Monday, April 1, 2013

Throws to 1st--Who Actually Counts Those?

The title asks a question which I will happily answer--ME!

While watching a Cubs game last year and resisting the urge to kill myself, I heard Len Kasper make the comment about Juan Pierre “I wonder how many times he’s dived back to 1st in his career.” I was intrigued by the statement and had the raw data to answer the question but not the skill to ferret it out. After discovering an equation that I frankly don’t even remotely understand, this chart lists two things:
1.       The number of times from 2010-2012 that a given player broke to steal but didn’t (it was a fake, foul ball, whatever). This IS NOT reflected in stolen base attempts.
2.       The number of times a pitcher threw to 1st, 2nd or 3rd while a given runner was on base.
Both of these are NOT perfect, but a brief look at the results confirms common sense. I could take the time to go through 800,000+ lines of data and make things perfect, or I could go with close enough—close enough wins today. The table follows:

Using Michael Bourn to explain, the AttS column is the number of times he broke to steal and didn’t. The next three columns (Tt1Tt3) are throws to 1st, 2nd and 3rd, getting to the heart of Len’s comment. As usual, Len is pretty close, since Pierre is second in this time period in tosses to 1st, but he did that 1,884 plate appearances as opposed to Bourn’s 2,030, or about 146 fewer plate appearances. Nobody on this table should surprise anyone, since they’re the foremost base stealers of today.

What about pitchers—do people run more on certain pitchers than others? I’ll never understand why common baseball statistics don’t include stolen base numbers for pitchers as well as catchers, but I have that data and will show it later. In this case, these are the pitchers using the same criteria as above. This data is MUCH MORE SOLID for reasons that will bore almost anyone:

As promised, this is the table of stolen bases by pitcher, sorted by stolen bases. All numbers are from the 2010-2012 seasons, and some of these numbers are simply phenomenal. What I find most interesting is the lack of White Sox pitchers on this list given the woes that A.J. Pierzynski had throwing out runners in 2011. In his defense, that season wasn’t much out of the ordinary for him—he threw out 27 of 102 runners in 2010 and 27 of 103 in 2012, compared to 24 of 118, a difference of around 26% vs. 20%--a gap, to be sure, but not something of significant magnitude. 

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