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Running the bases with Cheslor Cuthbert

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Free (outs) isn't necessarily good

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of the time with baseball players (or athletes and humans in general) you can get a basic idea of athleticism and speed just by looking at them. It's a bit of judging a book by it's cover but what's stereotypical isn't always inaccurate. Big bulky guys aren't usually known for their speed and small slender guys just look fast.

So when you look at Cheslor Cuthbert do you see a particularly athletic looking guy?Cuthbert is listed at 6'1" and 190 pounds. He's only two inches taller than me but is 30 pounds heavier and using myself as a litmus test doesn't fare too well for Cuthbert.

Cuthbert has been getting noticed a bit this season among Royals fans in part because of his average ability to hit and field but there has been one thing under the radar: his baserunning. Maybe you've noticed it but I'd be surprised if you knew this stat.

Most outs on the bases this year in the AL:

Player Outs on Base
Adam Eaton 9
Elvis Andrus 8
Rougned Odor 8
Hanley Ramirez 8
Jose Altuve 7
Cheslor Cuthbert 7

Cuthbert is among the leaders in outs on the bases this year for the AL and there isn't a huge gulf among the candidates. The guys on that list at least in stature look like they should be good runners (except for Hanley Ramirez). Eaton, Andrus, Odor, Altuve; all short guys who play up the middle. Then there's Hanley, who has played first base but was a SS at one point, and Cheslor Cuthbert (who has also played first but usually plays third).

I don't have times to first base on all these guys but there is a decent proxy of speeds by way of Bill James speed score metric.

Player Outs on Base SPD
Adam Eaton 9 6.7
Elvis Andrus 8 6.1
Rougned Odor 8 5.6
Hanley Ramirez 8 5.9
Jose Altuve 7 6
Cheslor Cuthbert 7 3.1

Anything at a 6 or higher is considered great. Hanley isn't probably a fast as he may have once been and his career speed score of 5.9 is above his current foot speed but all the other guys seem accurate. You of course notice Cuthbert at the bottom, far away from the speed score of the others. I don't think anyone would disagree that he is as fast or near the others.

However outs on the bases aren't a bad thing if you are successful most of the time in taking the next base. Like being caught stealing, it's okay to league the lead in being gunned down if you lead in stolen bases too. That's where extra base taken percentage (XBT%) comes in as a measurement of success.

Player Outs on Base SPD XBT%
Adam Eaton 9 6.7 55%
Elvis Andrus 8 6.1 61%
Rougned Odor 8 5.6 61%
Hanley Ramirez 8 5.9 43%
Jose Altuve 7 6 47%
Cheslor Cuthbert 7 3.1 33%

Andurs and Odor are among the top 10 in XBT% (min. 200 PA) while Cuthbert is among the bottom chunk of guys near names like Mark Trumbo, Todd Frazier, and Chase Utley. You know...guys who aren't known for their speed.

Finally we can look at overall baserunning too by way of FanGraphs baserunning metric that looks at all things on the paths.

Player Outs on Base SPD XBT% BsR
Adam Eaton 9 6.7 55% 0.9
Elvis Andrus 8 6.1 61% 0.9
Rougned Odor 8 5.6 43% 4.7
Hanley Ramirez 8 5.9 43% -0.2
Jose Altuve 7 6 47% -0.6
Cheslor Cuthbert 7 3.1 33% -2.6

Odor is one of the best base runners in baseball this year (adding nearly 5 runs of value) while the other guys are hovering near above/below average. At -2.6 Cuthbert hasn't been Miguel Cabrera on the bases but that number puts him in the bottom third of base runners.

Now that BsR alone isn't so bad I guess. You don't expect Cuthbert to be a good base runner but the problem is how often he's been thrown out on the bases this year. When you aren't a very good base runner you probably shouldn't be trying to tag up from second or third often or turn a single into a double.

Now numbers can be deceiving so maybe it would be helpful to look at all seven of those outs on the bases for Cuthbert.

May 8th

Royals down by one in the 7th with runners on second and third. If this ball were hit a little softer or the score was different then maybe the Indians just get the out at first. However it's hit right to Lindor and by the time he's ready to throw Cuthbert has only gotten to here:

Jarrod Dyson probably shouldn't be running if that is the distance, let alone Cheslor Cuthbert.

Fault: Cuthbert

May 31st

This one is probably on Drew Butera. With Cheslor on first, Butera doubled down the line and with two outs Cuthbert made the wise decision to stay at third instead of potentially making the final out at home. However Butera didn't stop at second. Instead he looked at the second baseman throwing the ball, assuming he was going home, and tried moving up to third.

Butera knew he was wrong and started to run backwards, but with two outs it didn't matter. He was going to be out a second or Cuthbert was going to be out at third or home. If you are scoring at home, that was ruled a 9-4-2-6-1-5-1-2 out.

Fault: not Cuthbert

June 3rd

Not much to say here. Cuthbert hit the ball off the wall and in a not necessarily close game the Royals needed runners on, not runners out. Lonnie Chisenhall made a good throw on a runner who should have just stayed at first with a long single.

Fault: Cuthbert

June 8th

This one is a little tougher. Dyson was trying to move Cuthbert over to third with no outs but Cuthbert was way off the bag. Dyson gets fault for not getting the bunt down but Flaherty gets credit for making a great play. However Cheslor since it was hit to third base there is no way (even if it does drop) that Flaherty is going to get Cuthbert out at third. Instead he'd take the free out at first (which even then may be tough with Dyson).

He's about halfway down the third baseline before the ball is caught. He also got a bad jump/read getting back to second and Flaherty just enough time to double him off.

Yes a great play was made but I think Cuthbert could have also not been so far off third.

Fault: Cuthbert

June 12th

Sometimes a fielder makes a good throw. Sometimes a base runner shouldn't have tried to go. Sometimes a little bit of both. It was a hard hit ball but it wasn't deep either and the score didn't really necessitate an additional run. Sure being up 4-1 is better than being up 3-1 in the 9th but also having bases loaded one out is better than two on and two outs.

Fault: Cuthbert

July 2nd

Good play by Severino Gonzalez but a bit of a baserunning blunder by Cuthbert too. One out so he wasn't going on contact and as you can see below he's still running even after Gonzalez sets up to throw to first.

Hard to assign full blame to Cuthbert here as it was like a perfectly hit ball back to the pitcher, but usually when you are standing on the bases like this, you did something wrong.

Fault: Cuthbert

July 18th

You might remember this one from Monday or you may not because four innings later the Royals scored seven runs in one inning to win. To Cuthbert's credit this one did require a replay review to confirm it, so it was at least close.

Hard for the umpire to get a better view of it and the replay ended up confirming the call or the call stands or whatever the term they are using. Now of course there is a third person to credit/blame in some cases: Mike Jirschele but that's another separate factor and ultimately it is the base runners decision. This was all Cheslor though, looking to get his first triple on the year.

Fault: Cuthbert

Scoreboard

At fault: 6

Not at fault: 1

I would not recommend providing insurance to Cuthbert given his history.