(Mild) Fun With wSB

It’s a Friday morning (well, afternoon now), and normally I probably wouldn’t bother digging around in whatever newfangled stat FanGraphs has decided to roll out, but it’s also October, and there’s not a whole lot going on, and the new stat in question relates entirely one of the Jays biggest, most noticeable issues during the 2012 season: stolen bases.

In an announcement this morning, FanGraphs revealed that they have split baserunning contributions out from wOBA, wRAA, wRC, and wRC+, giving us a fancy new number to digest– wSB– that tells us “how many runs above or below average a player is at stealing bases.”

Some folks are bristling at the loss of the “super-awesome all-in-one offensive measurement of yumminess,” which I can totally understand– and can’t help but wonder if FanGraphs, who are pretty responsive to these kinds of things, might ultimately bringing something like that back, if enough noise is made about it. As you’d expect, there’s some great discussion going on in the comments over there. But let’s leave that to them, and check out how the various Jays stack up… which is, with a couple exceptions, pretty much exactly how you’d expect.

Brett Lawrie, naturally, is at the bottom of the list for the Jays, and among the worst in the league (in the bottom 25 of 143 qualified hitters) with a -1.2 wSB, thanks to his eight caught stealings to 13 stolen bases. Colby Rasmus was the next worst, at -1.0, again, unsurprisingly.

What may come as a surprise, given the numerous, entirely in-bounds questions about the club’s running mistakes all season, is that the Jays actually ranked tenth overall as a team, despite having only five hitters with positive contributions who made over 100 plate appearances. As you’d expect, this was due to largely to Rajai Davis, whose 3.5 mark was good for eighth in baseball among 171 hitters with more than 450 plate appearances (and just for consistency, it should be noted that Brett Lawrie “improves” to 28th worst by this scale).

Anthony Gose (1.6), Edwin Encarnacion (0.6) and Moises Sierra (0.1) were also in the black. As well as Kelly Johnson, with a perhaps-surprising 1.2 wSB, thanks to his fourteen steals and two caughts.

What does it all mean? I dunno… that there isn’t a whole lot else out there to write about and that drawing attention to Brett Lawrie’s fourth-worst-in-baseball success rate among those with ten or more steals is never going to get old?

Because, y’know, I’m totally a dick like that.

And also still kinda appalled and dumbfounded at John Farrell’s giving the “green light” to a 21-year-old.

Aaaaand as entirely susceptible to narrative bullshit as the next guy sometimes, it seems, because playing around with this stuff actually got me looking at some rather interesting other numbers– specifically, Lawrie’s splits. Omar Vizquel might want to sit down for this one, because I think it absolutely needs to be pointed out that, contra the narrative, precisely zero of those caught stealings for Lawrie took place in the 51 games he played in July onward.

Granted, Lawrie was hurting during the second half of the season, and he wasn’t getting on base as much (he had a .304 OBP following the All-Star break, a 30 point drop from the first half), and he only stole two bases during that span, but still… doesn’t that maybe kind of speak to– oh, I don’t know– some mistakes getting corrected? Call me crazy.

So… yeah.

Comments (41)

  1. Dunno if this is stats gone wild or what, but is it valid if the sample size is 21 attempts?
    Or taken into account teams who don’t value the SB vs teams that run at every opportunity?
    It’s just that some take this as positive proof of a players worth.
    As in “he’s obviously a shit base runner because his wSB is – 1.2″
    Some situations are riskier, to attempt a stea,l than others.
    Just an initial reaction. Gotta think about this over a beer.

    • SSS might be a real thing, but even to the naked eye you could tell that there was a lot of mistakes, and you could call the stat whatever you want… We were bad at it.

      Anyway, midterms are done. I’m gonna start drinking now too.

      • I don’t know what you are going on about. The wSB and UBR in question here state that the Jays are in the top half of the league in this regards, producing more runs on the base paths then are lost.

        The problem with the “naked eye” is that there is extreme observational bias at play, especially in terms of fans. That is why these statistics are so useful – they take away the emotional side of things and just gives the numbers. In this case, emotionally we all feel the Jays sucked at running the bases this year. As a whole though, they created more runs on the base paths than they lost. There were a lot of mistakes, but it was not nearly as bad as it seemed.

        • The problem is if you look at the team as a whole, because the glorious legs of Rajai Davis would skew that number by a rediculous amount, and to a lesser extent the numbers as Gose as well. Looking at it as a team and saying “yeah they were pretty good” is one thing, but claiming that certain players didn’t screw up more than others and should adjust their strategy/technique accordingly because other players picked them up is kinda foolish.

          • In what world did I make any kind of suggestion that the players who are dragging down the numbers should not improve their base running? That is completely beside the point.

            The Jays were above average in terms of base running, both in terms of stolen bases and overall. All this bullshit about their base running (as a team) being terrible and inexcusable needs to stop, because once you take off your blood-red coloured glasses, this team did pretty good in that regards. Go ahead and rag on Lawrie and Rasmus for sucking at stealing bases (though they were very good on the basepaths otherwise), but don’t blow it up to be a systemic problem of the management and the team.

    • Well… what’s the highest number of attempted steals in a year – 60, tops? In that light, 21 doesn’t seem so bad.

  2. Yeah, I was thinking as the year went on, they took off his green light. He didn’t run nearly as much.

    • He did have a fucked up leg and fucked up ribcage for most of the second half, even if he was given a proceed-with-caution yellow light it wouldn’t be worth gambling on destroying his body further with a bunch of ugly headfirst slides into 2nd

  3. So you are saying that a neutered Lawrie is better than an all-out balls to the wall Lawrie?

    • Or a smart educated Lawrie is better than a rookie not so wise Lawrie?
      Still a learning curve for him, me thinks.
      Gotta use his tools properly.

  4. That explains everything.

  5. Does wSB weight the additional value of stealing 3rd vs. stealing 2nd? It always struck me as odd that a steal of 3rd, which is more valuable from a run-scoring perspective, is credited with the same “SB” in the post-game stats as a steal of 2nd. (To say nothing of stealing home.)

    Also, I hope Fangraphs is working away in the lab on a way to combine their game leverage stats with wSB. I’d like to know if, for example, Lawrie’s (or the Jays’ in general) caught-stealing’s stung them more because they were in higher-leverage situations (2 outs, late innings, tie games.) It certainly seemed that way, given all our heart attacks about baserunning blunders this season, even though the Jays ranked a surprisingly healthy 5th in the AL in steals, and 7th in stealing %

    • If Jose was healthy and giving a home run, walk and a single every game like he used to for 2 1/2 years, you wouldn’t notice the blunders nearly as much. For one thing Lawrie would have been jogging around on Jose’s home runs vs trying to steal into 3rd for a sac fly possibility.

      Or in simpler terms: it’s all not so bad.

    • no, stealing 2nd shoudl be more valuable than stealing 3rd. You are already in scoring position when you are on 2nd, and more importantly, you take away the force when you steal 2nd. taking away the force play is a BFD!

      • I do not think stealing second is more important than 3rd, at 3rd you give your team a chance, to get a run in where as second you block the double play, but do not make it easiar to bring that runner home. with 1 out a steal to 3rd allows for a fly ball out to bring in a run. same thing with a yunel up the middle out to first.

  6. Man I want a job at FanGraphs. I can be the director of the “Make Up Crazy New Statistics to Dumfound the Masses” team.

    How about:
    How many steps it takes a player to run from 1st to 2nd base? Or 2nd to 3rd?
    How much an infielder crouches during a pitch relates to his ability to make a play in the field.

    I really feel that baseball stats are getting a little out hand. Lawrie went 13 for 21 in steal attempts this year, I didnt need a new fangled statistic to tell me thats bad. What about percentage? You guys remember how to calculate that one?

    I’m not saying there isn’t a place for advanced stats and sabermetrics, but goddamn, there has to be a line somewhere?
    Its been how many years since Moneyball? The amount of different statistics in the game is only going to get worse. How in the world did baseball people analyze a player before all these stats were created?? Watching him play the game?! Thats just crazy ….

    • LOL

      Even Bill James has said he’s had to adjust because the amount of information available today wasn’t available back in the day.

      Note to Stoeten and Drew.
      Yes I have the link.

    • Tough to justify collecting a paycheck if you’re not actually doing anything, even if the thing you’re doing is completely fucking useless. Maybe they should work on a defensive metric that doesn’t completely ruin WAR…

    • Out of hand? Seriously?

      You know what, medical science is getting out of hand too. Why don’t they just stop bothering? What we have now is totally good enough. Oh, and I suppose it would be fucking ridiculous if we just went back to the good old days of bloodletting, eh scienceboy?

      • Wow, equating medical science to baseball statistics. One saves lives and the other gives the media something to write articles about. Guess which is which?

        Bit of a reach eh? I like your writing, but don’t be so damn testy when someone disagrees with your opinion.
        Pretty sure the game of baseball was still played (more or less) the same way in the good old days of bloodletting. Medicine and the treatment of disease have changed drastically. Not such a good comparison.

        • You’re basically arguing my point at the end. Yes, medicine and treatment has changed drastically, because people worked to give the world better tools to understand disease– just like people are working to give us better ways of analysis in baseball. You don’t just give up and say this is enough if you’re working from the principle that having more knowledge is a better thing.

          It’s such a cop out to act like you like some statistical analysis, but that it’s just gone too far now. If you want to be a troglodyte, be a damn troglodyte, don’t set some arbitrary cap on the number of stats you find acceptable. That’s just a cheap way to not be fully on the wrong side the way it seems your instinct is telling you.

          • Whatever man, my point was just that I feel (and I did originally say it was an opinion) that stats about stats get to be too much. I did take a stance against this one and yeah I’ll admit it was probably a bit short sighted.

            At the end of the day though, baseball just like any other sport, is still a game played based on instincts. I have no doubt that managers have all kinds of numbers they refer to in preparation, but in the heat of the moment all they really have to rely on is instincts. Instinct to send a guy, instinct to bat a lefty against a lefty. The guys around the players (coaching staff) still know way more than any number tells them what their guy can do in any given situation and I think thats still the most important thing in sport.

          • Just when I think I’m out they pull me back in.
            @ Stoeten
            Just because new stats are produced doesn’t make them valid in drawing conclusions about the game.
            Dips was dropped because Fips and xfips produced a clearer picture.
            The creator of UZR says it’s flawed to a degree. Those users of UZR to support aguements tell us in the same breath that without a 3 year sample size they may be unreliable.
            Pythag Wins tell us Baltimore’s season is impossible.
            Now that CS and SB are removed from w OBA does that invalidate old wOBA stats?
            wSB may be valuable but may not be when situational base stealing is incorporated.
            Comparing medical advances to baseball stats advances is a poor analogy
            IMHO
            (UZR link avaiable upon request)
            Why do I feel I’m writing a resume?

          • @RADAR:

            “Pythag Wins tell us Baltimore’s season is impossible”

            This statement shows a complete lack of understanding about what statistics are meant to show. They are not meant to tell you what will happen 100% of the time – stats by their very nature are the grey area between black and white. What Pythag Wins shows us is that Baltimore’s season is improbable – that a team that only scores 7 runs more than they allow is very unlikely to succeed, even though it is possible for it to happen.

          • I think you are missing Stoets point RADAR. Each of the stats you mention, while not perfect, are taking us in the right direction by providing more info about the game of baseball. No they aren’t perfect, but they are getting refined all the time, better and better. Each stat isn’t perfect but it doesnt mean that all stats are garbage. I’m not sure if they will ever be able to come up with a good defensive stat (defense is too subjective), but if they ever do (one that is good and accepted) that would be awesome.

          • Interestingly enough, if you watch the history channel more you will actually see that in some ways medicine has advanced drastically (MRI, CAT scan) however other tools have not changed much in the last 3-4 millenia (scalpel for example). There is evidence of some civilizations like the mayans having treatment for brain contusions and other diseases,

            Just,… so… yeah know….

          • RADAR, please read the comments by No and SB, re: your missing of the point.

    • First, this was previously a part of wOBA. They just decided to take it out and make it a separate stat (I and probably a lot of other people were looking for a SB free wOBA for the MVP discussions). Second, the good thing about this is that now you know just how bad 13/21 is. Is 15/21 good? 16/21, 17/21, 18/21, Where’s the line? (A: 66%) This stat gives context and is a counting stat so it is SB and SB% all rolled into one.
      Finally, feel free to ignore Fangraphs, it isn’t for everyone.

    • Just because you’re not smart enough to understand these stats doesn’t mean you should slam them…

      You know why a stat like this is needed? Because Lawrie stole 13 bases in 21 attempts, for a 61.9% success rate. However, if he stole 39 bases in 63 attempts, people would be raving about his speed and base-running abilities, despite the same 61.9% rate. wSB is about runs and what those stolen bases mean.

      Perhaps you need to open up your mind – don’t question the use of the stats until you understand what they mean and why they’re important to thinking about the game in a different way.

      Stoeten: do you know if wSB takes into account steals where the runner on first steals second with a runner on third, resulting usually in a “fielder’s indifference” call; also, does this include double-steals – obviously, unless the runner on 1st is as useless as tits on a bull running-wise, he isn’t going to be caught at second because the catcher will always go to third…

      • I understand it, bud. But in those numbers, 39 successful attempts, still means 24 unsuccessful attempts. I’m not too confident with that runner running anyway, without looking at any other statistical numbers.

        Mine is a different way of looking at the game than yours. A difference of opinion, doesnt mean you need to attack someone’s intelligence because of it.

        • If 39 of 63 means a good wSB then it is a garbage stat IMO

          • You in no way understand what Julius is saying. The entire reason why wSB is BETTER than SB% and SB totals is because 39/63 is much (3 times actually) worse than 13/21.

    • 12ish I believe is what coaches look for. The fewer steps the better as you’re moving faster in the air than when you’re stepping.

    • This is a counting stat, which has a much different impact than rate stats. As Mark V’s comment below states if Lawrie steals 39 bases but at the same rate, his wSB is much, much worse as he keeps adding onto his total. It’s a much different context.

    • My gut tells me there’s a happy balance in there somewhere.

  7. The man in white got caught stealing twice lol

  8. I think the most interesting thing about this is how it highlights how much the “running game” is over-rated. Brett Lawrie for all his brutality on the bases was worth 1 stolen base below average and Rajai for all his success was worth less than 4 stolen bases above average. Convert that to runs created and then to wins added and the value added versus the average player is probably very small.

    This is why Ferrell’s philosophy is so dumb. Stealing is a situational tactic that can be helpful in certain contexts. Running all the time over the course of a season doesn’t get you very far ahead.

    • You are mis-interpreting this statistic I think. It is not +/- stolen bases, it is +/- runs as a result of stolen bases. That means that with stolen bases alone, Davis contributed 5 runs more than Lawrie, which is not as insignificant as you make it out to seem (with that said, it is not as significant as some other people do either).

      • You are correct in regard to the stat: it is runs above or below average created by stealing bases. My mistake. But the point still holds true. That being that the difference between Rajai’s ability to steal and Lawrie’s ability to steal is less than 5 runs over the course of 162 games in which the team scored over 700 runs, i.e. the difference is fractions of a percent of the team’s offence.

  9. lack of leadership is the problem

  10. I clicked because I saw a picture of Lawrie and I’m Canadian. I did this correctly.

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