Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Clogging the Bases

There just aren't any positive connotations to the verb "to clog" outside the baseball world. Its association with clogged arteries and your clogged up commode makes people naturally recoil when they hear the word. Fair enough.

If you find yourself nodding in agreement to Uncle Griff's mailbag every Wednesday, odds are you've got a bee in your bonnet about "clogging the bases" (amongst other things). Here's a recent example from today's Star:

Q: I love the column Richard. I cannot understand why the Jays always talk about batting Lyle Overbay second. He hits a lot of doubles and gets on base, but with his power and lack of speed, I feel he is much better in an RBI spot than clogging the bases up top. Furthermore, not that the Jays usually play small ball, but I think it is a waste to take a potential double or homer away from Overbay in order to move the runner over...

Jason MacDonald, Amherst

A: The days of Overbay batting second are over. Last year, it was an early season plan because they wanted a lefthanded bat near the top of the order and believed that when the other team’s first baseman was holding a runner on, Lyle could shoot groundballs through the hole on the right...

Frank Thomas... has clogged more arteries on the basepaths than a diet of buttered bacon and poutine...

And so on. There's something like this every week. Like clockwork.

I really don't have the energy to take Griffin's mailbag apart piece by piece, but I would like to address the "clogging the bases" issue with some numbers. I'd also like to bring it to your attention that USA Today has a really excellent stat site that I had a bit of fun mucking about with this afternoon.

You're probably asking, "So, get down to it! Which teams were the worst offenders in 2007 when it came to "clogging the bases" as measured by Left on Base totals?

In the AL:

TEAM LOB RS
RS Rank





BOS 1291 867
3rd
OAK 1258 741
11th
NYY 1249 968
1st
CLE 1215 811
6th
TB 1166 782
8th
BAL 1152 756
9th
DET 1148 887
2nd
SEA 1128 794
7th
MIN 1121 718
12th
TOR 1112 753
10th
LAA 1100 822
4th
TEX 1092 816
5th
KCR 1089 706
13th
CHI 1074 693
14th





Ave. 1157 794


There really aren't any black and white answers that immediately jump out. Aside from the the worst base-clogging team in the league going on to win the World Series that is. And the worst offense by leaps and bounds also happening to have left the fewest number of men on base...

Dividing the AL into halves, the top seven base cloggers accounted for the first, second, third, sixth, eighth, nineth and eleventh best offenses in the league. The bottom seven base cleaners accounted for the fourth, fifth, seventh, tenth, twelvth, thirteenth, and fourteenth best offenses in the league.

There are abberations in each group, Oakland and Baltimore in the former, Los Angeles and Texas in the latter, but as a whole, the base cloggers stack up better than the base cleaners.

In the NL:

TEAM LOB RS
RS Rank





PHI 1295 892
1st
COL 1251 860
2nd
ATL 1205 810
3rd
LAD 1200 735
10th
NYM 1196 804
4th
FLA 1192 790
6th
CHI 1190 752
8th
HOU 1181 723
13th
CIN 1170 783
7th
STL 1167 725
11th
WSH 1163 673
16th
SD 1152 741
9th
SF 1141 683
15th
PIT 1119 724
12th
MIL 1117 801
5th
ARI 1090 712
14th





Ave 1177 763


The numbers over in the Senior Circuit are considerably more clear cut. Again, the division between good and bad offenses isn't perfectly defined, but base clogging teams as a whole again tend to be better than base clearers.

The base clogger group has the first, second, third, fourth, sixth, eighth, tenth, and thirteenth ranked offenses. The base clearer group has the fifth, seventh, nineth, eleventh, twelvth, fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth ranked offenses.

You get the picture...

Maybe Uncle Griff will considering enjoying a nice plate of buttered bacon and poutine with the crow he's eating for supper tonight.

-- Johnny Was


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