Are the Miami Marlins Too Aggressive In Baserunning?

Aug 15, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Kevin Frandsen (28) waits on throw as Miami Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes (7) slides into third base during the eight inning at Marlins Park. Marlins won 9-2. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

The Miami Marlins have struggled to score runs all season. Up until the trade of Hanley Ramirez, the team also had a squad with a number of prolific base stealing threats, led by Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio. This combination of a lack of run scoring and speedy players have made the Marlins one of the more aggressive baserunning teams in baseball. The Marlins lead the league in steals by a comfortable margin, and they are doing so with a 79 percent success rate.

Still, as of late the Marlins have run themselves into a couple of outs. The Fish were caught in a double steal with two outs during Tuesday's 1-0 loss to the Phillies. Jose Reyes himself ran into a few poor baserunning situations, getting caught in a rundown in trying to stretch a single into a double and getting caught stealing second.

This all makes you wonder whether the Marlins have gone too far in their baserunning aggressiveness. It may be a good time to review the Marlins' baserunning exploits so far this season.

Aggressive the Right Word

The Miami Marlins have had 1545 total stolen base opportunities this season, designated by a player being on first or second with no baserunner in front of him. That total is the sixth-lowest mark in baseball, and the reasoning for that is obvious: it is hard to have stolen base opportunities when you cannot get on base. But once the Marlins are on base, they do not let those opportunities slip by in terms of attempting to steal. The Fish have tried 149 steals, successfully swiping 118 bases on the year. That puts their stolen base attempt rate at 9.6 percent, tops in the league by a healthy margin.

The Marlins are first in stolen base attempt rate, with only one other team within one percent of their mark. Only three other teams have more than an eight percent rate in attempted steals, including the Tampa Bay Rays (9.0 percent), San Diego Padres (8.5 percent), and Toronto Blue Jays (8.0 percent). The Fish are not the only team struggling offensively that decided to go for baserunning to improve, as the Padres clearly have the same game plan.

The Marlins have also been aggressive and successful in taking extra bases on hits as well. Overall, the Marlins have taken extra bases on hits on 42 percent of their opportunities, good for a tie for ninth in baseball. Just like in basestealing, it seems "aggressiveness" is the right term for the Fish.

Success?

Success, of course, is a different story, but it is a story that the Marlins have done decently on as well. Their 79 percent success rate on steals is fourth best in baseball, behind only the Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Angels, and Atlanta Braves. The Marlins are combining success with volume in the stolen base department.

But has the team suffered more ill fates outside of official stolen base attempts? it is often memorable when players like Jose Reyes end up getting caught leaning and picked off, Indeed, the Marlins have been picked off more often on the bases than any other team, at a rate of 1.3 percent of all their stolen base opportunities. However, the league average is at 1.0 percent, meaning the Marlins have lost five baserunners this season on pickoffs versus the league average. Still, factor in pickoffs with stolen base percentage and the Fish still rank fourth in terms of success rate.

What about in terms of moving extra bases? Here is where the Marlins seem to either pull up on the brakes or not attempt as many extra bases as we would expect. The most common example of taking extra bases on hits is going from first to third on a single. In that department, the Marlins are merely average, having taken an extra base on 29.2 percent of those opportunities versus the league average of 28.7 percent. In terms of scoring from first on a double, the Fish have been elite in their few opportunities, coming home on 55.0 percent of those attempts (second in baseball) versus a league-wide 42.0 percent mark.

It is the scoring a runner from second on a single situation that really baffles me. The Marlins have only scored 56.3 percent of their runners on second on a single, while the remaining 43.7 percent have ended up at third or gotten thrown out at the plate. That mark is below the league average of 59.3 percent, which is odd given the aggressive nature of the Fish. The Marlins have been caught at the plate five times in 68 attempts at the plate, good for a 7.4 percent rate of being caught at the plate. That is tied for the seventh highest mark in the majors.

In Terms of Runs

All of these things are simply raw numbers, but about the turnout in terms of runs? Well, there are mixed results on that front, apparently. FanGraphs seems to have the Marlins as net negatives in terms of non-steal baserunning, though their basestealing is clearly a net positive. Overall FanGraphs has the Marlins at 4.5 runs below average on non-steal baserunning. This does reflect a bit on the Marlins' relatively weak advancement on hits, it seems.

Baseball Prospectus, on the other hand, seems to have the Marlins highly regarded in terms of baserunning. Including steals, BP's baserunning numbers have the Fish being 10 runs above average, good for second in baseball behind the Atlanta Braves. In the estimation of BP, the Marlins have made their living taking bases onground balls, as they have apparently been five runs better than average on advancing on grounders and avoiding double play attempts. The Marlins are only ninth in the league in stolen base runs in their calculations.

Conclusion

Just based on these numbers, it seems like the Marlins are succeeding enough to be acceptably aggressive on the bases. The only area it seems the Fish are perhaps too aggressive is in fact sending runners home from second, as the club just is not succeeding at its expected rate. In every other area, the Marlins' speed has made the team above average in that department, and that means the Fish should continue to run hard and be aggressive, especially with their crippled lineup having difficulty moving runners on its own.

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