Thursday, February 28, 2013


Lauren Hillman: Her shape is fine...but her
voice is even finer.
Now surely we haven't simply gone horny and jumped the shark, no? It's true that we are known for every so often placing a nubile young woman in a prominent--but never, ever more than marginally compromising--position here in these virtual pages (as we are once again doing with our exceptionally gifted friend Lauren Hillman, who makes men's minds and knees weak due to her singular voice), but we don't pander to the "size matters" contingent.

(At least not in public.)

But somebody has to invent the "Boob Index," and if it wasn't Hugh Hefner or some fellow traveler with sticky hands, then we will just reach out and get down with it (or is that get up with it?).

It's time to shift blame, so we are pinning this one on our sometime compatriots at Forman et fil(s)--never sure what the exact progeny count actually is over there--who have compiled some interesting new baserunning info as part of their ongoing effort to drown us all in play-by-play data.

We've looked at the last five years of it while we should have been doing something else--and some of you who are reading this will know just what that "something else" was...but keep a lid on it, already--and, even without a "Boob Index," there is a lot to snuggle up with.

So, are we going to take the low road and try to tell you which team got to third base the most often? Of course not. And there are no arcane "cup size" calcs here, either. You guys just need to get what's left of your minds out of the gutter.

Let's look at some of what five years of baserunning data (as opposed to a five-year losing streak at can tell us. We can add up the total number of times a team reaches base on errors (ROE). The summary totals can be seen at left. The average team in MLB has done this 289 times over the past five year, or a bit less than 60 times a year.

The effective range, however, is about 20 ROE per year; the Rangers have averaged a bit over 66 ROEs from 2008-12, while the Diamondbacks have averaged only around 46 ROEs.

We can also look at the range of stolen bases over that same time frame. (That data is shown at right.) When we do that, we see a much wider performance span than what we see with ROEs. There's an astonishing difference in SBs over five years: the Tampa Bay Rays have stolen two and a half times as many bases from 2008-12 than the Detroit Tigers.

While we are on the subject of stolen bases, it's worth noting that in 2012 stolen base success rates moved up to 74% overall. And there's good news for those who are still fixated on getting to third base--turns out it's easier than you think! Those who do so made it 81% of the time in '12. And what's the range over five years for teams stealing third base? It's astonishingly large. The Rays have stolen third base 110 times over the past five years; the Tigers, with prim & proper "Grampa" Jim Leyland in charge, have stolen third base just nineteen times in the past five years (2008-12).

How aggressive are your baserunners at taking leads? The five-year pickoff data can give us a sense of that. Joe Maddon's Rays have had 141 baserunners picked off over the past five years. While you're probably expecting the Tigers (whose baserunners would seem to be standing right on the base being occupied) to be the team with the least pickoffs, but you'd be wrong: the Red Sox (60) have the least, closely followed by the Cubs (66), the A's (69), and only then the Tigers (72, tied with the Astros).

We're pretty sure that this was NOT what some
of you were hoping to see when the word "boobs"
was put on display here like a nonchalantly-
exposed bra strap...
But what about this "boob" thing, anyway? (And has anyone bothered to measure the average duration in these so-called "striptease" videos before the babe brings out the merchandise? We don't frequent these portals of higher learning, mind you, having been tossed out on our keister many years ago...but we hear a rising set of complaints that it takes more than a minute before the models begin strutting their stuff, which may have been OK back in the fifties--when men were men, goddam it--but with the levels of ADD having gone through the roof via the wholesale infantilization of everything, this just amounts to a rather sadist variant of cruel and unusual punishment.)

OK, OK. Let's get three-quarters of the way, at least, by trotting out the "OOB" portion of our (intentionally top-heavy) construct. "OOB" is "Out On Base," or what the STATS, Inc. folks used to call "baserunning outs." We see that the Angels are running into more outs on the basepaths than anyone else (averaging nearly 70 per season since '08, which works out to one such out every 2.2 games), while the A's and the Phillies have been the teams who've avoided having baserunners erased, averaging 47 per year).

We get the "BOOB" by manhandling another stat from the Forman et fil(s) bag of fun tricks, one entitled "Bases Taken". These are extra bases on hits; it turns out that there are about 38% more of these per year than there are stolen bases. So what we do is combine SBs and BTs, and we divide it by the overall outs on bases (CS and other OOBs) to determine what the overall level of baserunning attrition exists for a team in any given year. It turns out that the "attrition rate" or "Baserunning Out on Base" percentage (BOOB) has been right around 31% over the past five seasons.

So non-stolen base efforts to take an extra base are slightly less successful than stolen base attempts themselves...would you have thought that to be the case?

What's most interesting to look at: the range of difference in a single season. It's much greater year-to-year than it is when aggregated, so the element of chance comes into play and can assist teams in winning some extra games (possibly up to as many as three or four) in any given year due to their avoiding Outs on Bases. The fluctuations from one season to the next can be dramatic: look at the data for Atlanta in 2011-12 (as shown in the chart at right).

It's probably surprising to see the Phillies as the team that has consistently performed best in this game aspect, but the data confirm it. In 2012, a certain amount of the Oakland A's success can be attributed to their ability to avoid outs on the basepaths. But over five years, it seems that only the Phillies and A's have been able to consistently do this; virtually all of the other teams are within a couple of percentage points of the MLB average.

There does seem to be a repeating correlation here that teams doing well in this stat year-to-year tend to win more games than teams who don't, but it's not pronounced: teams with lower-than-average BOOB scores averaged 86 games in '12, 84 in '11, 88 in '10, 82 in '09, 87 in '08.

Individual player totals might be interesting to look at, and we'll try to do that at some point in the future. It might provide an interesting corollary to the baserunning component of Wins Above Replacement, which could probably use it. Imagine that: the BOOB Index quite possibly providing a Sanity Clause. Have we no shame?? Answer that at your own risk...