(By: Dustin Nosler)

The Value of Yasiel Puig’s Baserunning

(By: Dustin Nosler)

It’s fitting that I can’t figure out which way Puig is going to run in this photo. (Photo by Dustin Nosler)

Since the Dodgers departed Australia, a lot has been said about Yasiel Puig‘s demeanor on and off the field. Two baserunning mistakes that Puig made during the series’ concluding game sparked the discussion. During that game, Puig was caught between first and second after a single (which Kershaw did in game one) and was thrown out attempting to advance to third on a wild pitch. These gaffes have resulted in calls for Puig to be benched, and the familiar refrain of “Puig’s mistakes will cost the Dodgers wins” has returned once again.

(The intent of this article is to address Puig’s issues on the field. I’m not in a position to know about off-the-field issues, which have perked up once again.)

While the mistakes on the bases last weekend weren’t great and should be avoided in the future, it’s worth looking at Puig’s baserunning value from last season to add additional context to this discussion. It’s not like Puig making mistakes is something new. Below is a summary of evaluations of Puig’s baserunning value on the three main statistical sites.

Fangraphs

Weighted stolen base runs (wSB): -1.3
Ultimate Baserunning runs (UBR): -2.9
Total Baserunning Runs Above Average: -4.2

Fangraphs breaks down baserunning value into two categories: value added by steals (wSB), and value added by everything else that happens on the bases (UBR). Of the three major statistical websites, Fangraphs has the least favorable view of Puig’s baserunning. Despite that, the value “removed” by Puig on the bases is less than half of a win. Less than three runs were removed by Puig’s non-stolen base “decisions,” which is quantified in UBR.

Baseball Reference

Baserunning Runs Above Average: -2

Baseball reference does not surface their summation methods of baserunning value as clearly as the other sites. Instead, they choose to show only the total value, which is slightly better than what is found on Fangraphs. Baseball Reference’s value shows that Puig only cost the Dodgers 0.2 runs over an average player last year.

Baseball Prospectus

Ground Advancement Runs: +0.63
Stolen Base Runs: -1.00
Air Advancement Runs: -0.08
Hit Advancement Runs: +1.01
Other Advancement Runs: -0.01
Total Baserunning Runs Above Average: +0.6

Baseball Prospectus gives the most detailed breakdown of baserunning value, showing value added by advancement on ground balls, advancement on fly balls, advancement on passed balls (filed under “other”), and stolen bases. Even if stolen bases are included, Baseball Prospectus concludes that Puig added value with his baserunning last season.

While Puig’s baserunning value would be higher if he didn’t make as many mistakes, saying that he “costs the team games” on the bases is overly dramatic. The lowest of the three values above assesses him at 4.2 runs below average, and the highest has him slightly above average. The real answer is probably somewhere in the middle. If stolen base value is removed, focusing only on Puig’s decision-making on the basepaths, then his value looks even better.

Given how good Puig was last season, it’s pretty easy to forget that he hasn’t even played in the majors for a full year. He’s only played a season and a half of organized baseball since defecting from Cuba. He’s 23 years old and has reached base fewer than 200 times in his big league career. This level of experience means that he’s going to make mistakes every once in a while. Often times, those mistakes are made up for by taking extra bases and keeping defenders off-balance in other situations.

Even if Puig stopped making all mistakes, his value would not increase by a large amount. The highest baserunning value last season per Baseball Prospectus was Matt Carpenter, with a value of 8.4 runs above average (only 7.8 runs above Puig). Per Fangraphs, the site with the harshest evaluation of Puig’s baserunning, the highest baserunning value last season was Jacoby Ellsbury‘s +11.4 runs. Mike Trout was 8.1 runs above average. Andrew McCutchen was 5.1 runs above average. In the last 10 years, only fourteen rookies have produced baserunning value more than a win more than what Puig produced last season.

It’s easy to be focused on the negatives, but the Dodgers have only played two games this season. It’s too early to determine if Puig’s mistakes in game two were part of a larger pattern or two random events happening close to each other. Calling for Puig to be benched due to these on-field issues is premature, especially given the value that he adds elsewhere.


About

Daniel Brim grew up in the Los Angeles area and remains a Dodger fan despite currently residing in Salem, MA. As an engineer, he’s fascinated by the math and science behind the game of baseball, which probably explains a lot. He started “Blog To The Score” in late 2013 to dig deeper into the numbers behind the Dodgers. In its brief lifespan, it gained attention from local and national media. You can find him spending too much time in the comments section or on Twitter.


533 comments
NoHitWin2008
NoHitWin2008

Been ofline all day and I just get home to seeing Cabrera's $300M extension with the Tigers. Holy shit. 

 Kyle
Kyle

That sounds a little more approrpiriate than she knows very little.

NoHitWin2008
NoHitWin2008

@Randy from TPB  Yeah, it's gonna look really, really stupid in about 4-5 years. 

Honestly (and I'm doing my best to set personal bias aside), I don't think I'd trade Matty's contract (6/$128M through his age 34 seasons) for Cabrera's (10/$292M through Cabrera's age 40 season). . 

 Kyle
Kyle

@bpamd3  Does he do t his normally or only when hes trying to rehab his image?

bpamd3
bpamd3

@Catfishin @bpamd3  it's only for the image. Would he really do this for the enjoyment of making a kid's day? That's just silly.

postdeblue
postdeblue

Its been awhile since I've hung out in these forums for more than a few minutes. Life good?

BTW, I hate stats...Repeated Measures MANCOVA with a 2 x 3 within factor, and a 5 between subjects factors, and don't you know I have a 3 way mixed interaction to interpret. Fuck. So many ways to go.

postdeblue
postdeblue

@TheConman  That's cool and all for now. But I hate the Yankees in their arrogance. The Dodgers have money, but they need not be arrogant and strut around as if entitled.

PagansOedipalComplex
PagansOedipalComplex

@deBlueSubiculums @TheConman there will be a point where it's either "gah, I hate those Dodgers, and their classiness and quiet winning" or "gah, those Dodgers always strutting around with their gazillions of dollars and being arrogant"

and the second one is way more fun

 Kyle
Kyle

My big fear is that Dodger games are going to become so expensive that a lot of people will be priced out.

postdeblue
postdeblue

Brim's analysis (and the data from which it was derived) has a serious flaw.

Puig's baserunning can be many things, but one thing is that it is immensely entertaining. It puts butts in seats. That translates to more money for the dodgers to spend on talented if boring baserunners.

postdeblue
postdeblue

FYI, Dee has entertainment value too, whenever he stands next to Puig.

efb
efb

I love being a Dodger fan these days 

efb
efb

@TheConman @Catfishin  well arent those calculations done by not when the tickets are purchased but by when those tickets are used? 

TheConman
TheConman

@efb @TheConman @Catfishin  who knows? The Giants "sell out" even when half the stadium was empty last year. Bottom line is that is a shit ton of tickets to already have sold

Tony Stark is my Co-Pilot
Tony Stark is my Co-Pilot

@TheConman  Awesome. 

Whenever someone says Dodger fans aren't dedicated, I say "scoreboard." Dodger fans routinely buy more tickets than any other baseball fan. You vote with your pocketbook. 

 Kyle
Kyle

New consoles are the worst. There are not enough plugs in my apartment. I'm may have to install the Xbone in the bathroom.