Prodigal baserunners – players who seldom come home

This post is about prodigal baserunners, those players who just don’t make it home very often. Even if they get on base fairly frequently.

After the jump, I’ll take a look at who these players are, and how infrequently they actually do score.

For this question, I’m only looking at runs scored after reaching base. Call that Times Driven In or TDI. Thus, our formula is:

  • TDI = Runs minus HRs

Here are the players since 1920 with seasons (min. 502 PAs) with a .350 OBP and a TDI of 35 or less.

Rk Player R OBP PA Year Age Tm H 2B 3B HR RBI BB TDI BA SLG OPS Pos
1 Jose Oquendo 36 .350 518 1988 24 STL 125 10 1 7 46 52 29 .277 .350 .700 4563/98721
2 Nick Etten 37 .357 531 1942 28 PHI 121 21 3 8 41 67 29 .264 .375 .732 *3
3 Hank Severeid 37 .362 502 1924 33 SLB 133 23 2 4 48 36 33 .308 .398 .761 *2
4 Ray Knight 43 .355 567 1983 30 HOU 154 36 4 9 70 42 34 .304 .444 .798 *3
5 A.J. Ellis 44 .373 505 2012 31 LAD 114 20 1 13 52 65 31 .270 .414 .786 *2
6 Casey Kotchman 44 .378 563 2011 28 TBR 153 24 2 10 48 48 34 .306 .422 .800 *3
7 Mike Piazza 47 .362 528 2004 35 NYM 121 21 0 20 54 68 27 .266 .444 .806 *32/D
8 Tom Brunansky 47 .354 533 1992 31 BOS 122 31 3 15 74 66 32 .266 .445 .799 *93D
9 Mike Epstein 49 .367 502 1971 28 TOT 98 14 1 19 60 74 30 .237 .413 .780 *3
10 Rico Carty 50 .355 521 1977 37 CLE 129 23 1 15 80 56 35 .280 .432 .787 *D/3
11 George Scott 50 .355 530 1970 26 BOS 142 24 5 16 63 44 34 .296 .467 .821 *53
12 Brian McCann 51 .351 527 2011 27 ATL 126 19 0 24 71 57 27 .270 .466 .817 *2/D
13 Orlando Cepeda 51 .350 608 1973 35 BOS 159 25 0 20 86 50 31 .289 .444 .793 *D
14 Ken Singleton 52 .393 612 1983 36 BAL 140 21 3 18 84 99 34 .276 .436 .829 *D
15 Harmon Killebrew 53 .367 532 1972 36 MIN 100 13 2 26 74 94 27 .231 .450 .817 *3
16 Don Mincher 53 .366 514 1969 31 SEP 105 14 0 25 78 78 28 .246 .454 .821 *3
17 Frank Howard 53 .358 575 1965 28 WSA 149 22 6 21 84 55 34 .289 .477 .835 *7/9
18 Willie McCovey 54 .367 548 1977 39 SFG 134 21 0 28 86 67 26 .280 .500 .867 *3
19 Willie Stargell 54 .365 536 1967 27 PIT 125 18 6 20 73 67 34 .271 .465 .831 *73/9
20 Hideki Matsui 55 .361 558 2010 36 LAA 132 24 1 21 84 67 34 .274 .459 .820 *D7
21 Mike Epstein 55 .371 517 1970 27 WSA 110 15 3 20 56 73 35 .256 .444 .815 *3
22 Joe Adcock 55 .354 570 1960 32 MLN 153 21 4 25 91 46 30 .298 .500 .854 *3
23 Reggie Jackson 57 .359 514 1970 24 OAK 101 21 2 23 66 75 34 .237 .458 .817 *98
24 Frank Howard 60 .367 633 1971 34 WSA 153 25 2 26 83 77 34 .279 .474 .840 *73/9
25 Jack Cust 61 .408 507 2007 28 OAK 101 18 1 26 82 105 35 .256 .504 .912 D97
26 Harmon Killebrew 61 .386 624 1971 35 MIN 127 19 1 28 119 114 33 .254 .464 .850 *35
27 Hideki Matsui 62 .367 528 2009 35 NYY 125 21 1 28 90 64 34 .274 .509 .876 *D
28 Mo Vaughn 63 .358 592 1999 31 ANA 147 20 0 33 108 54 30 .281 .508 .866 *3D
29 Vic Wertz 65 .364 567 1956 31 CLE 127 22 0 32 106 75 33 .264 .509 .874 *3
30 Willie Horton 68 .352 578 1968 25 DET 146 20 2 36 85 49 32 .285 .543 .895 *7
31 Boog Powell 74 .399 506 1964 22 BAL 123 17 0 39 99 76 35 .290 .606 1.005 *7/3
32 Mark McGwire 86 .393 657 1997 33 TOT 148 27 0 58 123 101 28 .274 .646 1.039 *3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/15/2012.

Interesting, huh? Obviously, a healthy number from the late 60s and early 70s, but also some from other periods including each of the last four seasons. Predictably, many of these players toiled on weaker teams, but certainly not all. There are even a few WS champion teams here, one of them represented by the World Series MVP!

Another thing to note is that almost the whole list are name players, including no fewer than 4 HOFers, with Piazza likely to make it 5. Also, notice how many made this list twice – Howard, Killebrew, Epstein, Matsui, with the latter three all doing this in consecutive seasons.

So, that’s our better players, the ones with a .350 OBP. But, how low can we go for everybody else? Since Willie McCovey is the low man on the above list with a TDI of just 26, let’s see home many other seasons there are with a TDI of 25 or less.

Rk Player R PA Year Age Tm H 2B 3B HR RBI BB TDI BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Leo Cardenas 25 602 1972 33 CAL 123 11 2 6 42 35 19 .223 .272 .283 .555 *6
3 Mario Guerrero 27 546 1978 28 OAK 139 18 4 3 38 15 24 .275 .302 .345 .647 *6
21 Bob Boone 34 535 1980 32 PHI 110 23 1 9 55 48 25 .229 .299 .338 .637 *2
22 Steve Yeager 34 515 1975 26 LAD 103 16 1 12 54 40 22 .228 .298 .347 .646 *2
23 John Bateman 34 526 1971 30 MON 119 17 3 10 56 19 24 .242 .273 .350 .623 *2
69 Bengie Molina 38 517 2007 32 SFG 137 19 1 19 81 15 19 .276 .298 .433 .731 *2
135 John Buck 41 530 2011 30 FLA 106 15 1 16 57 54 25 .227 .316 .367 .683 *2
138 Bob Brenly 41 505 1985 31 SFG 97 16 1 19 56 57 22 .220 .311 .391 .702 *253
173 Lance Parrish 42 518 1987 31 PHI 114 21 0 17 67 47 25 .245 .313 .399 .712 *2
253 Charles Johnson 44 506 1998 26 TOT 100 18 0 19 58 45 25 .218 .289 .381 .670 *2
487 Shane Andrews 48 559 1998 26 MON 117 30 1 25 69 58 23 .238 .314 .455 .769 *5
595 Joe Pepitone 49 546 1969 28 NYY 124 16 3 27 70 30 22 .242 .284 .442 .726 *3
642 Alfonso Soriano 50 508 2011 35 CHC 116 27 1 26 88 27 24 .244 .289 .469 .759 *7/D
1011 Dick Stuart 53 586 1965 32 PHI 126 19 1 28 95 39 25 .234 .287 .429 .716 *3/5
1105 Steve Balboni 54 562 1986 29 KCR 117 25 1 29 88 43 25 .229 .286 .451 .738 *3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/17/2012.

There they are, led by Leo Cardenas and Bengie Molina, the only players since 1920 to fail to be driven in even 20 times in a full season. The ranks shown are for total runs scored, from lowest to highest. Heavily represented by catchers, and nobody with an OBP above 0.316. You get the picture. Just the one WS champion here, Bob Boone on the 1980 Phillies.

Finally, switching to relative metrics, here are the players least likely to be driven in, by decade. The metric is:

  • TDI% = (R – HR) / (TOB – HR)

TOB denotes Times on Base. Thus, TDI% = Times Driven In as a percentage of Times on Base.

Here is the table. Players shown have the 20 lowest % of times driven in (TDI%) for each decade since the 1920s.  Type the decade start (e.g. 1950) in the Search box to see each decade.

[table id=83 /]

 

 

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39 Comments on "Prodigal baserunners – players who seldom come home"

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John Autin
Editor
List 1 is virtually all older and/or notoriously slow players, with two notable exceptions: Jose Oquendo ’88, and Reggie Jackson ’70. Oquendo ’88 batted 6th and 7th on a Cardinals team that ranked next-to-last in scoring, and last by miles in HRs and SLG. He also had no extra-base power (.350 SLG, .073 ISO) and no SB prowess (4 for 10). And in that year, he did poorly at taking an extra base on teammates’ hits. As for Reggie ’70 — For one thing, he took himself out with a league-high 17 CS. He had his best OBP while batting… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

Led by Wes Ferrell the #9 hitters on the 1931 Indians out-slugged the #8 hitters by .348 to .345. Pitchers on that team always batted 9th.

JW Lewis
Guest

At least Jose has that cool number range in the “Pos” box, all 9 positions represented.

Isn’t there some way it could just read “All” ? 😉

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

They had 6 homers from pitchers out of the 9 hole.
And 7 from position players, including two from Reggie.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/play-index/split_stats_team.cgi?full=1&params=lineu|Batting%209th|OAK|1970|bat|AB|

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan accounted for a 1/4 of those 8 hole PA’s
And Duncan slugged .471

http://www.baseball-reference.com/play-index/split_stats_team.cgi?full=1&params=lineu|Batting%208th|OAK|1970|bat|AB|

Richard Chester
Guest

On the 1957 KC A’s the #9 hitters out-slugged the #8 hitters by .289 to .271. For the first 56 games of the year their pitchers batted in the #8 position. Infielders Joe DeMaestri, Billy Hunter and Milt Graff were so bad they were relegated to the #9 position. By eye-balling it looks to me that if those three had hit in the #8 hole all season then the #8 hitters would have out-slugged the #9 hitters.

Ed
Guest

DeMaestri actually made the all-star team in ’57 which says a lot. Also pitcher Mickey McDermott had an .872 OPS in 58 PAs. That was higher than any of the position players on the As. In fact, McDermott was often used as a pinch hitter that year.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

At first I was surprised to not see Ernie “The Schnozz” Lombardi on the first list, as he was legendary as one of the slowest MLB runners ever. Then, I saw the requirement of 502 PA, which Lombardi met only one season.

HOWEVER – up till the mid-50s, the PA requirement for the batting title was only 400 PA. Using this standard, along with a .350+ OBA and a TDI of 35 or less, he qualifies in 1932, 1936, and 1945.

Hartvig
Guest
Another player that I thought I might see on the first list and was amazed that I did not see in the decade breakdowns was the immortal and notoriously slow afoot Willie Mays Aikens. What made it doubly surprising was that his replacement, Steve Balboni, was number 2 on the list for the 80’s. While it’s true that Balboni is very well known for doing very little except hitting home runs and was terrible at getting on base and Aikens was a more well rounded hitter it’s still more than a little surprising. They were both used is much the… Read more »
Doug
Guest
Aikens didn’t make the decade lists because he had less than 3000 PAs in his career. For his career, his TDI% was 20.7%, so he definitely would have been near the top of the decade list with a few more PAs (Aikens had 2856 for his career, and 2308 in the 1980s). His 33 TDI in 1982 would have made list #1 with a few more points on his 0.345 OBP. Also, his 26 TDI in 1983 was just outside the cutoff for list #2 (although Aikens missed the PA requirement for that season). In 1984, Aikens had just 10… Read more »
Doug
Guest

Lawrence @ 3,

Lombardi ranked 2nd lowest for the decade of the 1930s in TDI percent.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

Doug,

Yes, I saw “The Schnozz” on the 1930s decade list, but I was referring to the first list, of seasonal TDI less than 35.

Doug
Guest

JA @ 1,

Good thoughts about RJ and Oquendo.

My question: what was a 47 HR hitter doing hitting anywhere but 3rd or 4th (or maybe 5th)?

On a similar vein, curious that two Yankee mainstays (and HOFers) make the list for worst TDI for the 1930s. Tough to figure that one.

Richard Chester
Guest

Part of the reason for low run totals for Dickey and Lazzeri lies in the fact that they both hit mainly in the lower part of the batting order, the overwhelming majority of their PA came in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth spots. Not many good hitters left to drive them home.

bstar
Guest
My jaw dropped when I saw Leo Cardenas’ 1972 runs scored and TDI totals. What was going on that year with him? First, the perspective: Not only is Leo the only player in history with 600+ PA and 25 runs scored or less, there is no one in history with 500+ PA and 25 runs or less either. You have to go back to 1917 to find Chuck Ward, who scored 25 runs for the Pirates in 483 PA. Cardenas batted sixth or seventh for the Angels that year but also saw time in the second and third spots in… Read more »
John Autin
Editor

Cardenas ’72 had the 5th-worst rate of Runs per PA of any modern player with 100+ games, and had by far the most games and PAs of anyone in the neighborhood.

Rate-wise, Bill Bergen stands alone (of course). But Clay Dalrymple, Phillies catcher of the ’60s, owns two of those bottom 5 rates.

Position-wise, Cardenas is the only one of those bottom 5 who was not a catcher.

RJ
Guest

I was surprised Paul Konerko didn’t make the first list, although he does sneak into the 2000s table. Konerko has 38 and 40 TDI the last two seasons.

David
Guest

The TDI formula here would count a run where batter hit safely and scored on an error in the same at-bat, no? Possibly some of these TDI totals could be less accounting for such. Or just rename TDI to more accurately reflect the calculation like Times Scoring Without Homering.

Doug
Guest

You’re right, David. A more correct name would be as you have indicated.

Also, TOB does not include times reaching base on a fielder’s choice. But, it does include (of course) times reaching base and then being erased on a fielder’s choice. So, it’s not completely exact but it’s probably not far off the true number.

Greg
Guest

Some say that late at night, when the stadium is empty and everyone has gone home, Wes and Tommy Helms roam the basepaths endlessly, waiting for someone to come break their family’s curse.

Richard Chester
Guest

Interesting that Ted Williams appears on a list of under-performers.

Doug
Guest

Richard, it was those 1950s Red Sox teams who were the under-performers. Williams inclusion is similar to Wally Berger in the 1930s for the lowly Braves. They make the list mostly because they get on base so much.

Ed
Guest

In a five year period (’54-’58), Ted Williams had four seasons in which he had 502+ PAs, an OPS greater than 1.000, and fewer than 100 RBIs and runs scored. Pretty remarkable considering there are only 20 such seasons in the entire history of baseball (Tris Speaker is the only other player with multiple such seasons).

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