Gauging the Padres’ Baserunning Success Using Statcast’s Sprint Speed Data

May 2, 2017; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres center fielder Manuel Margot (7) during the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Getty Images

The Padres have had a tough time on the bases this season, and their base running has cost them many good chances to score runs throughout 2018.

The team actually ranks seventh in baseball by stolen bases, with 78 this year, yet their base running has been subpar as a whole, regardless.

By Fangraphs’ complete base running statistic, the Padres have been worth -6.3 runs on the bases this season — which ranks 25th in the league. When we think about this Padres team though, it seems like they have some real speedsters, right? Manuel Margot, Travis Jankowski, Franchy Cordero, Cory Spangenberg, among others, are really fast yet haven’t helped improve the team’s base running much.

We want to compare the Statcast sprint speed data with the base running values posted by the Padres’ players, and then see how well those players run the bases relative to other big leaguers who run at the same speed on average. This will give us an idea of whether or not the Padres are underperforming on the bases due to a lack of execution, or running the bases about as well as other players with similar sprint speed measurements. What’s important to note here, is that there’s much more to base running than pure speed. It’s something that requires great anticipation and timing, among other things as well.

However, speed is certainly the best thing to have as far as being a good baserunner is concerned, so it’s the most appropriate way for us to compare players in this situation. It’s also the most easily used method of measuring players’ performance once they get on base, so that’s a factor in using that data as well.

We’re going to evaluate every position player on the Padres’ roster, and compare their base running metrics to other players with similar sprint speed data. Each player is going to have a table, including his name, age, Statcast sprint speed metrics, stolen bases, and base running value from Fangraphs. This table will also include the difference between his base running value and the identical data of other players in the league who have been recorded as running at the same speed — labeled as ‘BsRV v Peers.’

Catchers:

Player Age Sprint Speed Stolen Bases Baserunning Value BsRV v Peers
Austin Hedges 26 26.0 feet per second 3 -0.9 +0.1

Other Players with Identical Average Sprint Speed in 2018: Ryon Healy, Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez, Ryan McMahon, Jason Castro, Matt Adams, Tony Wolters, Carlos Santana, Steve Pearce.

It looks like Hedges is just barely above average compared to his peers with similar speed. He can’t be faulted for the Padres’ issues running the bases. At the same time, he isn’t helping improve the situation, either. Considering he spends the entire game catching though, we aren’t realistically expecting him to be very fast. Considering his defensive prowess, the Padres don’t need to ask for any improvement in base running from him, right?

Player Age Sprint Speed Stolen Bases Baserunning Value BsRV v Peers
A.J. Ellis 37 24.3 feet per second 0 -1.5 +0.7

Other Players with Identical Average Sprint Speed in 2018: Matt Wieters, Edwin Encarnacion.

Ellis actually rates almost a full run better than other players who were tracked at the same speed, so that’s a positive for the 37-year-old veteran backstop. He hasn’t stolen any bases, but hey, the guy is getting up there in age and only plays once or twice a week anyway. With two career bases stolen, it’s clear he isn’t ever going to be a threat anymore on the base paths. On the days when he’s in the lineup, Ellis has been pretty good when he’s gotten on base compared to other players, which is something to appreciate.

Infielders:

Player Age Sprint Speed Stolen Bases Baserunning Value BsRV v Peers
Freddy Galvis 28 26.8 feet per second 6 -1.3 -0.8

Other Players with Identical Average Sprint Speed in 2018: Brandon Drury, Jed Lowrie, Paul Goldschmidt, Grayson Greiner, J.D. Martinez, Freddie Freeman, Yan Gomes, Curtis Granderson, Miguel Sano, Sam Travis, Ehire Adrianza, Orlando Arcia, Stephen Piscotty, Jose Abreu.

The veteran Shortstop has stolen six bases this season, but hasn’t been an asset on the base paths for the team, and actually rates as worse than the average player who runs at the same speed as him. The names he’s mentioned with don’t seem like players who run very well, and their average base running value was -0.5 — unsurprising considering there are a lot of sluggers and first basemen among the list. At least we can be pretty sure that Galvis’ defense will continue to be strong as he ages, because his lack of elite speed doesn’t appear to be an issue now or in the future in that regard.

Player Age Sprint Speed Stolen Bases Baserunning Value BsRV v Peers
Eric Hosmer 28 26.3 feet per second 6 -3.6 -2.4

Other Players with Identical Average Sprint Speed in 2018: Matt Kemp, Khris Davis, Mitch Garver, Howie Kendrick, Joc Pederson, Mike Marjama, C.J. Cron, Gordon Beckham, Rhys Hoskins.

It’s been a pretty rough all-around year for Hosmer, and his base running adventures haven’t been any better than the rest of his game. Among his peers who also ran 26.3 feet per second, he recorded the third-lowest base running value. During 2014 Hosmer was worth -6.2 runs on the bases, so he has a history of being bad in some years in this regard. He’s also been rated as above three runs on the bases in other years, so he seems like a hit-or-miss kind of player on the bases. Hosmer seems athletic enough to be good out there, but his inconsistency on the base paths is strange.

Player Age Sprint Speed Stolen Bases Baserunning Value BsRV v Peers
Jose Pirela 28 28.6 feet per second 4 -5.2 -4.9

Other Players with Identical Average Sprint Speed in 2018: Franklin Barreto, Tommy Pham, Ketel Marte, David Dahl, Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto, Cameron Maybin, Brandon Nimmo, Teoscar Hernandez, Lorenzo Cain.

Despite having pretty good speed, Pirela’s base running has bordered on disastrous in 2018, as this article outlines well. He was about average on the bases last year, so this year is likely just an anomaly for him, but the fact that he’s been thrown out as much as he has, is pretty disappointing. His defense at second base hasn’t been very good either, so it looks like Pirela needs to work on better utilizing his speed in all facets of his game as he finishes the season.

Player Age Sprint Speed Stolen Bases Baserunning Value BsRV v Peers
Cory Spangenberg 27 28.9 feet per second 6 1.7 +0.5

Other Players with Identical Average Sprint Speed in 2018: Whit Merrifield, Mike Tauchman, Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Duggar, Austin Meadows.

Having recently been the best Padres hitter in August, Spangenberg has been a positive contributor on the bases, too. His speed is among the best on the team, so we should expect him to be producing good value on the bases. Last season he ran 28.6 feet per second, so he’s actually been faster this season than during the last. Considering he’s now 27, it’s good to see Spangenberg improve his speed as he moves closer to his thirties. As long as he can hit fairly well, he’ll provide plenty of opportunities for the team to score runs.

Player Age Sprint Speed Stolen Bases Baserunning Value BsRV v Peers
Christian Villanueva 27 25.7 feet per second 3 -1.2 -0.4

Other Players with Identical Average Sprint Speed in 2018: Matt Davidson, Jeff Mathis, Kurt Suzuki, Mike Moustakas, Nolan Arenado, Jose Bautista, Todd Frazier.

The issue for Villanueva remains that he doesn’t get on base often enough, which is more of a pressing issue than his base running is. Regardless, he’s been below average relative to his peers that run similarly. Having only stolen three bases so far this season, it’s clear that he isn’t a burner out there on the bases. Power remains his best tool, so just hitting the ball over the fence more often would be perfectly acceptable for the Mexican third baseman.

Outfielders:

Player Age Sprint Speed Stolen Bases Baserunning Value BsRV v Peers
Travis Jankowski 27 29.1 feet per second 20 3.2 +2.7

Other Players with Identical Average Sprint Speed in 2018: Dustin Fowler, Paulo Orlando, Phil Gosselin, Avisail Garcia, Niko Goodrum, Cesar Hernandez, Greg Allen, JaCoby Jones, Aaron Altherr, Peter Bourjos.

One of the fastest players on the team outside of Manuel Margot, Jankowski has great speed. He’s already stolen twenty bases in only 93 games, so it’s clear his speed is one of his best assets. The outfielder has also performed even more admirably than his peers tracked at the same speed, so he’s clearly gifted at using his exceptional speed. He also uses it exceptionally well on defense, which is another way in which he’s been valuable with nearly perfect consistency. As long as he plays such good defense and keeps playing quality defense, he’ll at least be kept with the team as a fourth outfielder for a long time.

Player Age Sprint Speed Stolen Bases Baserunning Value BsRV v Peers
Manuel Margot 23 29.4 feet per second 10 -1.2 -2.6

Other Players with Identical Average Sprint Speed in 2018: Bradley Zimmer, Tyler O’Neill, Scott Kingery, Michael Hermosillo, Steve Wilkerson, Derek Fisher.

The fastest player on the Padres by Statcast’s sprint speed, Margot has had a tough time finding success on the base paths this season. He ran the bases at a much lower level than the other players who ran 29.4 feet per second, which hopefully is just something that’s happening in 2018. He’s been caught stealing nine times this season, which is very rare for a player with his kind of speed. Luckily he’s only 23, so there’s plenty of time for him to figure out how to maximize his speed on the base paths.

Player Age Sprint Speed Stolen Bases Baserunning Value BsRV v Peers
Wil Myers 27 27.9 feet per second 8 2.9 +2.9

Other Players with Identical Average Sprint Speed in 2018: J.T. Riddle, Max Kepler, Scott Schebler, Adam Duvall, Justin Upton, Ian Desmond, Robbie Grossman, Albert Almora Jr., Trayce Thompson, Aldemys Diaz, Kolten Wong, Jean Segura, Ender Inciarte, Joey Rickard.

Although his bat is still his most important asset, Wil Myers can still really run the bases pretty well considering his size. He’s a big guy but has good enough instincts to have performed better than all of his Statcast peers outside of Ender Inciarte. As he ages, his base running abilities should remain largely the same, because he’s actually improved in this aspect of his game for the most part over the course of his career. We know he’s a third baseman now, too. We just thought the article would be better organized if we had five infielders and five outfielders in each category.

Player Age Sprint Speed Stolen Bases Baserunning Value BsRV v Peers
Hunter Renfroe 26  27.3 feet per second 1 -0.2 +0.1

Other Players with Identical Average Sprint Speed in 2018: Dexter Fowler, Eduardo Nunez, Erik Gonzalez, Carlos Gonzalez, Gleyber Torres, John Ryan Murphy, Tony Kemp, Tzu-Wei Lin, Logan Forsythe, Dilson Herrera, Anthony Rendon, Ichiro Suzuki.

Hey, when you run as fast as Ichiro, that’s special company — even when he’s just retired from baseball for the year. In all seriousness, he’s been just barely better than the average player that’s run at the same speed. Having stolen one base all year, we’re never going to expect much from Renfroe on the bases. As long as he’s average when running the bases, he’ll be perfectly acceptable out there after getting a hit or walking.

Player Age Sprint Speed Stolen Bases Baserunning Value BsRV v Peers
Franmil Reyes 23 26.9 feet per second 0 -0.1 0

Other Players with Identical Average Sprint Speed in 2018: D.J. LeMahieu, Andrew Knapp, Jake Lamb, Cheslor Cuthbert, Devon Travis, Ryan Braun.

Far and away the largest man on the Padres’ roster at 6’5” and 275 pounds, Reyes is not the slowest player on the team despite his size. He rates out exactly as valuably as his peers who have run at 26.9 feet per second, which is impressive considering that he’s bigger than all of them physically. When Reyes steals his first career base, it’ll be supremely entertaining and exciting because it’ll likely be a rare occurrence moving forward. Credit to the man they call ‘Franimal’ for being pretty nimble for his size.

If we add up all the numbers from the ‘BsRV v Peers’ data, we get a number of -4.1. So collectively, the Padres’ position players have combined to be that much worse by Fangraphs’ base running metric comparatively with other players who ran at the same speed. The lesson here is that the Padres have done a subpar job of using their speed on the bases this season, and going into the next few seasons, it’s an area they should improve in. This team ranked first in baseball during the 2016 season with a number of the same players that are on the roster this year, so there’s evidence of some of these guys running the bases with much better results previously. While pitching and hitting are aspects of baseball in which rebuilding teams rarely have a chance to be good at, base running always is. As a team that will never compete with larger market payrolls, there’s a bit more pressure on the team to be more well-rounded. The next step for the Padres, outside of developing their young prospects, is improving their base running.

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Conrad Parrish
A sophomore at Willamette University in Oregon, Conrad is majoring in Spanish but is also a writing center assistant for other students at Willamette. He has been a Padres die-hard his whole life and hopes to bring comprehensible statistical analysis to the site.

1 thought on “Gauging the Padres’ Baserunning Success Using Statcast’s Sprint Speed Data

  1. Interesting article, and it targets the right part of baserunning. It’s not speed, which after all a player can’t very well improve, but how they use it. The numbers support the eyeball test that Margot has the athleticism but hasn’t yet matured mentally. We knew Villanueva and Hosmer were slow, but criminy! Yet more support for the arguments that Villanueva needs to lose weight, and Hosmer needs to stop hitting ground balls.

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