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BayStars' Bases Loaded Chances

Discussion in the Bayside West: Yokohama forum
BayStars' Bases Loaded Chances
This past Saturday, November 19, 2011, while the Chunichi Dragons were evening up the Nippon Series at 3 games apiece, the Tokyo chapter of SABR was holding our annual Fall meeting at Italian restaurant Amiko-mio in Hamamatsu-cho. I was one of three speakers on the evening, my topic being "BayStars' Bases Loaded Chances." The link below is to a PDF file of my presentation. As the presentation was done in Japanese, I'll go though and explain everything here in English for the Kanji impared.

First of all, let me explain that I'm a Yokohama BayStars fan. Over the past several seasons the BayStars have finished in dead last by a very wide margin. This can kind of get a guy down, and have him seeing problems where there might not be any. One thing that really bothered me during the season was the large number of times that *we* (the BayStars and I) were just one hit away from turning everything around, but that hit just didn't seem to come. And it seemed like we were always leaving the bases loaded. But were we?

To look into this matter, I gathered up all of the times that the bases were loaded, sorted them by date, inning, and batter, then gathered together the at bats in the same inning on a single line. The result of that was then grouped by the number of outs at the start of having bases loaded and sorted by the number of runs scored in the remainder of the inning. Slides 2, 3, and 4 represent the portions of innings after which the bases were loaded with 0 outs, 1 out, and 2 outs respectively. Notations in red represent at bats with the bases loaded, and the numbers in parenthesis state the BayStars' score as a result of the at bat.

So, how did Yokohama do with the bases loaded and nobody out? A lot better than I had expected, actually. They only failed to score twice out of 12 such situations. The Chunichi Dragons, by contrast, only failed to score once during the regular season over 10 times that they had the bases loaded and nobody out; but repeated that feat on the big stage last Wednesday when they dropped Game 4 of the Nippon Series to the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, going down in order to reliever Morifuku Masahiko after loading the bases with nobody out. At least the BayStars' double failure was out of site from most but the most diligent researcher.

And speaking of diligent researcher, this one discovered that the Hiroshima Carp failed to score 7 times out of 14 no out bases loaded chances. Half of 14 chances! That's crazy insane! If you want to increase your odds of getting out of a jam against Hiroshima, just load the bases. (Okay, I didn't investigate so far that I can confirm any truth to that last statement. But there seems to be some truthiness to it.)

Nonetheless, Yokohama managed to score 1 run twice, 2 runs twice, 3 runs four times, and 4 runs twice (somehow missing from the slide). The second of the 4 run innings after loading the bases with nobody out came on July 30th against the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien when Terrmel Sledge hit a grand slam in the top of the 7th inning to take a 6-4 lead, eventually winning the game 9-5. Sledge had 3 home runs in that game, responsible for 8 of the 9 Yokohama runs.

Well, this study is looking quite nice. Yokohama didn't come up empty handed nearly as often as I had thought with the bases loaded and nobody out. What every made me think that they were abysmal in such a situation?

To answer my own question, how the BayStars faired with 1 or 2 outs.

With one out, Yokohama failed to score 8 times. 6 of those times were in September. Two of those times were in the same game on September 8th against the Tokyo Yakult Swallows at home at Yokohama Stadium. In the 6th inning, down by a run, Yokohama loaded the bases with just one out. But top batter Watanabe Naoto grounded into an inning ending double play, killing our chance at a big inning. Then in the 8th inning, now down by two, pop flies in foul territory by numbers 2 and 3 batters Ishikawa Takehiro and Shimozono Tatsuya killed the rally as Yokohama eventually lost the game 7-

With one out, Yokohama did manage to score 1 run 10 out of a total of 25 1-out situations, resulting in 18 out of 25 (72%) times that the BayStars scored 1 run or less with one down. Let's flip that percentage, and we get 28% of the time they managed to get 2 runs or more. Hmmm. .280 wouldn't be a bat team batting average. I guess that's not so bad for scoring 2 runs or more with the bases loaded chance. And on a bright note, Naitoh Yuta hit a grand slam to cap off a 5-run third inning on June 28th in route to a 14-5 pummeling of the Central League champion Chunichi Dragons. That 5 runs was the most that the BayStars were able to score after loading the bases all season.

But what about with two outs? This is where things start looking ugly.

25 out of 36 times did the BayStars fail to score with two outs and the bases loaded. That's 69% of the time. Of the 6 times that they scored 1 run, half of those ended at that batter as the second run was thrown out at the plate. The one time that Yokohama scored 4 runs was on a grand slam by Sledge against Chunichi, the day after Naitoh's grand slam. Sledge's home run was as a pinch hitter in the 5th inning, putting the BayStars up 7-1 on their way to a 12-3 victory. Ah, June. It really looked like Yokohama had a chance to get out of the cellar back in June. But it was not meant to be.

Nonetheless, that was a lot of stranded base runners. Maybe that's what I perceived as being our inability to score with the bases loaded. But who did and didn't hit in these situations?

Well, Sledge had the two grand slams mentioned above, and also walked in a run for 9 RBIs in 7 plate appearances with the bases loaded. What surprised me most was that Murata Shuichi drove in the most runs with the bases loaded, a total of 12. Murata did that on 3 singles, a pair of doubles, a walk, and being hit by a pitch. He did only strike out once with the bases loaded, putting the ball in play 13 times. Shuichi really did appear to have a fire lit under him this season, and his coming through at a .385 pace with the bases loaded was very pleasant to see.

Kinjoh Tatsuhiko and Ishikawa Takehiro had the most chances with 17 apiece. While Kinjoh went 2 for 13 (.154), he drove in 8 runs compared to Ishikawa's 6 for 17 (.353) 7 runs driven in. That's a bit crazy. Naitoh made the most of his two hits, a grand slam and a single for 5 runs.

Okay, all we've looked at so far has been the offense. What about turning the tables around? How did our pitchers fair with the bases loaded?

The first person I go to with the bases loaded is Kaga Shigeru. My first experience watching him was a pre-season game where he came in against the Tigers with the bases loaded and nobody out, and got out of the inning without allowing a run. That made him my go-to guy in a pinch. But BayStars' management hasn't done that too often. Over the past season, Kaga has allowed 2 runs in 5 bases loaded situations, both on a 2-run double. I've been clamoring for the past couple of years to make Kaga the closer over Yamaguchi Shun. Speaking of Yamaguchi, he allowed just 5 runs in 4 bases loaded appearances, one a walk and the other a pinch hit _sayonara gyakuten_ grand slam by Chono Hisayama on October 22, the last game of the season. Shun has blown so many save opportunities, but that one took the cake. Argh.

But just have a look at Takasaki Kentaro. He's given up 13 runs on 5 hits and a sacrifice fly. And none of those hits were home runs! (They were 3 single and 2 doubles.) How does he do it? And wasn't he one of our better starters? Granted, his 5 and 14 record is worse than his 3.36 ERA would suggest. And he had 18 quality starts this season, but was unable to get any run support whatsoever.

I guess that the guy I would trust most on the mound with the bases loaded (next to Kaga) would be Kobayashi Futoshi. Kobayashi had 3 relieve appearances in June, then 3 starts from the end of September. He only allowed 4 runs on three hits while striking out 2 over 10 bases loaded situations. I look forward to seeing him more next season.

Alright. So far we've seen how the BayStars have done in various out counts and a summary of who's done well and not so well with the bases loaded. But how does Yokohama compare to the other teams?

Well, for batting I would put them in the middle of the pack. Hiroshima, as mentioned above, failed miserably with the bases loaded and nobody out, and didn't fair much better in less advantageous situations. Chunichi demonstrated an inability to even load the bases nearly as often as anyone else, and scoring a great deal less than Hanshin, to whom they were the closest. Almost a fifth of the Dragons runs scored with the bases loaded came from bases on balls, not balls in play. How did they become the Central League champions again?

On the pitching side of things, one team really stands out. The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. They only allowed the bases to be loaded 95 times during the regular season, and held the opposition to a .181 batting average (15 for 83) over those 95 chances. I think that the ability of the Hawks to shut down the opposition on the rare occasion that they have a good chance has been showed to play out during the Nippon Series that just concluded, as when they shut down the Dragons with the bases loaded and nobody out in Game 4. Fukuoka really is a pitcher's paradise.

Looking on the other side of the pitching spectrum, Yokohama wasn't nearly as bad as the Orix Buffaloes with regard to loading the bases and allowing runs, but they were amongst the worst in both leagues. The Saitama Seibu Lions managed to do very well considering the number of chances they gave the opposition. Even the Chiba Lotte Marines weren't burned as bad despite similar chances to Yokohama being made.

And that concludes my presentation. One question that came up after my conclusion was, "Why didn't you include batting averages?" Well, in all honesty, I had just thrown all of this together in a couple of days and it wasn't until I started the presentation that I noticed that I wanted batting averages as well. After some discussion about other offensive contributors and pitching losers, I retired to enjoy the rest of the evening.

I hope you enjoyed this little data analysis project.

[Bases Loaded Chances - PDF]

[This was also posted to Google+.]

This is a site about Pro Yakyu (Japanese Baseball), not about who the next player to go over to MLB is. It's a community of Pro Yakyu fans who have come together to share their knowledge and opinions with the world. It's a place to follow teams and individuals playing baseball in Japan (and Asia), and to learn about Japanese (and Asian) culture through baseball.

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Michael Westbay
(aka westbaystars)

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