When we conduct baseball analysis, or at least when we assess a specific player’s contributions to a team, we usually concentrate on three things: offense, pitching, and defense. However, we tend to forget that baserunning is also an essential part of the game, and it counts towards a player’s WAR. Simply put, there are ways to quantify how much a runner contributes to its team on the basepaths.
We love analyzing the Yankees, but I feel that more often than not, we leave baserunning out of our assessment and, instead, concentrate on home runs, strikeouts, UZR, DRS, and other things.
It is fair to wonder, who are the Yankees’ players that contribute the most on the basepaths? Who are the ones who cost the team more out there?
BsR: What is it?
FanGraphs has a stat to encompass a player’s contributions to his team on the basepaths, and it is Base Running (BsR). Basically, it turns every baserunning play (stolen bases, caught stealings, taking extra bases, being thrown out trying to take another base, and more) into a number that tells us if the player is above or below average. BsR is used as WAR’s baserunning component.
Essentially, and according to FanGraphs’ explanation, BsR combines Weighted Stolen Base Runs (wSB), Weighted Grounded Into Double Play Runs (wGDP), and Ultimate Base Running (UBR).
Just like FanGraphs has a chart to help us understand which valuations should be considered great, good or bad, BsR does, too. An 8+ BsR rates as “excellent,” and the scale goes on the following way:
8 = Excellent
6 = Great
2 = Above Average
0 = Average
-2 = Below Average
-4 = Poor
-6 = Awful
Knowing all this, let’s see how the Yankees did in the 2019 season.
Among qualified hitters, only Brett Gardner and his 4.6 rating is in MLB’s top 20 when it comes to BsR (he was 17th). Jonathan Villar led the league with a fantastic 10.5 mark, and the second-ranked Mallex Smith wasn’t even close at 8.5, the same number as Christian Yelich.
What do these numbers mean? Well, to put it simply, Villar was MLB’s best baserunner in 2019, and Brett Gardner was the best on the Yankees.
With a -3.8 mark, Luke Voit was the Yankees’ worst baserunner last season, and the only Bomber in the bottom 20 (he was 19th in the reverse order.)
You can see all Yankees here, but for time’s sake, I listed the best five and worst five. Keep in mind these are 2019 stats, with a minimum 100 plate appearances.
Brett Gardner: 4.6
Tyler Wade: 2.5
Mike Tauchman: 1.2
Didi Gregorius: 1.1
Edwin Encarnacion: 0.8
Gary Sanchez: -1.1
Clint Frazier: -1.2
Austin Romine: -2.2
Giovanny Urshela: -3.1
Luke Voit: -3.8
According to FanGraphs’ chart, among Yankees with at least 100 plate appearances, Gardner was comfortably above-average as a baserunner, but Tyler Wade joined him in that tier. As a whole, the team had a -0.8 mark and ranked 15th. Average, basically. Like Voit, Giovanny Urshela was a liability on the basepaths.
You can see the full 2019 BsR ranking for the Yankees here.
Making outs on the bases can put a damper on a rally, and taking an extra base can increase run expectancy. That’s why knowing each player’s baserunning performance should be a crucial point when evaluating talent. Not everything is home runs, wRC+ or exit velocity.