Who Are the Top Baserunners in Baseball?

June 17, 2012

The Atlanta Braves are in the thick of the National League playoff race and can thank good baserunning for part of that. The Braves rank first in the 2012 Baserunning Net Gain statistic featured annually in the Bill James Handbook. Baserunning Net Gain evaluates each player's opportunities to advance on hits and avoid outs on the basepaths, crediting him for the bases advanced better than average and penalizing him triple for baserunning outs. Led by outfielders Michael Bourn and Martin Prado, the Braves have a team Net Gain of +54, comfortably above the second-best Oakland Athletics.


Top Baserunning Teams, 2012
Team Net Gain
Braves +54
Athletics +46
Giants +30
Mariners +28
Phillies +26


The top individual baserunners this year are a pair of center fielders: Tony Campana and Emilio Bonifacio. The two have combined to go 41 for 45 in stolen base attempts this year. Though neither speedster hits for much power, both provide value by wreaking havoc on the basepaths. Each has advanced first-to-third on a single in 50 percent of opportunities (compared to the league average of 29 percent), and both have advanced from second to home on at least 80 percent of singles (league average is 60 percent).


Best Baserunners, 2012
Player Net Gain
Tony Campana +27
Emilio Bonifacio +21
Carlos Gonzalez +20
Angel Pagan +20
Michael Bourn +19
Martin Prado +19
Jimmy Rollins +19
Jason Kipnis +19


On the other hand, no amount of World Series heroics can erase the fact that David Freese is a bad baserunner. Freese advances well below the league average rates in every situation, has been thrown out three times, and has been doubled off twice already this year. To top it off, he has grounded into nine double plays, one short of the National League lead.


Worst Baserunners, 2012
Player Net Gain
David Freese -25
Yonder Alonso -20
David Ortiz -14
Billy Butler -14
Dayan Viciedo -12

COMMENTS (11 Comments, most recent shown first)

Bourn is at least a net -3 on bad ump calls on steals, so I'm going to mentally add 12 points to his total....
8:05 AM Jun 20th
dbl4868 -

There is a discussion of the methodology and a full listing of all starting players baserunning net bases gained or lost each year in the Bill James Handbook.
12:20 AM Jun 20th
I could've sworn that baserunning stats for all players used to be available on this site. Now I can't find them anywhere. Is it me or have they been removed?
12:36 PM Jun 19th
When I use "bases" as my unit, I do so because it's easier to present an integer as the unit. If a player steals 40 bases and is caught 4 times, that conveys a clearer message than to say he added +0.64 wins above average.

Not to mention that bases lets you present a "bigger" number.

Otherwise, you are right. The best currency, the only currency, is wins. If you don't have that, then use runs. And if you don't have that, then uses bases. And the best argument for using a lesser metric is only based on aethetics.
11:59 AM Jun 19th
Why would this be presented in bases, instead of runs? Bases doesn't mean anything out of context, and depending on which base was taken they won't even be of the same value. I think it would be much more useful if you used the run expectation matrix and converted this into a run value.
11:46 AM Jun 18th
Incidentally, Thome looks a lot like Konerko as a baserunner--slow, not bad. More SBA (39 in his career, 20 CS, which clearly suggests he should have run less). GIDP in about 2% of his PA (the difference compared to Konerko is probably mostly that Thome bats left). Picked off only 6 times, and only 81 times thrown out on the bases (in 3,125 times on base, excluding HRs and RoE). Neither does much in the way of advancing additional bases, but, again, they are both very (in Konerko's case, very, very, very) slow.
7:58 AM Jun 18th
I'm a is the Baserunner stat determined...what's the equation?
10:23 PM Jun 17th
Actually, that's 2530 times on base, excluding HRs and RoE...
7:48 PM Jun 17th
Izzy24--Konerko is S....L.....O.....W, but I don't get the impression he's all that bad a baserunner. He almost never attempts to steal (13 SBA in his career; 4 CS), so he almost never gets caught stealing. He does ground into a ton of DPs (3% of his plate appearances in his career have resulted in DP; in 2011, the AL average was 2%). He's only been picked off 4 times in his career, and has been thrown out attempting to advance on the bases 71 times (out of 1930 times on base, excluding HRs and RoE). The pickoff total seems low enough; whether the out-on-bases number is high or low, I don't know. Presumably Dewan could chime in on this? (all my data come from Baseball Reference.)
7:46 PM Jun 17th
I have been watching the Mariners DH, Catcher Jeasus Montero for the last several weeks. He has brutal as a baserunner, twice doubled up on an outfield fly out and not paying attention just running until he was throwen out. I would have thought he would make your worst baserunner list. Where does he stand? Hard for me to immagin anyone worse than him.
6:29 PM Jun 17th
I'm surprised Paul Konerko isn't on the worst base runner list. Along with Jim Thome and Manny he's probably the worst base runner I have ever seen. Plus, he's getting on base a lot this year which gives him more chances to give away runs on the base paths.
6:24 PM Jun 17th
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