“Aramis Ramirez, in typical style, is at first base. I mean, no excuse why a Major Leaguer is not at seconed base on that ball.” — Bill Schroeder, Brewers color commentator
In last night’s 7-4 Cubs victory over the Brewers, Schroeder took a shot at Aramis Ramirez after Rickie Weeks first error of the night. A popup was misjudged by Weeks and Ramirez ended up at 1st base. As I was watching highlights from around MLB this morning, I caught that video and was surprised to hear that from Schroeder. My initial thought was, no way. I wanted to come here and bash him for something silly.
Before I did that though, I wanted to look at a couple other Ramirez doubles to see how quickly he got to 2nd base after making contact. Turns out it took him about 9 seconds to get to 2nd base. After watching a couple videos, I had a general sense of how long it takes Ramirez to go from home to second after making contact. I went back to the Weeks’ errors video and timed it. It was 9 seconds until Nyjer Morgan picked up the baseball.
Yeah, Schroeder has a point. Ramirez definitely should have been at 2nd base. To be fair to Schroeder who I actually enjoy listening to at times, he bashed Rickie Weeks just seconds before doing the same to Aramis Ramirez. Weeks should have caught the pop up. Everybody would agree there’s no excuse not to make that play. I’d like to think that everybody would also agree that Weeks is human and is going to make mistakes in the field. Easy defensive plays are going to be missed. It happens to every player at one point or another. No idea why it happens, but it does.
However, running out of the box really isn’t like the inevitable mistakes that come in the field. You can run hard all the time assuming good health so I understand where Schroeder is coming from and agree with him. There’s no reason that a Major League not named Molina should not be at 2nd base on that one. None.
That’s not so much why I’m talking about this specific play. We often hear announcers, the media and fans get on players for a lack of hustle. Fans complain all the time about singles that could have been doubles, doubles that could have been triples, and many other things when it comes to something like hustling. Often times what is ignored is the health of the player, but seven games into the season, I don’t really think health is an issue.
What I want to talk about is the impact that these lapses that players have that result in one less base being taken. It seems to me our emotions toward a player should be directly proportionate to their value. It doesn’t make any sense to treat a player who has no value as if he’s a great player. He still deserves to be treated with respect. The impact of various events in baseball is understood by all baseball fans.
Awhile back I mentioned that some of the non-stats people could look at the weights in wOBA in terms of how excited you get after each one occurs. Fans, in general, do a very good job of measuring the overall value of a player based on positive events, but greatly misunderstand the value of an event which has a negative impact on run scoring. Think about how you excited you are when a single or a double is hit with nobody on base. Don’t even consider the score. Personally, a single draws my attention. Maybe they’ve got something going. Still a long way from scoring. A double and I’m thinking a well placed single is going to score that run. The runner is still a long way from scoring. Maybe for you, a single is just an event and a double is really awesome. I don’t know. I think we do a pretty good job of understanding the run expectation chart without even understanding what it is.
Here’s the run expectancy chart for 1999 through 2002. Offense was up then so it’s probably a bit lower now, but we’re going to use those numbers anyway. It doesn’t really matter what the exact numbers are anyway. We see that 1.189 runs are expected when a runner is on 2nd base with no outs while .953 are expected if he’s on 1st. That’s a difference of .236 runs. With one out, there is a difference of .152 runs and with two outs a difference of .093 runs. The average is .16 runs. The average single with nobody on base is worth .592 runs. Knowing the difference already, we know the average value of that runner being on 2nd with nobody outs and nobody else on base is .753.
It’s the .59 that gets us excited, the .75 that gets us even more excited. So why does -.16 make people so angry? It really does seem to me that for some people failig to reach 2nd base is such an awful thing that it erases all value to them. It does not. Ramirez absolutely should have been at 2nd base last night. Poor baserunning by him. Poor effort. Poor judgment.
Let’s say Ramirez did what he did last night 20 times this season. That’s ridiculously high. A mor realistic number would probably be 5, but we’re going with 20 for a reason. If it happened 20 times, in that situation, it would cost the Cubs 3.2 runs all season long. Since there are different base/out states we should look at them too.
The base/out state is what bases the runners are on and how many outs there are when the batter is at the plate. There’s only 24 of them if you think about it so we can actually figure out how much a single in all situations would cost the team if it were not turned into the easy double it should have been. That value is what is referred to as the run value.
The average run value of the single is .49 runs while the double is .79 runs. Here we see the value of taking that additional base has increased significantly. Rather than the .16 runs when nobody was on base like in last night’s game, it’s doubled in value.
It’s still less than the single by quite a bit and only deserving of an emotional outburst less than what we’d show on the average single, which isn’t much. Even using .3 runs at 20 times per season, it costs the team 6 runs. 6 runs over the course of a season is huge by the way. As much as we complain about lineups, there’s really nothing that can be done in a lineup to generate 6 runs. Not even half as many runs in fact so if he did that 20 times then, yeah, the anger that we see after doing it once would be more than deserved. But he’s not going to do it 20 times.
If you think this is a regular occurrence, I encourage you to count the times he could have made it to 2nd base. Assuming good health, it takes him about 9 seconds to get to 2nd base. Obviously it depends on where the fielder fields the ball, but I assume all of you can guess at how long it would take to get a throw in. It’s usually not very long.
After you’ve counted the number of times it happened, multiply it by .3 and that will tell you how many runs it cost the Cubs during the entire season. Then ask yourself if it’s something that deserves so much outrage from the fans and media.
There’s nothing wrong with pointing out something that should have happened, but blowing it out of proportion does nobody any good. Far too often I see Cubs fans so outraged with a player over this that I just cannot figure out why. It’s not just Cubs fans either. I’m not singling out this fan base. It’s all fan bases, but it’s something that shouldn’t turn so many fans from liking a good player to literally hating his freaking guts.