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09/22/2004 Archived Entry: "MLB: Introducing Total Total Bases"

MLB: Introducing Total Total Bases

By Michael Toeset

Iíve long been dissatisfied with player ratings like Bill Jamesí Runs Created, which, while they are remarkably helpful in determining a playerís value outside the traditional batting average and RBI, fail in one aspect: It doesnít take into account stolen bases. Many ratings like RC penalize for caught stealing, but thereís no flip side; steals are ignored as if they were a meaningless stat.
But if you consider that a double is worth twice as much as a single in total bases (a big part of ratings like these), why shouldnít a steal be considered a type of double? Whatís the difference between a player hitting a double and a player hitting a single and then stealing a base? In my book, none.
Thatís why this year, when pondering league awards, I will be using a stat Iíve termed Total Total Base Average (TTBA). The way it works is so:
Total bases + walks + hit by pitch + steals Ė caught stealing Ė double plays / total plate appearances.
A fast singles hitter will still rank below the mighty home-run sluggers, but this will put their value higher and, in some cases, elevate the speedster to the top of the league in true total bases.
First off, letís look at a few star performers from this season:
Barry Bonds .884 TTBA (yeah, heís that good)
Albert Pujols .659 TTBA
Ichiro Suzuki .516 TTBA
Adrian Beltre .644 TTBA
Bobby Abreu .656 TTBA
Because Ichiro hasnít had all that many extra-base hits and hasnít stolen as many bases as he is capable of, he ranks far below sluggers like Pujols and Beltre. Under the RC system, however, Ichiro would slip even further behind these guys. A player like Abreu, however, jumps exponentially in terms of value because heís a 30-30 player (well, almost). Under the old system, heíd certainly still be valuable, but here he ranks almost even with Pujols.
The point of baseball, from an offensive standpoint, is to advance as many bases as possible, and I believe TTBA best utilizes that philosophy.
From a historical standpoint, letís look at a couple speedsters as compared with Pujols:
Albert Pujols (2004): .327 avg, 44 hr, 5 sb, .659 TTBA
Rickey Henderson (1983): .292 avg, 9 hr, 108 sb, .645 TTBA
Kenny Lofton (1994): .349 avg, 12 hr, 60 sb, .656 TTBA
Lou Brock (1974): .306, 3 hr, 118 sb, .544 TTBA
Maury Wills (1962): .299 avg, 6 hr, 104 sb, .522 TTBA
Some may say that TTBA gives too much importance to steals machines, but as evidenced by the above stats, pure speed does not a superstar make; speedsters like Brock in 1974 and Wills in 1962 werenít even close as valuable as Pujols is this season because their on-base percentages werenít all that high. So even though they topped 100 steals Ė which some might think would tip the scales too much in their favor Ė they failed to break the .600 TTBA mark.
Speedsters like Henderson and Lofton, who didnít crack that many home runs (a definite disadvantage in the total bases department), were nearly as valuable as Pujols when steals are included. They may not have hit 50 doubles, but they got themselves there on their own, which is accounted for under this system.
One last look at past performances: Historyís three 40-40 players had very successful seasons, but they all werenít superstar years, as, again, some might suppose under this system:
Jose Canseco (1988): .307 avg, 42 hr, 40 sb, .630 TTBA
Barry Bonds (1996): .308 avg, 42 hr, 40 sb, .729 TTBA
Alex Rodriguez (1998): .310 avg, 42 hr, 46 sb, .615 TTBA
Hopefully in the future, ratings systems will incorporate steals. As for me, I will be using it in evaluating players.

e-mail questions or comments to mtoeset@baseballguru.com


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