Pittsburgh Pirates Base Running Trends Are Scary


The Pittsburgh Pirates team baserunning

is something that has been bad. Each of us that attends and watches the Bucs know that it’s true. We wanted to be sure.   We wanted to determine just how bad it really has become.  We turned to Baseball Prospectus.

Here is the team baserunning statistic that BP uses.

Back in 1991, the Pittsburgh Pirates were the best baserunning team in Major League Baseball, they were runner-up in 1990 and posted a .09 in 1992.  Over the past 18 years, they improved in select seasons, but it was never sustainable.   Since 2006, the baserunning has remained sub-par.

In 1996 the Bucs posted an 8.3  EqBRR and 1999 when they popped a 4.8 to rank third in MLB.

But since 1992, the Pirates have mostly sucked on the basepaths with negative EqBRR numbers (-13.5 in 93, -11.8 in 94, -11.9 in 95, -8.5 in 97, -9 in 98.)

From 2000 to 2005 the Pirates were especially bad.  The Pirates combined for negative numbers in each year totaling a negative 77.4 EqBRR.

In 2006 the Pittsburgh Pirates were in the top five in Team Baserunning as ranked by Baseball Prospectus.    But since the success in 2006, the team has done poorly in baserunning each year. 

Immediately after the successful baserunning of 2006, the Bucs were awful in 2007.  They weren’t much better in 2010.

These numbers show that stealing a bag isn’t the most helpful thing for the ballclub.  Beyond the Box Score touches on this in his 2010 Best Baserunners article.   

"….. stealing bases is a risky proposition that can (and often) hurt the team more than it can help. In fact, the generally accepted rate of base stealing success (SB/CS) required to make the effort worth it is north of 70%.–Beyond The Box Score, January 2010"

It would be impressive for the Pirates to work on improving their ability to stretch an extra base out of their singles.  In fact, it might be more beneficial for Jose Tabata to concentrate on that aspect of his game than him recently mentioning he wants to hit more homers.

But it’s also useless for us to focus on any one player making improvements on the ballclub.  As a team in 2011 it’s obvious the Pirates entire team need to improve in each aspect of baserunning.

In 2010, Andrew McCutchen (3.6), Jose Tabata (1.7), and Ronny Cedeno (0.9) were the top baserunners.  McCutchen stole 33 while being caught ten times.  Tabata swiped 19 bags while being nabbed seven times.  Cedeno took 12 bases while getting thrown out three times.   The three worst base runners for the Pirates in 2010 were Garrett Jones (-2.1), Lastings Milledge (-2.3), and Ryan Doumit (-3.3.)

The 2011 Pirates team is blessed with youth, some are fast, but most aren’t.  But baserunning success seems less and less about being fast, and more about being prepared.  Knowing when to run, who to run on, knowing the situations to run, and being prepared to do so.  Let’s trust some of the  new Pirates coaches can provide improved coaching and preparation which allows the team to begin having base running success that is sustainable.

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