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Men Left On Base

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You may recall that during the team's worst losing streak before this one, the team had gone into Pittsburgh and gotten swept. Paul Maholm threw the best game he'd ever thrown--and may ever throw--in the first tilt, but then the Astros went out and left 18 men and 13 men respectively in the last two fracases, practically ensuring their own defeat.

And when they left 13 on vs. Milwaukee three days later, the question occurred to me whether the Astros had stranded more runners than any other team in the National League.

Given the deep nature of the current funk, by now, I seriously doubt that's the case, but it appears that there's no place to find that information anyway. I tried generating it myself, but it looks like there's no quick way of doing that, either. It seems no website I'm aware of keeps current or historical team-by-team left on base data.

But while futilely searching for information on whether or not Houston may or may not have had more stranded baserunners than anyone else, I received the following thought-provoking reply from Charlie at Bucs Dugout when I had asked aloud if Houston indeed had left more runners than anyone else:

If you think it will help, you can tell [your readers] that fans of every bad offensive team think this. Pirates fans say this every year. Even their manager thinks that their offensive problems are the result of not enough key hits, as opposed to just offensive ineptitude.

And an old post I found at Baseball Musings fleshes Charlies' thoughts out a little further.

[These bloggers Pinto was referring to] approach the Left On Base stat as a bad thing. That's not really true. Leaving lots of men on base is often a sign of strong offense, one that puts lots of men on base!

So, then, there appears to be this belief floating about that, contrary to what we always thought, men left on base are actually a good thing, that they are simply the unavoidable residue of runs scored.

I'm not sure if I should term this a sabermetric idea, per se, but it's definitely an internet idea, if you can judge the droppings by the habitat. And certainly the theme is one that is palatable to sabermetricians, who perhaps more than anything else, have sought to abolish the myth of timely hitting.

So if it's not their idea, this stranded men are good men concept, it's certainly up their alley, one they could put on their mantels as they seek to convince us that all our old-fashioned ideas about sacrifice flies and clutchness and situational hitting are just so much superstition.

Me, I want more data before I take sides, although of course I didn't bring much with me. All I got are the 2007 Astros.

Astros Left On Base
In All Games In Wins In Losses
Left On 356 150 206
Average/Game 7.12 7.14 7.10
Fewest Men Left - 2, April 24, at Pittsburgh (L)
Most Men Left On - 18, April 25, at Pittsburgh (L)
Record When Leaving 0 - 5: 7 - 10
When Leaving 6 - 10: 12 - 16
When Leaving 11+: 2 - 3
When Leaving 0: 0 - 0
When Leaving 1 : 0 - 0
When Leaving 2: 0 - 1
When Leaving 3: 1 - 0
When Leaving 4: 2 - 4
When Leaving 5: 4 - 5
When Leaving 6: 3 - 5
When Leaving 7: 1 - 4
When Leaving 8: 4 - 3
 
When Leaving 9: 2 - 3
When Leaving 10: 2 - 1
When Leaving 11: 1 - 0
When Leaving 12: 0 - 0
When Leaving 13: 1 - 2
When Leaving 14: 0 - 0
When Leaving 15: 0 - 0
When Leaving 16: 0 - 0
When Leaving 17: 0 - 0
When Leaving 18: 0 - 1
21 - 29

From this tiny smidgen of a sample, from one lousy offensive team, for two months, I will take the tentative conclusion that men left on base have no relationship at all--not positive, not negative--with winning ball games. The Astros are a .420 team right now a I write,and that same flavor of mediocrity is reflected in their winning percentage when they strand just a few (.411), when they strand a medium amount (.428) and when they strand a whole mess (.400).

It doesn't appear to matter how many the Astros strand. Their tendency to play .420 baseball seems to shine through that particular detail as if it were transparent.

Maybe it is.

Let's take a look at runs scored, again the microscopic sample of our own Astros, the only team I love enough that I would go to the trouble of counting team left on base boxscore-by-boxscore:

Click to open larger image in new window

I'm open to suggested interpretations, but I don't see anything. When the Astros have left five, they've scored one--and they've scored ten. Leaving six might mean scoring one measly run, or it might mean scoring thirteen.

There appears to me to be no relationship at all.

Although I will say that Microsft calls that black line running downward from left to right a "trendline," and it does suggest that although the effect is weak, your uncle Louie has been right all these years: the more left on base, the fewer runs.

With all my fancy Excel sheets, I'm pretty good at coming up with reams of useless data. Where I'm less useful is figuring out what it means. And that is true with this particular project more than usual.

Lots of data, no analysis. But I will turn to you, gentle reader, for deductions I've missed, and for suggestions on where to find info on whether the conclusions suggested by our own anemically hitting baseball team are true for the rest of the baseball world.

You know, the one outside East Texas, the one that regularly hits for power and for average.