Few Surprises, No Shockers on 2011 UBR Leaderboards

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:

Nate McLouth, +2.8
Alex Rios, +2.8
Melky Cabrera, +2.7
Alexei Ramirez, +2.5
Alex Gordon, +2.4
Aaron Rowand, +2.2
Brian Roberts, +2.2
Danny Espinosa, +2.2
Michael Bourn, +2.1
Ichiro Suzuki, +2.1

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:

Paul Konerko, -4.4
Casey McGehee, -4.1
Brett Wallace, -4.0
Chipper Jones, -3.6
David Ortiz, -2.8
Ryan Howard, -2.8
Aramis Ramirez, -2.5
Alfonso Soriano, -2.4
Adrian Gonzalez, -2.1
Yadier Molina, -2.1

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.

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UBR seems to be a very volatile stat on a year to year basis. Alfonso Soriano for instance, +3.9, +1.5, +2.5, +.5, -.7, +1.1, -2.9, -.8, +1.1, -2.4.

Seems wrong that in the middle of his prime, a year he had 40/40/40 he was a negative base runner.


and also that last year he was actually a good base runner, when he is forced to jog the entire game due to that giant hole in his leg.


Something to keep in mind is that UBR doesn’t include SB/CS numbers. They’re already included in wOBA, so to include them here would double count them for purposes of WAR. It seems more intuitive that SB/CS should be included in UBR in the future, rather than wOBA, but that just hasn’t happened yet.


I don’t know if I’d call that “volatile”. I mean, yeah it goes back and forth between positive and negative pretty frequently, but I’m not sure we should be viewing UBR as an exact measurement right now. I.E. if a player is pretty consistently sitting between -3 and +3, he should be viewed as roughly “average”, if it’s more the 0 to +5 range, “above average”.
We’re not talking about swings from +7 to -7 here.


Actually -3 & +3 look to be very close to the extremes. There’s only a handful of runners each year that surpass that threshold (that we have data on). I would say anything outside -1/+1 (or slightly higher) are where you get out of the “average” range. -3/+3 eliminates nearly the entire league.