Teams that Best Controlled the Running Game

December 30, 2013

As a part of the Baseball Info Solutions defensive metrics, we estimate the number of runs that pitchers and catchers are able to save for their teams by controlling the running game. We divide up the credit for each stolen base and each caught stealing by looking at the pitcher/catcher battery and their track records for preventing stolen bases with and without each other. We also give out some credit to pitchers and catchers when runners are too intimidated to attempt to steal at all. For example, many fewer baserunners were willing to give it a go with Yadier Molina (46) behind the plate than with Salvador Perez (71) despite the fact that both played 1115.1 innings at catcher in 2013.

Here are the top teams in 2013 at preventing stolen bases.

Team Pitcher SB Runs Saved Catcher SB Runs Saved Total SB Runs Saved
Dodgers 6 5 11
Braves 6 1 7
Yankees 5 2 7
Four tied for 4th (Cardinals, Indians, Orioles, Twins) 6

The Dodgers were the only team in baseball who ranked among the league leaders at basestealing prevention from both the pitcher's and the catcher's perspective. They are able to boast two starting pitchers either tied for best in the league or very close to it (Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke) and a catcher tied for third-best in MLB in A.J. Ellis.

On the other side, we have the bottom five in 2013.

Team Pitcher SB Runs Saved Catcher SB Runs Saved Total SB Runs Saved
Tigers -5 -11 -16
Angels -7 -5 -12
Red Sox -6 -3 -9
Nationals -4 -4 -8
Two tied for 5th (Phillies, Rays) -6

Detroit catchers were simply horrific in 2013 at preventing stolen bases, collectively coming one run away from the worst Catcher SB Runs Saved mark we have on record (since 2003). The lion's share of that figure was from Alex Avila, who cost the Tigers seven runs by himself, but Brayan Pena and Bryan Holaday didn't do the Tigers any baserunning prevention favors either. As a team, the Tigers threw out only 18 percent of runners on stolen base attempts, second-worst in the majors and far behind the league-average rate of 27 percent.


COMMENTS (4 Comments, most recent shown first)

Actually, the role of offense and overall level of pitching would influence these numbers. You don't run much in games that are blowouts, one way or the other, and do run more often in close games.

If a lineup or pitching staff is particularly good or bad, comparing that team's numbers to another's might not be apples-to-apples.

The Tigers, with the game's best pitching, were dealing with a different running game than most teams. Which makes me wonder if they were even WORSE than these numbers show at preventing the run, or if many of these steals were not far from defensive indifference.

I would think that when you look at individual catchers, and to some degree, individual pitchers, this doesn't matter, but it does from team to team.
10:28 AM Jan 3rd
21 runs below average is about 2 wins. It's nothing to sneeze at.
3:45 AM Jan 3rd
And yet the Tigers allowed the second fewest runs in the AL this year. So much for the importance of stopping opponents from running.
8:54 PM Dec 31st
According to your DRS metric, Detroit pitchers in 2013 were 21 runs below average. Stolen base runs were 5 below average, leaving 16 runs below average for other aspects of pitching fielding. That's a pretty poor mark considering the large variety of players at the pitching mound.
8:18 PM Dec 30th
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