Vidro, steal maker
A math-filled exploration into how serious Vidro’s DP problem is. Stats drawn from ESPN’s splits, Fangraphs, and Baseball Prospectus.
Run Expectation (2006)
Runner on first, no outs: .93 runs
Runner on second, no outs: 1.15 runs
No runners on, two outs: .11 runs
32% of balls Vidro puts into play go for hits
49% of balls Vidro puts into play are grounders
Using what I can get out of ESPN’s splits:
He had 30 PA with someone on first
He had 13 PA with runners on first and second
He has 4 PA with runners on first and third
= 47 PA where GIDP was a possibility if there were zero or one out.
He came up with runners on with two out 20 times, and runners on 74 times. That’s 27% of the time (I thought it would be 33% too)
Of those 47 PA, ~13 should be with two outs, so he came up 34 times with a DP possible. He hit into a double play 7 times, so about 20% of the time he has the chance, he’s GIDPing. That doesn’t even count situations where the runner went on the pitch in order to try and stay out of the DP.
For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to use “runner on first, no outs” for the run calculations here.
Man on first, no outs, Vidro swings away
7.3% of the time, he walks (.93 runs expected –> 1.58 runs = + .63 runs)
25% of the time, he singles advancing the runner one base* (.93 runs expected –> 1.58 runs = + .63 runs)
7.2% of the time he strikes out (.93 runs expected –> .56 runs = -.37 runs)
20% of the time, GIDP (.93 runs expected –> .11 runs expected = -.82 runs)
41% of the time, he’s out without wiping the runner out by popping out, flying out, or hitting into a fielder’s choice (.93 runs expected –> .56 runs = -.37 runs)
*using his runners on split here, a .246 average, which is low
Average value of a Vidro PA with a runner on first: -.14 runs
Yaaahoooooooooo! Making some pro-Vidro changes: assume he hits .300, that his non-GIDP outs advance the runner, say, a third of the time, put the power in… I came out at -.1 run/PA with a runner on.
Every time Vidro is up with a runner on first and no outs, the most optimistic scenario I came up with is that he costs the team a tenth of a run.
Vidro is the team’s designated hitter.
The Sacrifice Strategy
Say there’s a runner on first, and Vidro lays down a bunt every time to advance the runner at the cost of an out, and he’s 100% successful at laying down that bunt.
Bunt moves the runner to second: .93 runs –> .74 runs = -.19 runs/PA
You could have a reasonably practiced pitcher pinch-hit for Vidro, lay down a sac bunt, and they’d only be a little worse than Vidro in hurting the team’s chances to score. Vidro is the team’s designated hitter.
All Stolen Base Variant
Ichiro’s career stolen base rate is 81% (244/303). Why not, if he’s on first, have him steal every time to remove the double play? Assume, for purposes of this calculation, that having every other team know that he’s going reduces his success rate substantially.
66% of the time, Ichiro reaches second (+.23 runs)
33% of the time, he’s thrown out (-.64 runs)
= you lose .04 runs/attempt
However… then it changes the whole Vidro at-bat:
Vidro up, Ichiro on second
(using the more pro-Vidro %s)
7.3% of the time, he walks (1.15 runs expected –> 1.58 runs runs = + .43 runs)
30% of the time, he singles advancing the runner one base (1.15 runs expected –> 1.81 runs = + .66 runs)
7.2% of the time he strikes out (1.15 runs expected –> .74 runs = -.41 runs)
20% of the time, out that advances the runner (1.15 runs expected –> .96 runs expected = -.19 runs)
36% of the time, he’s out without wiping the runner out by popping out, flying out, or hitting into a fielder’s choice (1.15 runs expected –> .74 runs = -.37 runs)
Every Vidro PA is now +.03, a swing of at least +.13 runs/ab just by removing the double play
No steal, Vidro’s at least -.1
Steal works, Vidro’s now +.03
Steal fails, Vidro’s PAs also become worth ~.04 (you can just take my word for it or work it out yourself)
The gap between having Ichiro successfully steal second to remove the double play is about the same run value as having Vidro bat normally and having a pitcher lay down a sacrifice bunt in the same situation.
Having Ichiro steal then carries a substantial value to the team above the value of moving 90 feet, by removing the possibility of the double play. So much so that it’s a good move to have Ichiro steal second even if his success rate will be significantly lower: sketching this out, it looks like it’s a good move to have him run all the way down to about 60% success, where normally you want a 75% success rate from your first-to-second stolen bases.
Consider that for a second: our designated hitter is so slow, so unproductive, that it makes sense for the team to pursue what would under normal circumstances be detrimental strategies because they are less harmful than having our designated hitter hit normally.
I sketched this all out a couple of hours, now that I look at the clock, and I still can’t believe that that’s right, and yet… there it is. If there’s a better way to approach the problem, I’d love to hear it. Or, as we say, patches welcome. For more, check out the Fangraphs play log for Vidro.