Billy Hamilton
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Top-5 base runners of the 2010’s


On Tuesday, we went over the five best defensive players of the past decade. Today, we will focus on the best base runners of the 2010’s. Base running is, sadly, a vanishing art. Stolen base attempts have fallen leaguewide for five consecutive seasons, each registering as the fewest attempts since the league expanded to 30 teams in 1998. This decade peaked with 4,540 attempts in 2011 but saw only 3,112 this past season. These five players stuck out for their anachronous base running prowess.

5. OF Mike Trout, Angels

Trout ended the 2019 season with exactly 200 career stolen bases. Since his rookie year in 2011, only 10 other players have racked up 200-plus swipes: Dee Gordon, Billy Hamilton, Rajai Davis, José Altuve, Jarrod Dyson, Starling Marte, Elvis Andrus, Ben Revere, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jonathan Villar. Trout has also done it incredibly efficiently, going 200-for-236 for a lusty 84.7 percent success rate. Among the aforementioned 11 players, only Dyson had a better success rate (84.9%). Trout was three percent more efficient than the next-best player, Ellsbury (81.5%). It’s not all about the stolen bases, though. According to Baseball Reference, Trout has added 34 runs above average with his legs, more than four times better than his fielding runs above average (eight). From 2015-19, the years for which we have Statcast data, Trout has the 11th-best sprint speed for players with at least 500 “competitive runs” at 29.3 ft/sec. He ranks ahead of the likes of Davis, Gordon, and Starling Marte. The league average is 27 ft/sec. Trout, who is an eight-time All-Star and three-time MVP, truly does it all. He may be the most complete player we have ever seen.

4. OF Mookie Betts, Red Sox

Betts, like Trout, does it all. Along with being one of the best hitters and best fielders in the game, Betts has consistently ranked among the best and most efficient base runners. He’s 126-for-151 (83.4%) in his career stealing bases, peaking with a 30-for-36 performance in 2018 when he took home the AL MVP Award. FanGraphs ranks him eighth in base running runs above average at 42.8. Betts’ legs also helped him rack up extra-base hits. He had four seasons with at least 45 extra-base hits and 20 stolen bases. Since 2010, the only players with more seasons are Starling Marte (six), Trout, Ian Desmond, Altuve, and José Reyes (five each). Other players tied with him at four are Brett Gardner, Andrew McCutchen, and Carlos González.

3. OF Brett Gardner, Yankees

Gardner created the most runs with his legs in the 2010’s (62.3), per FanGraphs. He was a full two runs ahead of Hamilton, even. A very rough translation is 10 runs equals one win above replacement, so Gardner added more than six wins with just his legs over the past decade. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it adds up. While Gardner had a couple of explosive years on the bases, swiping 47 bags in 2010 and a league-high 49 the next year, he was mostly just consistent and efficient.

2. SS Trea Turner, Nationals

Turner played for only half the decade (and he dealt with injuries, missing even more time), but he is among the very best runners to have played this decade. FanGraphs ranks him 28th among players since 2010 with 28.2 runs above average from base running. To get where he might have ranked over a full decade, if we double that to 56.4, he would have trailed only Gardner, Hamilton, and Trout. Turner is 159-for-189 (84.1%) swiping bags over his brief career, outstanding efficiency. He’s the fastest runner per Statcast, though he moves down the list as our sample size shrinks. Tim Locastro (30.7 ft/sec. in 106 completive runs), Byron Buxton (30.6; 432), and Magneuris Sierra (30.3; 120) rank ahead of Turner (30.3; 821). He’s only 26, so he still has plenty of prime base running years ahead of him to really ramp up his totals. If Turner can stay healthy, by the end of the 2020’s, he has the chance to be one of the best base runners of all time.

1. OF Billy Hamilton, Reds/Royals/Braves

Hamilton, who debuted in 2013, hasn’t been much with the bat, registering a .297 on-base percentage and .326 slugging percentage across more than 3,000 career plate appearances. When he has gotten on base, though, he has been a nuisance. The speedster stole at least 56 bases in four consecutive seasons from 2014-17 with the Reds. Overall, he has stolen 299 bases and been caught 69 times for an 81.25 percent success rate. According to FanGraphs, he has added the second-most value with his base running among all players dating back to 2010 – and remember, he didn’t debut until 2013 and didn’t play regularly until ’14. Humorously, Hamilton is one of 19 players since the year 2000 with at least 3,000 plate appearances and more triples than home runs. Hamilton has 36 triples and 21 homers. As for his measured speed, among players with at least 500 “competitive runs,” Hamilton is third at 30.0 ft/sec. behind Turner and Delino DeShields. They’re the only players to have averaged 30+ ft/sec.


Honorable Mention: Jarrod Dyson, Rajai Davis, Elvis Andrus, Dee Gordon, Jacoby Ellsbury, José Altuve.

MLBPA: MLB’s ‘demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected’

Rob Manfred and Tony Clark
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On Thursday evening, the Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement regarding ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. The two sides continue to hash out details concerning a 2020 season. The owners want a shorter season, around 50 games. The union recently proposed a 114-game season that also offered the possibility of salary deferrals.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that the union held a conference call that included the Executive Board and MLBPA player leaders. They “resoundingly rejected” the league’s “demand for additional concessions.”

The full statement:

In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions.

Earlier today we held a conference call of the Association’s Executive Board and several other MLBPA Player leaders. The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.

Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field.

As per the current agreement signed in March, if there is a 2020 season, players will be paid on a prorated basis. Thus, fewer games means the players get paid less and the owners save more. MLB has threatened to unilaterally set a 2020 season in motion if the two sides cannot come to terms. It should come as no surprise that the union has responded strongly on both fronts.

There have been varying reports in recent days over the confidence in a 2020 season happening. The MLBPA’s statement tonight doesn’t move the needle any; it simply affirms that the union remains steadfast in its goal to avoid a second significant cut in salaries.

As I see it, the ball is in the owners’ court. The owners can strongarm the players into a short season, saving money but significantly increasing the odds of a big fight in upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Or the owners can eat more of a financial loss, agreeing to a longer season than they feel is comfortable. The latter would have the double benefit of not damaging overall perception of the sport and would not disrupt labor peace going forward.

The MLBPA statement included a declaration that the players are “ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions.” If there is no 2020 season, we will have only the owners to blame, not the players.

Update: Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, who has been quite vocal on social media about these negotiations, chimed in: