Numbers give Braves edge over the Nats in … baserunning?

"Even when I'm 40, I'll have better wheels than you, Rochy." (AP photo)

"Even when I'm 40 years old, I'll still have better wheels than you, Rochy." (AP photo)

There’s a metric for everything in baseball. The fun ones are those that tell us something we might not have known just by using our eyeballs. Here, courtesy of an ESPN Insider post by Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus, is a key reason why the Braves might just overhaul Washington to take the National League East.

The Braves are very good at running the bases. The Nationals are not.

From Lindbergh:

Baseball Prospectus offers a stat called baserunning runs, which measures the number of runs a player adds or subtracts by advancing more or fewer bases than expected given his number of opportunities. The Braves and Nationals couldn’t be further apart on the BRR leader board. Atlanta is baseball’s best baserunning team with 13.7 BRR, while Washington is the worst with -14.9. The Braves have been almost four runs better than the next-best baserunning team, while the Nats fall a full five runs below the next worst.

Some of this will not be surprising. If you pay attention to the Nats’ games, you’ll see the overly aggressive rookie Bryce Harper getting thrown out a different base every night. (I exaggerate for effect.) And you’ll doubtless have noted that Jason Heyward — like Harper, Heyward was a hugely touted prospect — is truly outstanding in his baserunning. But Michael Bourn, according to BP’s BRR, is even better. Lindbergh again:

[Bourn and Heyward] rank first and third in the majors, respectively, in individual BRR. Bourn and Heyward have combined for 15.4 runs on the bases, which means their teammates have been a net negative.

I strongly advise you to read the entire article — the link requires registration — but I leave you with one more nugget. Lindbergh advises that Chipper Jones, who’s 40, has the lowest BRR rating among Braves at minus-2.6. Even so, he’s better than Adam LaRoche, the former Brave who plays first base for the Nats and who is eight years younger. LaRoche’s rating is minus-3.7.

LaRoche also happens to be Chipper’s best hunting buddy. Bragging rights!

Update: Mr. Lindbergh was kind enough to Tweet that the overly aggressive Bryce Harper I mentioned above has, in Mr. Lindbergh’s words, “actually been one of the few good baserunners on a bad running team.” (Harper’s BRR is 35th-best in baseball.) Another example of eyeballs — via MLB.com’s At Bat iPad app, I’ve watched a lot of the Nats the past few weeks — not necessarily telling the true tale. Which is why Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs come highly recommended.

By Mark Bradley

111 comments Add your comment

Hillbilly D

August 17th, 2012
10:50 am

The metric that really matters is which team scores the most runs in the game.

Greg

August 17th, 2012
10:52 am

Mark Bradley

August 17th, 2012
10:52 am

Well, that’s an important one.

Jtb

August 17th, 2012
10:59 am

But Bryce Harper hustles and loves the game Mark! Jason Heyward is just some lazy baseball player! These nerd stats just CANNOT be true!

bulldogbubba

August 17th, 2012
11:04 am

And remember Dan Uggla is “heating up”! L-O-L ! ! !

BravesWin

August 17th, 2012
11:05 am

Enter your comments here

bulldogbubba

August 17th, 2012
11:06 am

I also wonder if Sonny Clusters got his bobblehead last night?

BravesWin

August 17th, 2012
11:06 am

With a BRR that high, it would seem like more base stealing and hit-and run plays would figure into even more runs scored.

tooltime236

August 17th, 2012
11:08 am

Heyward stretching that hit into a double last night was some amazing hustle Jtb

evan

August 17th, 2012
11:08 am

Heyward and Bourn score from 1st like nobody’s business. Wonder who #2 is sandwiched in between them?

Mark Bradley

August 17th, 2012
11:12 am

According to the Baseball Prospectus BRR rankings, Mike Trout of the Angels is No. 2 — behind Bourn, ahead of Heyward.

Ostrich Racer

August 17th, 2012
11:17 am

In a universe of ridiculous number-crunching codswallop, that may be the dumbest calculation yet. As of today, of all the major statistical categories, the Nats are only in the MLB top ten in ERA (1st, at 3.27) and Saves (T-2d, with 40). Oh, and one other — Wins (1st, 70). That’s the only one that counts.

Paul

August 17th, 2012
11:17 am

Mike Trout has had an amazing year as a rookie. I cannot imagine what his ceiling could be. His effect on the game can be heard all the way across the country.

Quack Quack

August 17th, 2012
11:18 am

@Jtb

Surly you jest. J Hey has proven time and time again this season that he is all about hustle. How many runs have you seen scored from 1st base on a single? J Hey is rather rare, and still just a “kid” at this game. Watch him continue to grow.

GO BRAVES!!

Heisenberg

August 17th, 2012
11:23 am

As the old joke goes about the 2 guys being chased by a bear…”I do not have to run faster than the bear, I only have to run faster than you”. I think that is what Chipper is saying in the photo above.

mike/ in ATL

August 17th, 2012
11:31 am

I love how some people like JTB can be on thats NATS boat in say hidious remarks bout the braves. Jason Hayward a LAZY baseball player. Did u even watch what HARPER did last night? Made a complele bu-t out of himself when he got thown out at first slipping an falling on his rear. What did HAYWARD do last night?Well as far as baserunning he made a single into a DOUBLE on a blop hit. JTB the stats are right!!!! Get back on thats NATS BOAT, CUASE THIS IS BRAVES COUNTRY GO CHECK URSELF

longtimefan

August 17th, 2012
11:33 am

Jtb either has a fine sarcastic wit or is an idiot. I see the Heyward haters(and it truly was) as Chipper bashers have gone to ground. Couldn’t have been more wrong on either count, now could WE, Clusters.
During your conversations at the DQ was one of the topics about owning up. I heard they added crow to the menu at the DQ.

Lookaymyaverage

August 17th, 2012
11:35 am

Really jtb? Really?! Please post and tell us you are just kidding! Come on man! Where would the Braves be with JHey? This is our 3 hole hitter for the next 10 years it looks like! Come on man get serious!

Joel's

August 17th, 2012
11:41 am

@Jtb

You must be sarcastic cause that was complete crap you just wrote. Are u racist?

Nelson

August 17th, 2012
11:43 am

And what is the number for “slow motion” Mc Cann?

Birdhair

August 17th, 2012
11:45 am

Mark,

OBP and low ERA are the primary factors that should be considered. Baserunning runs? No. WOBA, OPS? Those are dervitive stats. If you’re going to rely on derivitive stats then that’s another problem. Ask the banks

Hillbilly D

August 17th, 2012
11:46 am

I don’t follow the Braves very closely but looking at Jason Heyward’s stats, his OBP is good, he scores runs, he drives in runs, what I have seen of him, his defense looks pretty good. Seems like he does his job, to me.

Greg

August 17th, 2012
11:47 am

Who cares? Wow this was a garbage blog. How about writing about how div 1aa football is expanding their playoffs to 24 teams and it was like pulling teeth to get a whopping 4 teams for major college football and some people act like that’s too many.

Sonny Clusters

August 17th, 2012
11:51 am

That photo reminds us of the deer tattoos and how Chipper and LaRoche have their own way of communicating with deer grunts. As for us, we admire the way Chipper is playing and while we do not consider him our hero and would not want him dating our sister, Honey Clusters, we feel that he is going out much better than he has played the past few seasons with all the thumb and toe and oblique and hammock bone issues. As for our being a basher . . . let’s keep an open mind here. We was reminded what our ol’ buddy Carl Sagan had to say, “It pays to keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.” We will know in September if we are watching a championship organization or if we are watching the Braves that are almost good enough to get there, but not quite. Opening Day means something different to a deer hunter.

HOF 10

August 17th, 2012
11:51 am

Hey, let’s trade Pastornicky for Mike Trout. Seriously, though, Wren is the guy and none of us could do his job, but it is amazing that so many of us were screaming for Medlen while the GM was trying to trade top prospects for Dempster and others who would give us maybe 10 starts. Meds is really good, and the next serious talk about him down the road is going to be can we afford to keep him?

Bourn, of course, is gone after this season. We need him, but first we need new ownership that cares as much about winning as they do the bottom line. A top leadoff man who plays great defense will bring far more than the Braves will pay right now, even factoring in the money saved with the great Chipper’s retirement. Management never seems to re-invest such funds in new players.

coach13

August 17th, 2012
11:53 am

Quak- scoring from 1st on a single is a little misleading. I suppose if he were running on the pitch with 2 outs and it was deep in the right center gap but even Brian McCann should be able to make it to 2nd.

Zing

August 17th, 2012
11:54 am

Hey Mark, what’s your CAR? (Columns Above Replacement)

coach13

August 17th, 2012
11:55 am

Use as much of Chipper’s and D- Lowe’s money as possible to resign Bourn. You let him go it won’t matter who you sign, your time won’t be as good.

Sonny Clusters

August 17th, 2012
11:59 am

Yes, our Chipper Bobblehead is one of our most prized possessions. It will sit on the mantel with our Clusters Bobblehead from the STATE CHAMPION season. We had to take our first Bobblehead back last night because it had chin hair and we noticed Chipper did not. When we asked the usher for a clean shaven Bobblehead with a visible tattoo he looked up at us, and said, “You want WHAT?” We stayed there until we got what we asked for and we don’t know if they shaved that little Bobblehead or not.

Heisenberg

August 17th, 2012
12:02 pm

Nats & LaRoche have a mutual option for 2013. If Nats pursue Bourn (as expected), LaRoche would be odd man out as they would move Harper to LF & Morse to 1B. If Nats decline LaRoche and lose out on Bourn, their fallback would be Bernadina in CF. So either way LaRoche will be on the move again. I know he had his issues with Braves but it seems a guy this productive would have found a long term home by now.

Sonny Clusters

August 17th, 2012
12:03 pm

We just got filtered. The page was jumping around all over the place and ads were popping up and Ralph McGill was talking to us over the speakers and then we saw Jim Minter dancing across the screen and finally, ol’ Mark showed up and said he’d put our post up in just a few.

JoshTown

August 17th, 2012
12:05 pm

How has #WinOneForTheChipper not caught on yet?

lefty fielder

August 17th, 2012
12:06 pm

About the time I have Clusters figured out as wearing a plaid trucker shirt with 2 button-down front pockets, he quotes Carl Sagan.

Heisenberg

August 17th, 2012
12:08 pm

Sonny have you been eating the mushrooms growing in my yard?

longtimefan

August 17th, 2012
12:14 pm

The fact is the Braves rank right in the of the pack in MLB payroll, 16th out of 30. While I also would like to see some more funds directed to player salaries, many commenting on this blog would have you believe we are at the bottom. And as I have posted before, only 2 teams with higher payrolls this year have more wins- and the Yankees payroll is about double ours. I would say management has done a pretty fine job maximizing their resources.It appears that the facts don’t stand in the way of some people making silly statements. Give FW et al a chance to do their thing before you right off next season.

Zing

August 17th, 2012
12:16 pm

longtimefan — We might not be at the bottom, but we’ll be there soon, thanks to the awful local tv contract foisted on the Braves/Liberty Media/McGuirk by McGuirk/Turner. Sense any conflict of interest there by the way, on the part of McGuirk?

Brandon Lee

August 17th, 2012
12:23 pm

Mark Bradley is Lost in Baseball’s Fantsay Statistics… If These two teams were so diametrically Opposite in Base-running Skills, then the Braves Offense would not be Nearly as Impotent as it is… Hense Starters Feel they have to Pitch a Shutout as Kris Medlin performed, to have a Chance at Winning… Assomeone earlier Stated.. It’s the Team thatScores the most Runs Who Ends up in FIRST PLACE, Hence the Nationals Keep a Healthy Edge Over Atlanta… Mgrs are a More Important Statistic Factor to examine than just employing Sprinters who have not excelled in tthe Hitting dept… A Manager is worth More Runs for a Team than anyother Viable Statistic… Tony LaRussa was the Deciding Factor in St Louis Garnering the World Series Crown Last year, and why 99% of the Same team this year is Floundering. The Braves Will Never Become a Dominant Force in the NL East, until they Acquire someone who has the Ability to Get the Most Run Production out of the Materials they have…. Hitting Behind the Runner, to Advance a Runner one or Two Bases is an ART that FG Has NO CLUE how to instill in the Hitters… Just one example.

Tampa Fan

August 17th, 2012
12:29 pm

To say that an edge in baserunning could put our Bravos over the top in a matchup with the Nats is really a reach. By any objective measure, the Nats have the overall edge. The head-to-head record is all you need to look at. We may be getting ahead of ourselves anyway. Until they clinch a playoff spot, last year’s demons still lurk.

Mr. Dawg

August 17th, 2012
12:35 pm

The Braves just need to do their part and keep winning and hope that the Nationals have the kind of late season collapse that teams some times have (see the Braves in 2011). It will be very interesting to see how the Stephen Strasburg situation develops and whether or not the Nats really shut him down during what would be the stretch run for the penat and how that will affect them. In any event, the Braves base running has been noticeably great this year and that is definintely one reason they are in the hunt in Mid-August.

O'Brien

August 17th, 2012
12:39 pm

Mark,

The Braves have won 15 consecutive games started by Medlen, and he was awesome last night. Do you still think he should be sent back to the bullpen?

Sonny Clusters

August 17th, 2012
12:41 pm

Our teacher at Parkview once told us that it was nice to be important but it is important to be nice. That is why we are always nice to other bloggers and why we are always polite even to that little fella that’s always stalking us and posting about us and doesn’t understand baseball like we do. It is very simple – and a bit different this year – teams play 162 games to see who finishes at the top of the division. Teams that “win” the division can advance in the playoffs and now, there are two wild cards. Everybody will play and some will win and some will go deer hunting. Win the Division Series and go to the Championship Series. Win the Championship Series (notice first use of “Championship” by MLB in spite of what the Braves may tell us) and pick up your Championship pennant and then go for the World Series win. This may be oversimplified for some of you but we are trying to help the little fella that thinks those signs at Turner Field (even the one for 2010) represent championships. Gee, golly, wow! We do think the Braves have a chance this year – and if we are to believe Joe Simpson they will be led by the hottest hitter on the team, Dan Uggla. .215 hot!

urban redneck

August 17th, 2012
12:42 pm

holy capitalization, batman. go bravos.

Sonny Clusters

August 17th, 2012
12:47 pm

We like Jason Heyward a lot. Prado, too. Bourn will be gone, right? Who can play center field? Simmons is coming back. Janish could play second. Francisco at third? First is set with Freddie. Bethancourt at catcher? What if they use McCann’s money to keep Bourn? We was always destined to be a GM if we hadn’t gone on to second shift. As it turned out, it’s good we did because we like the benefits and we get to see most of the games.

Heisenberg

August 17th, 2012
12:47 pm

Brandon – “… then the Braves Offense would not be Nearly as Impotent as it is…”
********************************

Only Cards have scored more runs in NL than Braves. Did you mean Miami or San Diego?

VinceVanGo

August 17th, 2012
12:51 pm

All I know is that with McCann’s shoulder issue and Betencourt’s injury, the Braves better be on the lookout for a decent backup catcher in the next few weeks. I’m afraid they’re going to need one. With Diaz out and Fredi carrying only 2 catchers I wonder who the emergency catcher is, probably Prado.

Keith

August 17th, 2012
12:54 pm

Interesting article for those baseball nerds out there.

I admit, I’m one of them. :)

These next 3 series will really tell us what this team is made of.
Go BRAVES!

Sonny Clusters

August 17th, 2012
12:56 pm

We have been getting some e-mails from some of you wanting to know if Honey Clusters, our sister, is as good looking and athletic as us and the answer is, yes. Honey Clusters was voted Best Looking at Parkview just like us but she was in the female category and we was in the male category. She could always play ball and one time when Stinky Wintes was out sick Coach let Honey play in his place and she hit for the cycle. We did not like having her on the team though because of the ways guys talk in a locker room and we didn’t want her hearing that – not to mention the problems with her getting showered after the game. That’s why Clusters men are the ballplayers now and Clusters women mostly are into science and theology.

Keith

August 17th, 2012
12:57 pm

Re: VinceVanGo

Good point. I would think they’ve already thought about that…

reckingball

August 17th, 2012
1:05 pm

Is someone that wears a plaid trucker shirt with 2 button-down “front” pockets, incapable of quoting Carl Sagan?

p.s. I don’t recall ever seeing a shirt, that had pockets on the back. haha.

Hillbilly D

August 17th, 2012
1:09 pm

Our teacher at Parkview once told us that it was nice to be important but it is important to be nice.

That teacher must’ve sold Mary Kay products on the side. ;-)