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Thursday, November 08, 2012

The Value of Elite Speed, Measured in Wins | FanGraphs Baseball

You’ll have to click through the article to see who topped his chart. FYI, it wasn’t Speedy Gonzales. Although he certainly had the speed and the strike zone to be an effective leadoff hitter. I have not been able to find any video that suggests he ever took up the sport.

I’m mostly certain when I suggest that speed produces runs in three main ways: by means of defensive range, baserunning (both via the stolen base and other manner of advancement), and infield hits/drag bunts. In the case of the first two elements (range and baserunning), speed alone isn’t even responsible for the entirety of the skill. There are excellent defenders, for example, whose range is due not only to footspeed but also to making good reads on, and taking straight paths to, batted balls. Likewise, there are players with merely average speed who, nevertheless, are above-average baserunners due to excellent decision-making. For the sake of this post, however, both elements will be considered purely as expressions of footspeed.
Here’s what I found:

For defense, the average top-10 leader has saved 15 runs, or 1.5 wins, relative to league average over the last five seasons. For baserunning, a top-10 leader has been worth ca. 8.0 runs per season over the last five years.

So, broadly speaking, we can say that the upside for a player with elite speed — in terms of defense and baserunning — is something like 20-25 runs, or 2.0-2.5 wins.

Jim Furtado Posted: November 08, 2012 at 08:42 AM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

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   1. AROM Posted: November 08, 2012 at 10:31 AM (#4297897)
and infield hits/drag bunts.

Plus the very threat of that makes the infielders play closer in, helping the speedy player get a few extra hits through the infield. Tough to quantify, though, even if you had good positioning data.
   2. TomH Posted: November 08, 2012 at 01:24 PM (#4298071)
a high career BAPIP would be a good proxy to quantify the whole effect, right?
   3. AROM Posted: November 08, 2012 at 01:34 PM (#4298080)
It gets messy though. There are so many factors that go into a high BABIP. Like hitting the ball hard. Jack Cust has a .337. Then you've got the very skilled hitters, like Boggs, Carew, and Gwynn. 2 of the 3 were fast when they were younger, but even as old players (and Boggs his whole career) they had high BABIP.
   4. TomH Posted: November 08, 2012 at 02:19 PM (#4298144)
What is the typical Fenway boost to BAPIPs?
   5. Walt Davis Posted: November 08, 2012 at 03:23 PM (#4298251)
The specificity of drag bunts is what I don't get. Drag bunts are about placement as much as speed. Beating out a bunt to 3B is speed (or a deep 3B) but if you can get the ball in the triangle between P, 1B, 2B then pretty much any non-Molina should be able to beat it out.

But no matter.

As the article sort of notes, the combo of top defender and top baserunner is maybe not as common as we might think. Certainly a lot of the game's great base-stealers were pretty average defenders -- Brock, Henderson, Raines, Coleman. Even Ichiro had only 3 seasons of 8+ runs of base-running (b-r) and only one season above 1 dWAR. Of course I guess Ichiro's infield hits are folded into Rbat so he adds speed value there but the article doesn't seem to separate that speed impact. So, for his career, Ichiro has added about 9 wins via his combo of baserunning and defense or less than one win per year. (I don't think he's including Rdp here ... if he is, Ichiro adds another 5 wins!).

The article's premise isn't really about trying to measure speed's impact, it's "OK, Billy Hamilton is essentially pure speed, can he stick in the majors." By the end he decides that, if he can match Bourn's roughly 2 wins a year by speed, then Hamilton only needs to hit like Brendan Ryan to be an average player. I've got my doubts about that but sure, it's theoretically possible.
   6. Jose Canusee Posted: November 08, 2012 at 07:50 PM (#4298529)
I thought Tony Gonzalez was sometimes lazily called "Speedy" and he did have 12 triples in 1963 but his SB numbers were not Billy Hamilton in any way.
   7. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 08, 2012 at 08:28 PM (#4298545)
I’m mostly certain when I suggest that speed produces runs in three main ways: by means of defensive range, baserunning (both via the stolen base and other manner of advancement), and infield hits/drag bunts.

What about avoiding double plays?
   8. Mefisto Posted: November 08, 2012 at 09:28 PM (#4298573)
It's hard to sort out double plays because there's too much noise in the data. Fly ball hitters don't hit into many DPs, but they're often big, slow sluggers. Speedy guys who hit lots of ground balls sometimes do. And, of course, batting order matters (opportunities).
   9. chrisisasavage Posted: November 09, 2012 at 03:11 AM (#4298700)
#3, exactly, Edgar Martinez had a career BABIP of .335. He could clear the bases on a single, which could be a rocket off the wall. BABIP probably has more to with the ability to hit the ball hard on a line than anything, unless you're Ichiro and can outrun a ball 3 feet in front of the catcher :)

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