Taking a nap on the bases, the Scott Podsednik story
August 13, 2007 1 Comment
43, 70, 59, 40. From 2003-2006, those were Scott Podsednik’s seasonal stolen base totals. In 2004, he led the National League in SB and he was 2nd twice and fifth in another year. Podsednik must be a good Ukrainian and a good baserunner, you think to yourself. You’re half right.
Last year, Scotty Pods led the league in another baserunning category that no one ever talks about. Podsednik made the most baserunning blunders of 2006. Podsednik managed to get picked off an astonishing 12 times, 7 times on a simple pickoff, and 5 times in which the pitcher moved to first while Podsednik was on his way to second.
A few definitions: There are four major baserunning blunders which I am counting here. The first is being picked off a base by the pitcher (or in some cases, the catcher). This one’s fairly easy to calculate. Retrosheet‘s event files contain fields for pickoffs indicating whether or not a pickoff was recorded on the play. In any case, the pickoff is usually a sign that the batter “fell asleep” on the basepaths, in this case, not “reading” that the pitcher was throwing to first and/or leaning too far away from the bag.
There’s also another type of pickoff, which is generally given as the “pickoff/caught stealing”, in which the pitcher throws to first, and the runner is either already in flight to second or makes the decision that he’s a dead duck anyway and might as well go out in a blaze of glory, and so heads to second. I’ve counted these two separately, as in this case, the runner is more likely to have been running, but guessed wrongly on whether the pitcher was throwing to home or to first. The distinction is slight, but I choose to maintain it. I believe that a straight pickoff represents a runner taking a nap while a POCS represents a runner being too aggressive.
Another couple of baserunning blunders to consider: One is a runner who is doubled off a base on a fly ball. In this case, I looked for runners who were doubled off only on fly balls to the outfield. A runner might be doubled off on a screaming liner right at the second baseman and have no chance at all to get back, so out of fairness, I eliminated fly balls caught by infielders. But there’s little excuse for being doubled off on an outfield fly. The runner misjudged it, plain and simple.
One more blunder that’s a little more exotic: being thrown out over-running a base. Consider this curious line from a Retrosheet event file: D9, BX2(94). That translates into “double to right field, batter out at second base, with the out going from the right fielder to the second baseman.” How could a batter be both safe and out at the same base on the same play? If he hit second safely (double is now recorded in the books), but took too big a turn, and the right fielder threw in behind him and the runner became dead meat, you have a baserunning blunder and an out. I coded for a few different circumstances in which a runner could over-run a base and counted them up.
Your top twelve baserunning blunder-ers of 2006?
1) Pods 12 blunders (40 SB in 2006)
2T) Ryan Freel 10 (37)
2T) Wily Taveras 10 (29)
4T) Brian Roberts 8 (36)
4T) Jose Reyes 8 (64)
4T) Alfonso Soriano 8 (41)
7T) Jose Bautista 7 (erm… 5)
7T) Jamey Carroll 7 (10, with 12 CS!)
9T) Dave Roberts 6 (49)
9T) Ichiro Suzuki 6 (45)
9T) Ryan Zimmerman 6 (11)
9T) Juan Pierre 6 (58)
But wait, before we pile on Pods, notice something about that list. Most of the guys on the list are the ones who are running a lot anyway. They steal a lot of bases, and so they are likely to be the ones who draw a lot of pickoff throws, and most of those “blunders” are pickoffs. Base-stealers might be considered high-rolling gamblers in a way. Certainly, their stolen base totals are gaudy, but they also pay a price for their aggressiveness on the basepaths, both visible (caught stealing) and invisible (pickoffs).
In other findings, there were only 14 instances of a runner over-running a base (by 14 different gentlemen) and 49 of runners being doubled off, with only Travis Hafner, Javy Lopez, and Jacque Jones being repeat offenders. Milton Bradley managed to pull something of a unique quadrifecta in 2006, being picked off once, POCS once, over-running a base once, and being doubled off once.
One name conspicuously missing from the list of those who made a baserunning blunder last year? The supposed king of baserunning (and otherwise) cluelessness, Manny Ramirez.