I’m sure I’m not alone in the fact that I immediately head for the leaderboards as soon as we here at FanGraphs (or at any other excellent statistics site, of course) adds a new statistic. I am probably also not alone in the sense that the first thing I look for on these leaderboards are the oddities, the unexpected leaders or trailers. On the new Ultimate Base Running leaderboards that we recently added, I’m just not seeing too many surprises.
First, the leaders:
I would be surprised to see Bourn and Suzuki not on this list; Ramirez, Rios, Roberts, Rowand, Espinosa, and McLouth all make some sense, as they have speed and a history of at least decent SB numbers. The two Royals on the list, Gordon and Cabrera, come as slight surprises to me. Nothing ever suggested that Gordon was the fleetest of foot, and Cabrera isn’t exactly in peak physical condition. Perhaps if they were above average, it would be understandable, but I am surprised they are in the top 10 in the entire league so far. Maybe it’s some of that gritty Dayton Moore baseball?
Now, the trailers:
Even fewer surprises here. This list is almost entirely populated by corner infielders, with only one catcher (Molina) and one outfielder (Soriano), and of course the DH in Ortiz. I would have expected more catchers on this list, although I suspect they aren’t receiving enough playing time (or reaching base enough) to compile enough negative baserunning events. Of these players, I think the only one I’m surprised to see here is Soriano, but at 35 it isn’t too shocking that his prior baserunning prowess (+3.9 career, and +7.9 in 2002-2004, the first three years of UBR) has diminished.
It has been said that a good metric will mostly confirm what you know, although with a few surprises here and there. At least looking at 2011 UBR so far, our new baserunning metric appears to satisfy that statement.
Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.