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Leonard Koppett Introduces Bases Gained
2002-07-15 22:52
by Mike Carminati

Leonard Koppett Introduces Bases Gained

Leonard Koppett, the author of The Thinking Fan's Guide to Baseball and 24 Seconds to Shoot and a member of the writers' wing of the Baseball and Basketball Halls of Fame is introducing a new stat, Bases Gained (BG). The idea behind BG is that a batter gets credit for the bases that he earns himself AND for all of the bases gained by the baserunners when he is at bat, that is the cumulative effect on the team's bases gained for that plate appearance. To get the player's average divide the BG by plate appearances. For example:

Suppose you get four bases-empty singles in five trips, and pop up with two on. Your BG would be four. A teammate who gets one bases-loaded two-run single would total five. Your 4-for-5 in the boxscore looks a lot better than his 1- for-5, but he did more to win that game, and his 5-4 edge in the BG column would reflect that.

I like the idea. It combines some elements of On-Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage (for individual Bases Gained) and hitting in the clutch (for the baserunner Bases Gained). One could argue that the individual who has more baserunners in front of him would be unduly rewarded by this system and would be correct. It could also be argued that you are credited with extra bases gained by the baserunners ahead of you; faster runners mean more BG for the batter. But it is an interesting stat that would be upgrade on RBI (RBI are also affected by the speed of the runners on base and the ability of the batters ahead of you to get on base).

I don't think it will gain acceptance though. The first obstacle will be the traditions of the calcified baseball fandom--they grew up with batting average, home runs, and RBI and they like them. Even if they took time to understand it, their reaction would still be to prefer RBI over BG: RBI measures runs scored by the team whereas BG measures bases, which may not necessarily lead to runs. For example, there are men on 1st and 2nd with two out. Batter A singles to shallow left but the runner has to hold at 3rd. The next man pops up to end the inning. Batter A then comes up two more times with the bases empty and singles both times but is left stranded on base both times. His fourth time, the bases are loaded but he strikes out. Batter A would be credited with five total bases. He scored no runs and caused no runs to score but he gets 5 BG in 4 PA. Batter B comes to bat four times and strikes out three of those four times with no one on base. The fourth time, Batter B hits a home run with no one one on. Batter B's team beats Batter A's team 1-0 on that HR. Batter B is credited with four BG in 4 PA. Batter A has a better BG per PA average than Batter B even though Batter B directly caused a run, the winning run in fact, to score. One could argue the merits of either player's game, but if RBI totals more accurately reflect the players' effect on the runs scored in the game, there will be those who will never use BG instead. The last obstacle is the inability to compare the BG average of today's players with those of the past since there is no accurate way to derive the bases gained for the baserunners from the data available. Even if you could, the BG average would fluctuate over time depending on the on-base percentage of your team and the league in general, thereby damning historical comparisons. (Maybe BGA is the answer: Bases Gained Adjusted for park effect and era???)

But it is a pretty cool idea that would yield some interesting analysis.

. . .

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