The 2016 Astros have been a mess pretty much everywhere in 2016.
Hitting, or lack thereof, with runners in scoring position, stands out. Allowing runs left and right early in a game is another. And don’t forget the bullpen meltdowns. All of these miscues have been troubling. But some of these issues can be chalked up to bad luck and shaking off the rust. After all, baseball is a game where you are not always going to be hitting on all cylinders from the start. Even base running seems not to be immune to this as the Astros have found out so far this season.
Poor jumps on the base paths and questionable judgment have led to numerous gaffes in 2016. Remember the Jose Altuve–Gary Pettis third base “fiasco” from the other week? And how about that embarrassing Carlos Gomez double play before that? Yeah, me too, unfortunately.
But how do we measure base running from a statistical standpoint?
If you are familiar with Fangraphs, they have a handy statistic called BsR, simply known otherwise as Base Running. BsR essentially measures all base running results in a similar manner to WAR (Wins Above Replacement). And to help you achieve a better grasp of the statistic here is the formula used to compute BsR:
BsR = wSB + UBR + wGDP
Please note: wSB is Weighted Stolen Bases Runs; UBR is Ultimate Base Running; wGDP is Weighted Grounded into Double Play Runs.
I won’t dig deeper into these other statistics, but thought it would be a good piece of information to share regardless. I also recommend that you check out the link to Fangraphs that explains all of this stuff in a much more high quality than I possibly could.
Like WAR, BsR isn’t necessarily the be-all, end-all statistic and needs to be utilized correctly in the proper context. However, it provides valuable insight in how a particular player is contributing on the base paths, which as we all know can determine the outcome of any game.
So this now begs the question of whether the Astros are truly a bad base running team? Well, let’s just say that they are closer to the worst than the best.
Courtesy of the Fangraphs leaderboard, the Astros are currently ranked as the 20th best, or 10th worst, in BsR this season at -1.5 entering last night’s game. If it makes you feel better, though, the Angels are dead last in BsR with a -8.5. So it could be worse, but being in the negative is still not ideal. When compared to the first month of the 2015 season, you can’t help but the severe drop off for the Astros (4.5 BsR in 2015).
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The question is now what is behind this somber change in BsR?
For one, the Astros as a team has been less successful in stealing bases. In April 2015, the Astros stole 29 bases and was only caught five times. This season that ratio is now 18-to-8. So needless to say, the lack of success compared to last season is noticeable. Grounding into more double plays (16 vs. 13) and an overall drop in UBR is another culprit.
Base running issues have plagued the Astros more times than not when compared to the hot start of last season. And it is at-bats like this that generate the double plays that bog down the offense and in turn generates poor BsR:
Overall, the Astros have beat themselves in a lot of ways this season. And base running gaffes are just part of the issue. Situational hitting and poor pitching play a role as well. Hopefully, this turns around soon. After all, the season is still young, so there is plenty of time to improve. But the clock is ticking.
**Statistics provided by Fangraphs**