Is Dave Owen Sending too Many Runners Home?

Dave Owen had gotten the nickname, The Windmill, for keeping the arm going and sending players home.  Looking back through the games from the beginning of season to April 17th, there was only 4 times a players was thrown out at home, 3 times trying to score from 2nd on a single and 1 time trying to score from 1st on a double.  Should we be worried about the number of times he is sending a player home?

First, here are the 2010 numbers when Dave sends a player home from 2B when a single was hit.  The Royals have had a player on 2nd 21 times when a 1B has been hit.  13 times they have scored, 5 times they have been stopped at 3B and 3 times they have been throw out at home.

To see if these numbers are acceptable, we must break out a Markov calculator.  If you are not familiar with one, it takes the team's (or league's) batting numbers and outputs what is the average run environment, how many runs and frequency a team on average should score considering the people on base and number of outs and the linear weights for each offensive event.  For this study, I used the 2009 league wide numbers to create my run environment.

Here is the run expectancy chart from the 2009 data:

Bases 0 outs 1 out 2 outs
xxx 0.531 0.284 0.106
1xx 0.958 0.558 0.231
x2x 1.116 0.695 0.338
xx3 1.370 0.938 0.369
12x 1.589 1.004 0.473
1x3 1.803 1.219 0.499
x23 1.960 1.357 0.606
123 2.466 1.718 0.802

This matrix shows each of the 24 possible out and runner position possibilities at any one time.  The 3 we want to look at for now are all outs for x2x (man on 2B), 1xx (man on 1B - for the single and score) and 1x3 (man on first and third). First we must assume that if a runner is on 2B and batter single they will make it to 3B safely.

So here is a chart of the initial run expectancy (RE), runs if the runner scores, if the runner stays at 2B, and if the runner is thrown out.  Finally the break even success rate is given.  In this scenario the runner that singles stays on 1B.

Outs Starting RE Runs Safe at Home, 1xx RE 1x3 RE Thrown Out at Home RE Success Rate to Break Even
0 1.12 1.96 1.80 0.56 89%
1 0.70 1.56 1.22 0.23 74%
2 0.34 1.23 0.50 0.00 41%

Let's walk through 0 outs for an example.   The initial RE is 1.12 runs.    If the runner stops at 3B the RE jumps to 1.80 runs.  If the runner actually makes it home, only gains 0.16 runs on average.  The 1.96 runs comes from the run scored counting as a run and the runner on 1B with no outs counting as 0.96.  If the runner is thrown out at home, the RE drops to 0.56 or a loss of 1.25 runs if the runner had stayed at 3B.  To get the success rate you total runs lost (1.25) divided by the total runs lost and gained (1.25+0.16) times 100% to get the success rate of 89%. 

The third base coach needs to make sure the runner is going to make over 90% of the time to break even.  The percentage drops to about 75% with 1 out.  The success rate drops to 41% with two outs.  It is much tougher for the run to score since an out (pop-up or ground out) won't score the runner.  With 2 outs, it looks like even if there is a 50% of the runner being thrown out, the base coach should send the runner and they would come out ahead over the season.

Now, if there is a runner sent home and there is a play at the plate, the runner on first should be able to make it to second.  Here are the RE and success rate if the runner can make it to 2B.

x2x




Outs Starting RE Runs Safe at Home, x2x RE 1x3 RE Thrown Out at Home RE Success Rate to Break Even
0 1.12 2.12 1.80 0.70 78%
1 0.7 1.70 1.22 0.34 65%
2 0.34 1.34 0.50 0.00 37%

If the team gets the throw to come to the plate and get the runner to advance to 2B, they don't need to be as successful at home plate.  For the rest of my analysis I will use the first example.

One note with the above strategy, is that it could change on the batter/runner situation.  A soft single by Posednik may not score Butler from 2B, but a deep single by Butler (may a 2B if hitten by Podsednik) may easily score  Podsednik.  These simulations are not perfect for all situations, but will work for the average case.

So how is Dave Owen doing this year in sending batters?  Including all games up to 4/17 (did the research while listen to game on Sunday), the Royals had 21 people on base when the single was hit, 5 were held up at 3B and of the 13 sent home 3 where out at the plate (Link - look at the 2ndS, 2ndS3 and 2ndSH columns, the last 3).  This is a success rate of 81%.  Not good if it was with zero outs, but with 1 or 2 outs, the Royals are being sent home enough.

I went back through each game trying to find the out situation when the runners were sent home.  Of the 16 times the runner was sent home, I have found 15 of them.  Of the 3 times the batter was thrown out, there were 2 outs twice and 1 out once.  All of the 12 times the runner went home and was safe, it was each time with 2 outs.  Just looking at the above run scoring matrix, Dave Owens is doing a decent job of taking a chance and sending runners home, except for the time the runner got caught with 1 out.

The general rule I take away is that if the coach has a doubt the runner won't make, hold them up with 0 or 1 outs.  If there are 2 outs, get the windmill going.

Owenmill_medium

I decided to took at some past number of going home from 2B on a single.  Here is how the Royals have looked over the past 3+ years:

Year On 2B when 1B Hit Goes to 3B Makes it Home Outs Send Rate Percentage Safe at Home
2010 21 5 13 3 76% 81%
2009 177 64 105 8 64% 93%
2008 213 72 129 12 66% 91%
2007 192 77 107 8 60% 93%

If people have a feeling that Owen is sending people more often, they are correct.  It is about 10% more often than in past years.  Along with that increase, 10% more people are getting caught.  As I have shown previously, that is not necessarily bad since most of his sends are with 2 outs and there only needs to be 41% success rate.

Now here is the numbers from all MLB teams from the past 3+ years.

Year On 2B when 1B Hit Goes to 3B Makes it Home Outs Send Rate Percentage Safe at Home
2010 380 133 229 18 65% 93%
2009 5678 2177 3294 207 62% 94%
2008 5783 2146 3386 251 63% 93%
2007 5955 2210 3506 239 63% 94%

The Royals in the past 3 season have been fairly close to the league average Send Rate with a little less success being safe at home.  Now finally, here is how the current team stacks up using their lifetime numbers:

Name On 2B when 1B Hit Goes to 3B Makes it Home Outs Send Rate Percentage Safe at Home
Mike Aviles 23 4 17 2 83% 89%
Rick Ankiel 33 9 23 1 73% 96%
Scott Podsednik 126 37 84 5 71% 94%
Jose Guillen 168 52 105 11 69% 91%
Willie Bloomquist 77 24 50 3 69% 94%
Alberto Callaspo 38 12 24 2 68% 92%
Mitch Maier 19 6 11 2 68% 85%
David DeJesus 114 37 74 3 68% 96%
Jason Kendall 266 97 159 10 64% 94%
Chris Getz 29 11 17 1 62% 94%
Yuniesky Betancourt 98 39 56 3 60% 95%
Billy Butler 45 21 21 3 53% 88%
Brayan Pena 8 5 3 0 38% 100%
Totals 1044 354 644 46 66% 93%

The current team looks a tad bit better that the league average.  These numbers should not be considered a projection as there should be some regression to the mean, how much I am not sure of the numbers yet.

I am sure there will be a few questions, but there is my first stab at looking at the success rate needed to send runners home from 2B on a single.  I hope to sometime get to what the rate needs to be for a runner on 3B, 0 or 1 outs and there is a pop fly to the outfield.

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