Saturday, April 18, 2015

Counting All the Bases

During the Marlins-Mets game yesterday the announcer used a term that's familiar to anyone who follows the game--a "productive out." The Mets batter had hit the ball to the right side and been thrown out at first, but the Mets runner on second base had been able to advance to third on the play. Some "productive outs," of course, are taken account of in baseball statistics; if the batter is thrown out on a play that allows a runner on third to come home and score a run, for example, he is credited with an RBI. But in many, many cases no credit is recorded for runners advancing on the base paths as a result of what the batter has done.

This is not only a matter of what happens when the batter records an out; it also concerns bases advanced resulting from hits and walks. If a batter hits a single or walks with no one on base, he is credited with that single or walk. But no statistic measures the impact of a single or a walk that no only puts the batter on base but also advances one or more other runners. If there are already runners on first and second who advance to second and third respectively on a single or a walk, then the total impact of the batter's single or walk has been three bases advanced, rather than one. (The same would be true, of course, if the batter is hit by a pitch.)

Why not create a new baseball statistic to measure net bases advanced? By this measure that "productive out" which advanced a runner from second base to third base would add one to the batter's net bases advanced total. That single or walk which also advanced runners from first and second to second and third would add three to a player's net bases advanced total. A grand slam homer would add 10 to a player's net bases advanced total (4 for the batter, plus 3 for the player who had been on first, 2 for the player who had been on second, and one for the player who had been on third.) Stealing second base would add 1 to a player's net bases advanced total--but being caught trying to steal second would reduce a player's net bases advanced total by 1, since the play wipes out the effect of his having gotten on base in the first place. Striking out or flying out or hitting a ground ball out would not affect the total--but hitting into a double play would subtract 1 from a player's net bases advanced total, since the net effect would be to remove a teammate from the bases.

This is one of only two sports statistics ideas I have ever had; the other one can be the subject of another day's post. So too can be my reason for watching that Mets-Marlins game in the first place--the speedy and graceful and charming Dee Gordon.

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