible at to the casual fan:
- It seems like they get thrown out way too much on dumb mental mistakes. I’m fine making the occasional aggressive play, trying to score from 3B and getting thrown out happens, but running from 2B to 3B on a ball hit to the SS or taking off for home on a grounder directly to the drawn in 3B is enough to drive a man crazy.
- Gomez and Segura are very fast, the rest of the team is painfully slow. Overbay, Reynolds, Ramirez, Injured Braun and Davis are super slow, Lucroy is sorta slow and Weeks/Scooter are OK. They do what they can but with slow guys they’re only able to put so much pressure on the defense with aggressive base running.
- They’re not prolific base stealers. Segura and Gomez will take the occasional base but that’s about it. With Gomez getting older and better at hitting he’s taken fewer chances. Segura struggles to get on base, Braun struggles to get on the field and exchanging Aoki for Davis has limited the damage they’ve been able to do on the bases in past years.
- The contact play seemed like it hurt them earlier in the year but RRR has cut down on it, or maybe its just working and I’m not noticing.
They actually have base running stats to track a lot of this stuff. These stats account for SB success and taking extra bases via Sac Flies, advancing on ground balls, etc.
Baseball Prospectus has the Brewers rated 2nd overall in the majors at this stat and Frangraphs has the Brewers as the 4th best team in baseball. The TOOTBLAN database is pretty awesome and brings up bad memories, but hard to draw any conclusions from it.
It’d be fun to point out how wrong those stats are, but outside of the broad parameters of them its hard to tell the exact formula – how context is accounted for, game score, inning, etc. They run into the same struggles defensive metrics do, not every “ground ball, RF” is created equal. My guess is a lot of the context is left out, but that’s true of most stats.
We can look at previous years. The Brewers were 15th last year and 14th the year before that in the BP rankings. They were 20th and 5th in the Fangraphs ratings during the same time.
The smaller sample of 2014 seems to be a bit of an outlier from past years with personal you wouldn’t expect an outlier from, so perhaps their looks (ie Aramis lumbering around the bases) and the occasional high profile misadventure distract from what is a great base running team. I suspect they’re probably not as good as the rankings, yet not nearly as bad as you would have thought had you checked Brewers Twitter last night.
That said, it can and has cost them games, or at minimum substantially hurt their odds of winning individual games. If Khris Davis drops a routine fly ball in the 8th inning that allows a run to score, we’d justifiably blame that for the reason they lost. I’m fine doing that with dumb base running (hi Logan) when applicable. Some mistakes aren’t done trying to be aggressive or gain an advantage, they’re just dumb mistakes.
Speaking of base running, it relates to my favorite Brett Lawrie story I heard a while back that I’m choosing to believe is true: back in 2009 during his first spring training they had every minor league player from all levels on the field together and instructors were going over base running basics, saying stuff like “Macha likes when you do this, Macha wants guys to focus on that, etc” Lawrie speaks up, in front of everyone, and says “who the fuck is Macha and who gives a shit what he thinks about base running?” Like I said, I’m choosing to believe this is true.