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The Astros base running - A major weakness?

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A deeper look into the Astros’ baserunning

The Astros have simply been dominant in almost every aspect of the game. The one area, which personally has always felt to be lacking has been the running game. It’s bad when we have an acronym TOOTBLAN that seemed like it was used in every game thread last year. We heavily chased the all-time record for GIDP, and never seemed to be a threat on the base paths. I did a whole article on the GIDP, but was never able to find a root cause. So I decided to dig a bit deeper into our baserunning as an overall aspect.

Before we go into too much of the analysis, there’s one aspect of our baserunning that we have to acknowledge:

Garry Pettis, the windmill himself. The Astros have always been aggressive in their running, often to the ire of some fans when it does not work out. They put pressure on the defense of other teams, hoping to drive them towards a mistake and/or simply beat the play.

So let’s take a look at the stats overall from last year:

BsR is Fangraphs all-encompassing base running stat, clicking into the link will provide you the full detail on how it’s calculated. Last year the Astros came in at -7, the 6th worst in all of baseball.

There are numerous components of BsR, so we’ll take a little deeper dive. The Astros stole 71 (19th best) bases at a 73% success rate, and dominated the GIDP stat of 156 - easily holding the #1 spot by 20.

UBR a component of BsR rated the Astros more favorably, coming in at #14, basically average for baseball. This stat is primarily focused on the Astros taking extra bases - where Pettis would largely come in to play. In wSB, the Astros came again at #14, at exactly 0.0, which is exactly league average. Not surprisingly, the Astros came in dead last at -8.2 in wGDP last year, with their overall Spd stat ranking at #22 at 4.2.

Statcast / AWS

But that was last year, and with some new players on the roster and the Astros vowing to stay more aggressive on the basepaths, let’s take an early look at the results. I do want to point out that it’s still very early in the season, so take all of this with a grain of salt as Small Sample Size DEFINITELY applies.

From a BsR perspective, the Astros have taken a significant step back. Their -3.2 to date, is the second worst in all of baseball.

From a traditional standpoint, the Astros 10 steals would rank 8th overall, but unfortunately is offset by a terrible 58.8% success rate. This time, the Astros seem to be doing poorly in most of the metrics. Their wSB coming in at -1.2 (3rd worst in baseball), UBR coming in at -0.7 (19th in baseball), Spd coming in at 3.0 (4th worst in baseball), and of course still dominating wGDP at -1.3 for the worst in baseball.

It appears that the Astros’ new approach is still of an overall negative value. It made me curious as to where the Astros rank from a Sprint Speed perspective, to see if our Astros are simply slower than the competition.

The colored dots show the Astros position against the league with the dotted line being average speed for all of baseball.
Baseball Savant / Statcast

1B - Yuli Gurriel - 27.8 fps (2nd)

2B - Jose Altuve - 27.7 fps (9th)

SS - Carlos Correa - 27.8 fps (16th)

3B - Alex Bregman - 27.0 fps (11th)

C - Robinson Chirinos - 25.4 fps (17th)

LF - Michael Brantley - 26.5 (33rd)

CF - George Springer - 28.2 (16th)

RF - Josh Reddick - 26.3 (31st)

DH - Tyler White - 24.8 (10th out of 15)

Overall, the Astros are generally of about average speed. Yuli is the only one significantly above average for his position of the primary starters (Jake is up there as well but obviously has limited play time). Josh Reddick and Michael Brantley were a bit surprising to me. Tyler White is the slowest of our active players, but I’m relieved to say he’s running circles around Albert Pujols (22.3) and Brian McCann (22.2)

I’m generally not critical of the front office, they’ve built an outstanding brain trust that has delivered dividends consistently, but this seems to be an area where they have not had success. Despite average speed, the team continues to rank as one of the worst teams on the base paths in baseball.

Do you think the Astros’ base running strategies are flawed? Do you love the Windmill? Do you think the Astros’ nerd cave views their base running differently? If so, what factors do you think Fangraphs missed?