Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Hit And Stink

Thanks to the gracious assistance of sometimes-commenter DMCj, I was able to check out the searchable video on MLB's website to delve into our fair team's atrocious CS rate.

For the season, the Nats have stolen 24 bases, which is the fewest in the league. They've been caught 25 times, for an atrocious sub-.500 percentage.

We've speculated that much of that many of those CS are the result of Frank's love affair with the hit and run (HNR). We're partially right.

MLB's site only has video of 18 of the CS.

Of the 18, 5 were clearly the result of failed HNRs. Additionally, Nick Johnson was thrown out at home on a failed squeeze bunt by Henry Mateo. If you include that, one-third of our CS are a result of bad HNRs.

The other egregious base-running error (some of which may be attributal to a HNR, but we'll never know) are the insane numbers of pickoffs. There were five of those in the 18 clips I looked at.

The other seven where straight steals, including two attempts of third by Cristian Guzman.

Wilkerson's name appears most frequently, accounting for two of the pickoffs and four of the HNR caught stealings.

The name that surprised me the most was Nick Johnson. I guess I was hoping his CS were a result of HNRs, but three were straight steals, including the embarassment of being thrown out by Mike Piazza.

Junior Spivey and Brad Wilkerson combined for two of the botched HNRs, which isn't surprising given Wilkerson's speed and Spivey's contact-hitting 'abilities'.

I pulled out my trusty copy of Weaver on Strategy. Here's what Frank's former manager had to say about this play:
I believe it's the worst play in baseball. First, the runner is going to second base at half speed, looking to see if the hitter makes contact. If the hitter fails to connect, 90 percent of the time that runner is thrown out stealing second. Also, the hitters is at a disadvantage because he knows he has to swing at any pitch in order to protect the runner. Odds are that he'll be going after a pitch that isn't a particularly good one to hit. It puts everyone at a disadvantage, and I don't think much of it....

I know that you often give the opposition an out on the hit-and-run play. That's because you can't trust the pitcher to throw a strike, so the hitter is often waving weakly at a ball that's off the plate. That usually results in a weak grounder that gets the runner to second, but the hitter is easily retired at first. Hell, you may as well bunt! Over the course of the season, only a few guys actually get hits on the hit-and-run play, becuase everything must go right for it to work. About the only thing you can say for the hit-and-run is that it prevents the double-play grounder. But when you add up the caught stealings, the weak grounders, and the line-drive double-plays, that advantage vanishes. I'll take my chance with a normal swing anytime.

I couldn't have said it any better, Earl!


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