Grant, at McCovey Chronicles, has a neat little post on the Giants and one of their newfound strategies for success this year: running.
We’ve been force-fed some variation of this for the past five springs. The hitting isn’t expected to be stellar, so there’s some mention of the dedication to the little things. Baserunning is always one of those little things. Apparently, the Giants are focusing on it this spring. Again. Makes me want to punch Ned Ryerson in the face.
Running more effectively, I think, feels like one of those classic spring ideas. On the surface of things, it’s kind of heartening in a way: “Hey, if we can’t hit, we can always try to run the bases better.” But, the problem with “running the bases better = success!” is largely based on the fact that the Giants, at least last year’s version, rarely got on base. And, also, largely based on the fact that for the past few years, the Giants have actually been a pretty decent team at running the bases.
Year BP Rank FanGraphs Rank 2011 10 7 2010 23 27 2009 6 8 2008 26 26 2007 16 15
Those are the team baserunning ranks from two different sources, Baseball Prospectus’ metric and FanGraphs’ version of a baserunning statistic. The 2011 Giants, the one that had arguably the worst offense in baseball, were a damned good running team. The 2011 Giants were better than two-thirds of all the other teams in baseball at running the bases. And yet, they were still a godawful team on offense. The team that was pretty darned good at running the bases only scored 570 runs.
You’ll also enjoy that in 2010 — the year that something big happened, I can’t recall now — the Giants were pretty bad at running the bases. If you go by BP, the team ranked 23rd in all of baseball; with FanGraphs, the Giants were 27th in all of baseball at running the bases. Yet, for the Giants, the biggest reason the team did so well in 2010 — besides the great pitching, of course — was the addition of a league average offense. Not ‘league best’, just average.
So, running. It’s not totally pointless — the very, very best teams are adding a couple of wins by good baserunning — but the team would see much greater gains in the win column if it first improved its offense.