Rick Sofield: The Solution to Pittsburgh Pirates Baserunning Woes?


October 1, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones (10) tags out Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) to complete a double play during the fifth inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

For years we have bored you to tears with the specifics behind the Pittsburgh Pirates poor baserunning.  It’s not something that really needs back up, most of us have watched it until our eyes bleed.

We have heard Clint Hurdle address it a bit this offseason.  The Bucs skipper wants to steal more bases.  It seems we have heard this disc skip before, right.

Clipped below are some of the old posts and picturess about the poor baserunning in the past.

We were checking out a few links this morning and stumbled upon one that JAL posted on DK’s blog.  It’s about Rick Sofield getting the first base coaching job.  It’s pretty interesting. 

And guess what, Sofield carries a stopwatch.  He does!  He does!

"“He’s going to come with the knowledge of a lot of the pitchers in the league and the knowledge of baserunning,” Walker said. “That’s an area where we have to do better.“He keeps a stop watch down there and he’s telling you what the times are from the pitcher and that’s important when you are trying to steal bases and get leads. There’s a lot of things that go into being a first base coach. It’s certainly not just standing there and giving a pat on the butt.”"

We looked at just how well Sofield’s West Virginia Power were able to steal bases this past season.  The Power stole 165 bases, good for sixth in the league, but were thrown out 84 times, worst in the league. 

Obviously, the Pirates need to focus on basic baserunning skills certainly not just base stealing.   The Bucs were negative -4.2 runs in 2012. 

The team is blessed with speed, but the players aren’t blessed with base stealing skills.  The team just needs to be better at running the bases, we think that would make everyone a lot happier.


We are here to tell you the Pirates improved on the basepaths in 2011. A little.

But hold your applause, please. Let’s just say the Pirates are still atrocious, just not as astrocious. Slightly less rank one might say.

We turned to Baseball Prospectus again for the measurement used in our research–Equivalent Base Running Runs.

The metric measures the number of runs contributed by a player’s advancement on the bases, above what would be expected based on the number and quality of the baserunning opportunities with which the player is presented, park-adjusted and based on a multi-year run expectancy table.

The Pirates melted the chart finishing with a negative 8.6 in 2011.

The team had a negative 9.6 in 2010.

The Pirates were the second worst team in baseball at Equivalent Stolen Base Runs. It blows my mind. It’s a metric that the Pirates actually got worse in from their negative 5.5 runs in 2010. The Pirates lost 5.67 runs in this category in 2011.

The Pirates also took a step back in ground and air advancement on the base paths when compared with 2010.

The Pirates improved in one area, unfortunately it isn’t an area that they especially have much control over. The metric in which the Pirates improved was Other Advanced Runs. It takes into effect wild pitches, balks, and passed balls.


So actually without the marked improvement in Other Advanced Runs, it’s safe to say that the Pirates were worse on the base paths in 2011.

Real deep sigh.

In 2011, Chase D’Arnaud (3.4), Jose Tabata (3.0), and Ronny Cedeno (1.0) had the highest scores while Andrew McCutchen was slapped as the worst at baserunning with a negative 2.9. Ryan Doumit had a negative 2.6, Pedro Alvarez a negative 2, and Derrek Lee a negative 1.9.


Repost, 2010: The Pittsburgh Pirates Scary Baserunning Trends

The Pirates will need to greatly improve their baserunning skills in 2011.

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.

It’s nice being at the top of the EqBRR leaderboard back in 1991.

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.

Top Five in MLB


Nearly in the middle of the pack

The Pirates poor base running continues to cost the team runs

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

The Pirates continue to struggle

Garrett Jones was one of the worst Pirates base runners in 2010. PHOTO: Andy Lopusnak.

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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In 2010, Ryan Doumit put up a -3.3 EqBRR which was the worst on the Pirates team.