Beyond Stolen Bases: Unveiling the True Speed Demons of MLB

By Score More Staff

While stolen bases often grab the spotlight when discussing speed in baseball, a deeper analysis reveals a more nuanced picture. This article delves into a statistic that paints a clearer picture of a player’s ability to use their speed to rack up runs: Scoring Percentage Given Reaching Base (SBGRB). This metric considers how often a player scores a run after reaching base, taking into account both their speed and the run-scoring ability of their team.

The Rickey Hendersons of Today: Reaching Base and Stealing Runs

Rickey Henderson
Lou Brock

Baseball legends like Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock left an indelible mark on the game with their electrifying speed. Their career SBGRB percentages hovered above 40%, a testament to their ability to convert baserunning prowess into runs. The major league average for SBGRB from 2018-2020 sits at a considerably lower 31%.

Billy Hamilton: A Speedy Anomaly

Billy Hamilton

The data reveals a surprising leader in Billy Hamilton. From 2018-2020, he boasted a staggering 45% SBGRB. However, a closer look reveals a fascinating story. Hamilton’s success wasn’t due to dominant power hitters driving him in – his teams only converted 30% of baserunners into runs, below average. Furthermore, his average starting base after reaching base (1.19) wasn’t significantly higher than the league average, indicating limited stolen bases. The key to his success lies in his pure, unadulterated speed. With 6 doubles for every home run, his impact primarily came from stretching singles into scoring opportunities.

Speed with Nuance: The Cases of Mondesi, Betts, and Gardner

Adalberto Mondesi
Mookie Betts
Brett Gardner

Following Hamilton is Adalberto Mondesi (43% SBGRB), but his story is different. He started on average with 1.30 bases, largely due to his power hitting (1.5 doubles per home run). Mookie Betts (42% SBGRB) comes in third, with even more power than Mondesi, but starts with fewer bases (1.21). However, he benefitted from stronger teams (Boston and LA) that scored 34% of runners while he played for them.

The Eye Test Meets the Stats: Brett Gardner – A Special Kind of Speed

The article then highlights Brett Gardner, a player the author considers a true speedster based on watching him play. Gardner’s SBGRB (41%) validates this observation. His stats mirror those of Betts, suggesting his impact comes from stretching singles rather than stolen bases. However, the author emphasizes a crucial difference – Gardner possesses a unique, almost “special” brand of speed that alters the way you anticipate the game.

Beyond the Top: Hidden Gems and Team Impact

Tim Anderson
DJ LeMahieu
Leury Garcia
Javier Baez
Mallex Smith

The analysis extends to other players like Tim Anderson, DJ LeMahieu, Leury Garcia, and Javier Baez. While their raw SBGRB might not be the highest, they excel when adjusted for their teams’ run-scoring capabilities. Players like Kevin Pillar, Mallex Smith, and Ben Gamel possess incredible speed, starting games with more bases due to doubles, but their overall SBGRB is affected by their teams’ struggles in driving runs home.

Kevin Pillar
Ben Gamel

Conclusion: Speed is a Weapon, But Context is King

This exploration of SBGRB emphasizes that raw speed is just one piece of the puzzle. A player’s effectiveness in converting baserunning prowess into runs hinges on their ability to stretch singles and steal bases, as well as the offensive firepower of their team. While stolen bases remain a thrilling element of the game, SBGRB offers a more nuanced understanding of who the true speed demons of MLB are – the ones who can consistently turn their blazing speed into valuable runs on the scoreboard.

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