Baseball Judgments

Baseball Judgments |

Players not "doing their job" trading outs for bases


By Roger Weber


Sports commentators often talk about baseball players in terms of whether they "did their job." Now doing their job could mean any of a number of things. They are getting paid to play in the games, so simply participating might qualify as doing one's job. But their salaries differ because of differences in ability. Presumably "doing their job" means helping the team to win by an amount equal to or of greater proportion than the salary they are getting paid.


Unfortunately this term "doing your job" has been overused. It is now applied almost any time a player exchanges an out for a base or advances another runner. This quite obviously is silly as a team must advance four bases, while accumulating just three outs to score even one run.


But say there is already a player on base. Say he got a single with no outs. Since a single usually drives a player in from second base, getting this player to second base with just one out would be a smart move in terms of the team's performance in the inning, wouldn’t it? Actually, surprisingly the answer is no.


Thanks to research published in the 2006 released "The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball", we know that a team scores more runs on average when there is a runner on first with no outs than when there is a player on second base with one out. Here is a table of the resulting decrease in average runs scored by a team with runners in these positions before and after trading an out for a base.




Decrease in average runs scored

1st base, 0 outs

2nd base, 1 out


1st base, 1 out

2nd base, 2 outs


2nd base, 0 outs

3rd base, 1 out


2nd base, 1 out

3rd base, 2 outs



As you can see, trading a base for an out does not result in success, even when there is already a runner on base. While it may seem more beneficial to have a runner on third with one out than a runner on second with zero outs, it isn't. Advancing runners a base through a bunt out or a groundout is actually less productive than simply swinging away in that situation. Is this "doing one's job"?


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