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Nyjer Morgan's Baserunning

Nyjer Morgan, since coming to the Nats in a trade, has been one of the most hyper-active, hyper-aggressive baserunners in the majors. I have no doubt the sabermatricians among us have the exact formula to figure out just how many runs Morgan has added/subtracted on the bases, but for now, I'll go with a far more rudimentary rundown.

(By the way, sorry for the somnolence on the journal earlier today. Flights, travel, yada yada. Now I'm at the Great American Ball Park, overlooking the riverbank that separates Cincinnati from Covington, Kent.)

Anyway.

Good: Morgan has 38 stolen bases this season, second most in the National League. (He trails only Houston's Michael Bourn, who has 44 stolen bases.)

Bad: Morgan has also been thrown out 17 times, five more than anybody else in baseball.

Bad: Morgan's season success rate -- 69.1 percent -- is poorest among baseball's 25 top basestealers. (Measured by raw SB numbers.)

Good: Since coming to the Nats, Morgan's percentage has risen a bit, to 74.1, which is quite acceptable.

Good: Since July 1, Morgan has 20 stolen bases -- most in the majors. He's been thrown out just seven times in that span.

Bad: Take away Morgan's numbers (20-for-27), and Washington has just 36 stolen bases this year... and a stunningly bad 59 percent success rate. With Morgan's numbers included, the Nats have a 63.6 percent success rate, second worst in baseball.

By Chico Harlan  |  August 13, 2009; 4:21 PM ET
 
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Comments

It seems like most of his caught stealings have been pickoffs, which I believe are counted as CS. Is that right?

Posted by: dlombardo1 | August 13, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

At 59%, steal attempts are just not worth it. 75% is about what you need.

For all its reputation as a hitter's park, GABP in my old hometown is an enjoyable place with great river views. The rumor had it that Adam Dunn hit one out of the stadium, bounced off the concourse, landed on driftwood in the Ohio River, and took off toward Louisville. It's a good enough story I want to believe it.

Posted by: mherd1 | August 13, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

It almost seems as if NM is so fast, even the umps can't believe he's safe some of the times that he is... The call at 3B Tuesday night is a case in point. He was safe by such a large margin that it was an embarrassingly bad call. But the ump was out of position, saw the ball get there, and probably assumed that a human being couldn't possible have gotten there as fast as NM did. In any case, his success rate is worth a bump or 2 north, since he's been scr*wed by a couple of calls.

Posted by: cdstej | August 13, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

1) Riggleman is more aggressive on the basepaths, so I don't expect this percentage to improve.
2) Nyjer is disruptive on the basepaths, and I don't know if there are any metrics that measure the upside to such disruption.

On another note dear Natizens: your Chantilly American LL team has reached the finals of the Southeast LL tournament, playing the powerhouse team from Georgia tomorrow evening on ESPN at 8PM. Pls toggle back 'n forth between MASN and ESPN. GO CHANTILLY!!!!

Posted by: joemktg1 | August 13, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Even if the guy is picked off he is doing what the Nats have needed:

That is: distracting and torturing opposing pitchers and catchers. They know that once he gets on he is going to try to steal any base he can ... he is going to take long leads, he is going to make pitchers throw more to 1st, and likely throw more bad pitches to batters.

My take is that, first, the batters need to start swinging when he steals!! Guzman appears to take pitches on plays where he was caught stealing! Second, the batters have to take advantage of his "nuisance" factor to get better at bats (longer more pitches thrown) and walks if they can't get hits.

Posted by: periculum | August 13, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Nyjer could get picked off four times in a game, get caught stealing two other times, boot three balls in the outfield ... and still be a vast improvement over Lastings Milledge. At least, Nyjer shows up for team meetings on time and doesn't try to shove the blame for his shortcomings elsewhere. Plus, unlike Thrilledge, he runs straight routes to the balls, not post patterns like Thrilledge.

Nyjer and Burnett for Thrillege and Gascanrahan: Mike Rizzo doesn't need to put anything else on his business card.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | August 13, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Agree with joemktg1: disruption is worth the CS's. Get the pitchers and catchers on edge.

Chico, be nice to find out if there has been an increase in the other batters' averages, number of walks, and a steep increase in pitch count with Nyjer Morgan as compared to before Nyjer Morgan.

Posted by: periculum | August 13, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

I have no problem with his aggressiveness. He gives Guzman more opportunities to get on base via walks or basehits due the distracted pitcher.

The guy who needs to stop trying to steal bases is Dukes! What's his SB/CS ratio?

Sec314

Posted by: arlingtontwb | August 13, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure you can validate this through stats, but I wonder if he would benefit from a "stop sign" from the coaches/Riggleman. I assume he has a green light to steal when he's ready, in most cases (he might be asked to give Guzman a chance to hit early in the count against some pitchers, for example). I wonder if you can break down his caught stealings, categorize them and then hold him back in those moments. For example, don't steal third with a lefty batter, don't go against pitchers who mainly throw fastballs, don't steal when Larry Vanover's in the ballpark. Maybe you can boost his success rate that way.

Just wondering.

Posted by: baltova1 | August 13, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

There are two stats that ultimately matter: runs made and runs allowed. This is what determines win and loss.

All of Nyjer's distracting doesn't matter if he causes less runs to be made because he gets out. Last night was a perfect example of this. Nyjer may have cost the Nationals the game when he was picked off. Who cares how distracted the pitcher was, because it didn't produce any runs.

Posted by: Section506 | August 13, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

"For example, don't steal third with a lefty batter, don't go against pitchers who mainly throw fastballs, don't steal when Larry Vanover's in the ballpark."

How about, don't try to steal when there's a man standing on the bag you want to swipe already with nowhere to go?

Posted by: Section506 | August 13, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

So are all Nats Journal posts based upon comments made previously? Forgive me if I'm lazy and don't feel like pulling it, but I know someone commented about Morgan's steal success rate earlier today.

Posted by: dclifer97 | August 13, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

On a team that is way way out of contention (except for drafting rights), entertainment value becomes extremely important. Morgan is easily the most entertaining player on the Nats and I wouldn't hold him back from doing any of the things that he does. I say, no matter what, keep the pedal to the metal Nyjer!

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | August 13, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Congrats to team Chantilly, joemktg, and good luck to them tomorrow!

dclifer, it does seem like that might the case sometimes, but is that necessarily a bad thing, to be expanding on something that is evidently of interest to those who had been discussing it in the comments? The web offers opportunities for interactions that the dead-tree edition doesn't, and that's a plus, IMO.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 13, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

I like Nyger as much as anyone else here and agree that Nyger's worst day is better than Milledge's best.

But I think that Nyger is reading his press clippings a little too much and that the Nats media (i.e. Johnny Holliday to name one) should cool it on the unending Morgan love fest.

Aggressiveness is good. Getting picked off first base with a man on second with two outs in the ninth is simply bad baseball. Getting thrown out at third attempting to steal with two outs (even if it was a bad call) is bad.

I think Nyger might be trying a little too hard, and feeling the pressure of the obsessive love he's been feeling in part because of his likeable personality and in part because of the Nook/Milledge syndrome we've all suffered through. A little less Nyger praise might take some of the self-imposed heat off of him.

Posted by: raymitten | August 13, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Something else to think about: Nyjer is a center fielder, not a corner outfielder playing center. True center fielders are kind of like middle linebackers, in that their aggressiveness is a core part of their game.
He doesn't need to run less, so much as at better times--IOW, he still has much to learn, which I'm certain he'd agree with. He's good at this--not Rickey good, but good--and reining him in would be counterproductive, even if it were possible.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 13, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

"There are two stats that ultimately matter: runs made and runs allowed. This is what determines win and loss."

In a single game perhaps. But over an entire long season confidence, belief that you can come back from 5 or more runs down, there are lots of intangibles that can be encouraged, built-up. Putting players in the right situation to succeed instead of fail. There is a rhythm that must be developed. And I believe that is still in its nascent stages for this team with the addition of Morgan and others.

Posted by: periculum | August 13, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

"Getting thrown out at third attempting to steal with two outs (even if it was a bad call) is bad."

This is another good point. The rule is not "don't try to steal third with zero or two out;" the rule is "don't get thrown out at third with zero or two out." Which means there are two things to bear in mind: first, you're allowed to go, if you know you can make it. On the flip side -- as raymitten says above -- you are not allowed to go if it's gonna be a close play and you need the ump to make the right call for you.

If it was a close call, it was a bad play.

And keep running, Nyjer. You're fun to watch.

Posted by: Scooter_ | August 13, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

No.
We were discussing getting pinned like a bug and ending the game, and stealing came up as part of that, but in this case, Harlan is just picking up on an interesting idea and adding his blogfather input.

***********
So are all Nats Journal posts based upon comments made previously? Forgive me if I'm lazy and don't feel like pulling it, but I know someone commented about Morgan's steal success rate earlier today.

Posted by: dclifer97 | August 13, 2009 4:57 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 13, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

True, NM is not a great basestealer, but I love what the threat of him running will do for the team in the long term. With defenses thinking he'll go on any pitch, Guzman should see a lot of fastballs. A "caught stealing" or two now can create a lot of first-and-third situations later with all the line-drive singles Guzman will get...to be followed, of course, by yet another Zim GIDP. These are our Nats, after all.

Posted by: InTheCheapSeats | August 13, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

from the last thread:
*************
http://natstown.mlblogs.com/Nyjer%20Photo%203.jpg
Posted by: Section506 | August 13, 2009 3:31 PM
**************

OK, we now have official center field gear for the fans out there. Porkpie hats and dark glasses are the UOD. Or night. Whatever.

But it's On.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 13, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and we'll need names. I may go back to my old "club name"-- I'm Willie Gand├ębol (that's gan-DAY-bowl. Say the whole thing out loud a few times.)

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 13, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

OH OH OH but HARLAN needs a nickname, then...

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 13, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

I'll answer to Trone Calmidor. There's actually two little dots over the "o" in Calmidor, but I won't press it.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | August 13, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Marquis Grissom should help teach Nyger how to steal bases. Nyjer now is doing it all on speed. Some players like Davey Lopes stole 47 base and was caught 4 times when he was 40 years old. This is a skill that you can learn. Nyjer could easily steal 50 to 70 bases a year depending on his OBP with a good to excellent success rate if he applies himself. This is really his fist full year in the Bigs.

Posted by: sdrappa | August 13, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

But I think that Nyger is reading his press clippings a little too much and that the Nats media (i.e. Johnny Holliday to name one) should cool it on the unending Morgan love fest.

Posted by: raymitten

You mean Disco Johnny Holliday? When Plush first met him he couldn't believe that's his real name. Cut him some slack, he's probably never had this much attention in his life. And we're still 30 games under .500.
I don't know what his motivation was at Pittsburgh, but here, he probably is running a lot or early in the count because he's trying to avoid the double play. Guzman swings constantly, you almost have to be running.

Posted by: Brue | August 13, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of names, NatsTown, you'd best be getting on over to the new post with lineups courtesy of T. Plush.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 13, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Well, I recall (really dating myself here)when Dick Williams took over the "Impossible Dream" Red Sox in 1967, he began running like crazy. And this was a team with no speed! Sort of the way Mike Sciosia manages the Angels. Always aggressive on the basepaths, always trying to take the extra base. For the '67 Sox Williams even had guys like Yaz and Reggie Smith running. Early in the season. Despite the number of times they were thrown out, it energized the team and put opponents back on their heels. Set a tone. Riggleman seems to be doing the same thing with our Nats since he took over. And I think that's part of the reason for their recent success. (Plus, Nyjer about 10 times faster than any member of the 1967 Red Sox!) Not that I'm counting on an "Impossible Dream" here anytime soon!

Posted by: FairfaxDave | August 13, 2009 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Nyjer could improve on the bases for sure, but his bat in the leadoff spot is exactly what we have been waiting for since 2005...viva Nyjer!

Posted by: markfd | August 14, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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