The 25th Man: Fundamental Baseball Reviewed by Momizat on . Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in 2 days.  Preparing for the oncoming deluge of spring training chum from our hard-working beat writers is not Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in 2 days.  Preparing for the oncoming deluge of spring training chum from our hard-working beat writers is not Rating: 0
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The 25th Man: Fundamental Baseball

The 25th Man: Fundamental Baseball

Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in 2 days.  Preparing for the oncoming deluge of spring training chum from our hard-working beat writers is not unlike those who choose to arrange their bunker, canned goods, and assorted weaponry for the coming apocalypse.  Asking a casual fan of a baseball team to ignore these stories is foolish.  Asking a casual fan to attempt to pull the nuggets of information from these stories is to request something that will not happen.

My least favorite story from Spring Training is always the renewed focus on fundamentals.  That article supposes one of the following:

  • The prior year’s success was predicated on a slavish devotion to those fundamentals, but those values are quickly forgotten in the glory of winning [though it is unclear if there is a winning threshold for this statement to become true or untrue].
  • The prior year’s failure was the result of a lack of fundamental discipline, something that can be remedied with a new baseball season and a renewed commitment to those same fundamentals.

 

Here is a snippet, of what you can expect.

Fundamental Baseball Returns

Royals renewed focus on the basics is Yost’s top priority in Surprise

Dick Kaegel for MLB.com

The Royals 72 wins last year were well beneath expectations for a team expected to show progress with such a large swell of young talent.  Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, and Jarrod Dyson were expected to learn the joy of simple fundamental baseball from clubhouse leaders like Jeff Francoeur and Bruce Chen.  Manager Ned Yost said that the veterans were not to blame: “Our focus in Spring Training last year was to prepare young players for a long season.  We hoped that Frenchy and Bruce’s superior focus would rub off and Moose, Hosmy, and Esky.”

Yost pointed out that the focus of this year’s Spring Training would be different, starting on day one.  “We’ll be working on situational base running from day one.  We’ll be focusing on fielding drills.  Our guy ordered enough fungoes to build a couple of houses here in Surprise.”

……

Instead of taking Kaegel to task when the article inevitably comes out, I’m going to take a brief look at least one aspect of fundamental baseball: Base running in non-steal situations.  Thanks to the research of Bradley Woodrum, we have a great idea of how successful the Royals were in stolen bases.*  Thanks to Michael Lichtmann’s previous work on UBR, we have data regarding the non-steal component of base running.

 

* I know that mocking the Royals brass has become second nature to some, which is why it does not surprise me that Woodrum’s article was avoided or ignored by those who write about the Royals.  Woodrum notes in his article that teams who have a lack of homerun power should steal more as their break even point for success is lower than those who can score runs by hitting the ball over the fence.  I have been a mocker of HAVOC!, and it ends today.  While I do not know what made Ned Yost steal more last year, the Royals were successful based both on how often they should have been stealing and how successful they were at doing so.  We often criticize Yost for making poor decisions based on his gut [or his love of hunting], but his praise is generally of the “He’s just a typical manager” variety.  In this particular case, Ned Yost decided that stealing more bases was a good idea and he was right.

 

So, how did the Royals rank in situational [or more appropriately, fundamental] base running?  To the Leader Board!  The Royals were in the middle of the pack of the major leagues, ranking 15th with 2.4 BsR runs.  They were in the middle of the pack in the American league as well ranking 7th, but they were second in the American League Central.  On the other hand, the Angels were first in all of Major League Baseball thanks to the Joy of Mike Trout.   Remove Trout’s 12.4 runs and the Angels move from first at 18.4 runs to a top-10 slot [7th] at 6.0 runs.  Of course, if you remove my right arm it is very likely that I will cease to be right-handed.  Or more appropriately, if you remove Alcides Escobar’s runs from the Royals totals you see the team slip into the bottom third.

 

The narrative dichotomy we presented previously doesn’t really fit what occurred on the field in 2012 in terms of baserunning.  This team was average at running the bases in non-steal situations, but their success and skill in stealing bases certainly blunts some of the criticism.  Consider their characteristics in other statistics which indicate this particular schizophrenic tendency both for and against their fundamental skills.

  • The Royals were incredibly successful and aggressive in stealing bases [which is accounted for in wOBA], yet they still ranked 19th in MLB, 10th in the AL, and finally 4th in the AL Central in the aforementioned statistic.
  • The Royals had a freak show bullpen that ranked 5th in MLB in FIP, yet they were 19th in MLB, 6th in the AL, and finally 2nd in the Central in FIP for their full staff.
  • The Royals were 19th in MLB, 10th in the AL Central, and 3rd in the Central in Team UZR.

 

Our question was simple: Were the Royals good at Fundamental Baserunning in 2012?  No, but they were average.  On the other hand, were the Royals talented enough to have their fundamentals shine through?  We don’t really know.  The Royals were talented and aggressive at stealing bases but poor at taking an extra base.  They were incredibly skilled in the bullpen, but watched a never ending series of starting pitching implosions lead by the dearly departed Jonathan Sanchez.  Their defense was poor on balance, but they had bright spots shine through in Moustakas, Hosmer, and Cain [when he played].  The difference between fundamentals and talent is difficult to pin down.

 

In the end, our examination leads us to a far simpler question, one that I often ask when an article regarding fundamentals appears: What the hell would these guys be doing if they weren’t working on [or focusing on {or renewing their commitment to}] fundamentals during Spring Training?

Golf?

Daily Grand Canyon Hikes?

Cougar Hunting [of both the human and feline persuasion with Yost as our skipper]?

About The Author

Former Tag Team Champion

There's a man goin' 'round takin' names, And he decides who to free and who to blame. Everybody won't be treated all the same, There'll be a golden ladder reachin' down. When the man comes around.

Number of Entries : 11

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