Next Base Value, Simplified

Between fantasy leagues and Moneyball, baseball fans have been saturated with player statistics.  And not just statistics found in a general box score.  We now have advanced stats, called sabermetrics, which measure such things as lips and dips.  Or rather LIPS (Late-Inning Pressure Situations) and DIPS (Defense Independent Pitching Statistics).  These new stats are created and gathered through box scores, game logs and a myriad of formulas.

Traditionally a person spends hours sifting among data in order to create these advanced stats.  It is only recently, through websites like Fangraphs and Baseball Reference, that the process has become much more efficient and timely.  Many of these modern baseball statistics are now widely available and have become part of the baseball lexicon.  This accessibility can make the average fan feel a little closer to the decision makers in Major League organizations who use some of the same sources.  One fascinating consequence of this is that the sabermetrics guru and ultimate fan, Bill James, now works for one of those organizations, the Boston Red Sox.  Unfortunately none of the teams have hired Brad Pitt or Jonah Hill.

The point of all these lips and dips and hips and ships is to determine the quality of a player in quantifiable terms; terms which would be quite unfamiliar to Grandpa.  Sabermetrics supporters would argue that traditional stats like batting average and home runs are simply not enough to explain a player’s value.  For example, evaluating a player’s slugging percentage by accounting for park factors may give much more insight into the player’s power ability rather than looking at a total number of home runs hit.

Yet with the explosion of advanced stats and alternate ways to size up the modern player, the ebb, flow and eventual outcome of a baseball season still suggest that a lot of unquantifiable luck is involved.  Any sabermetrics supporter would agree that there is no magic number or formula that could accurately predict a winner.  (It’s always funny how PECOTA pre-season projections mysteriously disappear by the beginning of the playoffs.)

Our idea, Next Base Value, does not look to disregard luck.  Nor does it look to be the one statistic to replace all others; far from it.  For us Next Base Value, or NBv, simply provides another perspective for the game and hopefully can be used in addition to other stats to determine the value of a player or team in quantifiable terms.

As stated in our Primer post, one of the things we at Off Base are interested in measuring is a player’s ability on the base paths.  We feel that a player’s offensive value is as important running the bases as it is getting on base.  Stolen bases aren’t enough to measure this value, because it doesn’t take into account such things as taking third from first on a single, or tagging up, or keeping out of the double play, or forcing the defense to make shifts and adjustments.  There have been advanced stats created such as Ultimate Base Running (UBR), that are helpful assigning a player value, yet the formulas are quite complex and they end up assigning values associated with Wins Above Replacement (WAR), another advanced stat.

We want to keep it simple by finding a value that could easily be understood as well as be applicable for both players and teams from any baseball era.  We want a statistic that measures value in terms of bases gained, which is similar to Total Bases (TB) for a hitter.  In terms of TB, a single produces one base, a double produces two bases, a triple produces three bases and a home run produces four bases.  TB shows bases gained offensively from the batter’s box.  With NBv, we can show the average bases gained outside the batter’s box.

TB only represents half the player’s offensive potential, and NBv enlightens us on the other half.  Unfortunately in order to determine the number of bases gained once a player reaches base requires us to go through thousands upon thousands of game logs, following runners around the base paths.  This is something we do intend to analyze during the upcoming season.  In the meantime, we have an NBv formula, derived from the few numbers we have to work with from general box scores, that acts as our proxy:

NBv = Total Bases Gained (TBg) / Base Appearances (BA)

From a box score, we know the number of times a player made an appearance on the base paths through hits (H), walks (BB) and hit by pitches (HBP).  We know the number of bases gained from stolen bases (SB).  And we also know how many times the player came around to score a run (R).  Therefore we can determine assumed Total Bases Gained (TBg) by comparing runs to the type of hits, the Bases Gained (Bg) from those hits, plus the number of SB.

TBg = Bg[1B + BB + HBP] + Bg[2B] + Bg[3B] + Bg[HR] + SB

It is assumed that all runs require 3 bases gained from a player starting at first base.  Therefore to determine the number of bases gained from singles, walks, and hit by pitches, runs from home runs, triples and doubles must be isolated.

Bg[1B + BB + HBP] = 3*(R – HR – 3B – 2B)

Since home runs, triples and doubles have been isolated, bases gained from home runs, triples and doubles must be accounted for.  A double requires 2 bases gained to score a run, a triple requires 1 bases gained and a home run requires 0 since a player is never on base with a home run.

Bg[2B] = 2*(2B)

Bg[3B] = 1*(3B)

Bg[HR] = 0*(HR)

Therefore:

TBg = 3*R – 3*HR – 2*3B – 2B + SB

To determine the number Base Appearances (BA), hits are added to walks and hit by pitches, with home runs being subtracted.  Again, a player hitting a home run is never on base.

BA = H + BB + HBP – HR

NBv is on a scale of 0 to 3, since 0 is the least amount of bases gained on the base paths, and 3 is the most.  For example, a player that has an NBv of 1.0 suggests that once on base, that player on average picks up one extra base.

NBv is especially useful in that it can be applied to both players and teams.  For example, a team that has an NBv of .4 suggests that members of the team are more likely to stay at first base once reaching with a hit, which further suggests a poor base running team.

As a first example of NBv, we looked at overall team offensive statistics from 2014 to determine some of the better offenses in both leagues.

When determining those “best” offensive teams, runs are usually considered.  The top four teams in runs scored from last season were as follows:

1. Los Angeles Angels      773 Runs

2. Detroit Tigers               757 Runs

3. Colorado Rockies         755 Runs

4. Oakland Athletics         729 Runs

Compared to the top four teams in terms of NBv:

1. Los Angeles Angels      .843 NBv

2. Kansas City Royals       .823 NBv

3. Oakland Athletics        .821 NBv

4. Detroit Tigers              .813 NBv

Interestingly, one team sneaks into the top four.

Regarded early on in 2014 as having a very anemic offense, eventually hitting the fewest home runs in all of baseball, the Royals were considered quite an anomaly after becoming the American League Champions.  However, throughout the playoffs and World Series, we saw an offense that did the little things right: stealing bases, taking the extra base, and making timely hits.  NBv seems to suggest that the Royals had a knack all season in doing the little things right.  Unfortunately traditional statistics like batting average and home runs didn’t show this.  Now it seems we have a new stat that does.

With NBv, the possibilities are exciting, and as we get further and further along into the new baseball season, we hope that we can find more examples of players and teams that may be doing the little things right, but up until now have simply gone unnoticed.

Featured Image: Via dreamsandvisions.squarespace.com

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