Friday, November 13, 2015

From the Handbook: Mauer's baserunning

Tradin' Terry Ryan had a quiet day Thursday -- his first without a transaction announcment this week -- so let's resume our glance through the Bill James Handbook 2016.

It has been a standard observation for years: Joe Mauer is not particularly fast, nor does he steal bases frequently, but he is an adept baserunner, often the best on the team. He reads balls well, he goes first to third, he is seldom caught taking the extra base or doubled off.

Until this year.

Baseball Info Systems, publisher of the Handbook, has been tracking baserunning since 2002, when Mauer was still a minor leaguer. By its calculations, Mauer is a +95 as a base runner for his career. (I wish I could say that that's 95 bases above average, or 95 runs, but BIS has a complex formula that doesn't lend its self to such a description. It's just +95.) Only 22 players, mostly obvious speesters such as Carl Crawford and Jose Reyes, scored better.

In 2013, Mauer was +13. In 2014,  +16. In 2015, -2.

Over the time BIS has been tracking base running, runners have gone first-to-third on 28 percent of singles. Mauer in 2013 was 12-for-31, about 39 percent; in 2014, 13-for-38, 34 percent. Last year, he was just 6 for 20. Now, 30 percent is still a bit above average, but it isn't what we've seen from Mauer in the past.

Mauer had one baserunning out in 2014, none in 2013. Last year, he was doubled off on linedrives twice and thrown out trying for the extra base twice for four outs.

Maybe it's age -- Mauer is no longer a 20-something, and the years behind the plate have taken a toll. Maybe it's a general approach to baserunning under the new regime; I'll write about this in a future post, but despite Paul Molitor's baserunning skill as a player, the Twins in general ran the bases less effectively in his first year as manager than they did under Ron Gardenhire. Whatever the cause, Mauer went from a clear baserunning plus to a slight detraction last season.

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