New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi prepared an interesting little homework assignment for beat reporters last week:  Find out if Brett Gardner’s OPS was higher or lower if you discounted when he got on base and was caught stealing, but scored it as a double every time he stole second base.  The results increase his OPS from .762 to .827.

There are at least two things wrong with this.  First of all, in giving so much value to on base plus slugging percentage, Girardi assumes that slugging and on base are equal.  They’re not.  If a team had a 1.00 SLG, depending on how it got such a high slugging percentage, it would likely have a lot of runs.  If a team had a 1.000 OBP, it would have an infinite number of runs.  While Gardner’s OPS rises after Girardi’s little exercise, his on base percentage falls from .383 to .369.

Girardi also assumes that a double is just as good as a single and walk plus a steal.  It simply isn’t.  Typically, a stolen base doesn’t advance runners.  A double does that.  It’s the whole principle behind why a single is better than a walk.

What’s perhaps most interesting about the whole thing is that it’s a bit of a straw man argument.  There isn’t a stats geek alive who would give Brett Gardner the stop sign in wanting to steal.  An 83% success rate means that it’s worthwhile to send the runner.  The whole reason that stolen bases have a reputation for not being appreciated by stats geeks is because attempted steals are seldom worth it.  Put simply: a stolen base doesn’t increase run expectancy enough to overcome how much getting caught stealing decreases it.

Brett Gardner and his 8.1 speed rating are an obvious exception.

Girardi’s assertion that stolen bases are important is kind of funny when we think of the type of player he was in his Major League career and compare him to the modern catcher.  As Christina Kahrl reveals in her latest piece for Baseball Prospectus, catchers are becoming more and more of an offensive force on baseball teams.  It’s not difficult to understand why offense is becoming more important than defense when stolen base attempts are on the decline.  When he was catching, Girardi’s worth to his team had a lot more to do with defense and throwing out runners than it did with actually scoring runs.  So, it’s not difficult to understand why he’d place so much importance on base stealing.

The really funny part about all this is that Girardi has talked about leading off with Gardner, which given the power in the lineup immediately behind him, will largely negate his base stealing ability.  A stolen base doesn’t do much when the guys hitting behind you are consistently getting extra base hits.

Now if only Girardi would stop upsetting Mad Dog Russo so much.

And The Rest

Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra has this morning’s Barry Bonds trial recap.  Yesterday’s big revelation: Curt Schilling once bought Jose Canseco’s Lamborghini off of him.

Thank God baseball is getting back to normal, because you know, it was quite unseemly there for a little while.

Baseball Reference looks at teams that win a lot of home games.

Jon Heyman has evidence of the Yankees starting pitching desperation.

Pedro Martinez will be in The Smithsonian.  No, really.

After flirting with joining the starting rotation, Neftali Feliz will be the Rangers closer once again.

Leave A-Rod alone!

It’s true.  You can love both statistics and baseball.

Let’s talk about the Seattle Mariners offense.  I think whispering about it would be most appropriate.

Finally, while the increasing competition for roster spots may have retired baseball’s useless white guy who only pulls pranks from the game, it’s nice to know that the tradition is still living on in bullpen catchers.

Comments (4)

  1. Somebody should introduce Girardi to OPS+ and wRC+. Weighted runs created plus includes baserunning, so Gardner’s somewhat pedestrian OPS+ (106, barely above league average) blossoms to an quite strong 121 wRC+.

  2. Thumbs up to the wRC+ comment Drew.

    I’m really getting [Getting Blanked]ing tired of hearing about baseball players of yore who were as pure as the driven snow (Ray McNulty article), back when things were so much simpler. The only thing simple about those days is the simpleton idiots who believe this bollocks.

    As Snappy the Turtle often says: “Every era has reasons for putting asterisks beside the achievements of the players who played in it.” The reason for that is stone cold simple. As far as I know, every player that ever played in any era, was a human being, and was therefore subject to the temptation to do anything to get a competitive edge on the next guy. It has always happened. It is still happening, and it will continue to happen until the end of time.

    I’m glad to see that the game has gone back to being more balanced and well-rounded because I find it more interesting and entertaining when it is. But I’m not naive enough to think that we’ve entered some sort of golden, enlightened era in baseball, where all the players are going to come together to sing “Kum Ba Yah” around a campfire, while enjoying a glass of milk and some cookies. Players are still looking for any edge they can get, and they will continue to do so. That doesn’t make them any less honourable than those that came before. It just means that the transgressions of those that came before have faded, and our rose coloured memories of them have taken over.

  3. The last thing that Girardi needs is more information at his disposal.

  4. Doesn’t Gardner look spookily like Reed Johnson and Nick from CSI (Original Recipe) have created some futuristic love child?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *