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Who Are The Best Baserunning Teams and Players?

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On Wednesday, Tim Kurkjian lamented where all the good baserunning has gone in a piece for ESPN.com. This came after a recent stretch in which one player slid over a base and another missed first base on a home run.

We’re here to tell him (and you) about the teams and players that have been the best baserunners this season. There are a couple of ways to do that, and this week we’ll use the Bill James-devised stat, Net Gain.

Net Gain is composed of two components: stolen base attempts (Stolen Base Gain) and all other plays (Baserunning Gain).

The stat uses a plus-minus approach. For Stolen Base Gain, a player and his team get a +1 credit for a stolen base and a -2 penalty for a caught stealing.

For baserunning gain, a player gets a +1 for advancing a base on an out, taking an extra base on a hit (for example, going first to third on a single), or advancing via a wild pitch, passed ball, balk, sacrifice fly, or defensive indifference.

The player gets a -3 for making an out when trying to advance, getting doubled off, or getting tagged out on the bases when another runner advances on the play.

The Padres are the runaway leader among teams in Net Gain at +74. The next closest team is the Rockies at +46.

The Padres top the field in both Stolen Base Gain (+35) and Baserunning Gain (+39). As a team, they’re stealing bases at an 81% rate (65-of-80) when the break-even point in this plus-minus system is 67%. Their leaders in steals are Fernando Tatis Jr. (13-of-15), Tommy Pham (10-of-12), and Jurickson Profar (9-of-10)

Net Gain Leaders - Teams

Team Net Gain
Padres +74
Rockies +46
Indians +39
White Sox +33
Twins +26
Rays +26
Tigers +25
Cardinals +24

Tatis Jr. ranks second among all players in Net Gain at +19 (+9 for stolen bases, +10 for baserunning). In addition to the stolen bases, he’s taken an extra-base on a hit in 10-of-15 opportunities and taken 7 bases in other situations. Perhaps most notably, he hasn’t made an out on the bases this season, thus avoiding the -3 penalty for doing so. Tatis also has a teammate in the Top 10, Profar (+13).

The leader in individual baserunning is Tommy Edman of the Cardinals. Edman is +8 in Stolen Base Gain (12-of-14 on steal attempts) and +13 on Baserunning Gain, which is tied for the MLB lead with Luis Arraez and Nick Solak.

Net Gain Leaders - Players

Player Team Net Gain
Tommy Edman Cardinals +21
Fernando Tatis Jr. Padres +19
Javier Báez Cubs +16
Garrett Hampson Rockies +15
Whit Merrifield Royals +14
Chris Taylor Dodgers +13
Jurickson Profar Padres +13
Kevin Newman Pirates +13
David Fletcher Angels +13
Trea Turner Nationals +13

One other player to note is Javier Báez, who ranks third on the Net Gain leaderboard (+16). Báez had one of baseball’s all-time baserunning adventures on May 27 against the Pirates when he retreated from first base towards home plate after hitting a ground ball to third.

Báez's backtracking led to a run scoring and his winding up on second base after a subsequent errant throw by Pirates catcher Michael Pérez. We’re guessing you’ve already seen it but you can watch it again here.

Over the last three seasons, Báez is the leader in another stat we track, Good Baserunning Plays. We’ll look at those more closely in an upcoming Stat of the Week.

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