Stats Geek: Thrown Out On The Basepaths Like A Nincompoop

By Brian O'Neill 3 years ago

Colorado Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario tags out Starling Marte during a game at PNC Park in July. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

The Pirates have been making a lot of TOOTBLANs this year, you may have noticed. You just didn’t know what to call them.

That’s the acronym for Thrown Out On The Basepaths Like A Nincompoop.

Chicago Cubs fan Tony Jewell coined the term in 2008 after being frustrated by Ryan Theriot’s propensity for running into outs. He was only scratching the surface. Jewell now has a website dedicated to the proposition that not all men are equal in navigating 90-foot intervals.

The Pirates made one of the greatest TOOTBLANS of all time in San Francisco last Wednesday when Travis Snider and Gaby Sanchez somehow ran into two outs when one of their teammates walked. That slow motion train wreck is now one of three finalists for the worst baserunning gaffe since TOOTBLAN Tracker began. Go to the website and vote now!

Snider and Sanchez were dopes that afternoon, but they have a long way to go to catch Starling Marte. He has run into 16 outs on the basepaths, five more than his nearest rivals in baseball, Melky Cabrera of the Blue Jays and Yasiel Puig of the Dogerrs.

Those 16 blunders leave out five of the six times Marte has been caught stealing. (Caught stealings aren’t generally counted by TOOTBLAN Tracker, but a Marte CS on May 24 includes the note “Stopped Running’’ and evidently merited special inclusion.) Marte has been doubled off a base four times, gotten thrown out four times on fielder’s choices when he tried to take an open base on a ground ball, gotten picked off three times, gotten rung up trying to take an extra base three times, and gotten thrown out on would-be sacrifice flies twice.

That’s a remarkable number for just 86 games, but Gregory Polanco has hit the ground running into outs, too. Polanco has six TOOTBLANs in just 47 games, the last one Sunday when he was thrown out at home.

Third on the team in TOOTBLANs is Andrew McCutchen. He has five, but McCutchen has been on base 201 times this season, more than anyone in baseball, so he’s not quite in the same category as his outfield mates.

Weirdly, despite all those blunders, Baseball Prospecuts rates the Pirates the third best baserunning team in baseball, behind only the Brewers and Royals. Pittsburgh’s base-stealing efficiency is just about league average, but Baseball Prospectus gives the Pirates a lot credit for advancing on ground balls and taking an extra base on hits. Thus not all the Pirates running has been for naught. The smartest baserunner in that regard is Jordy Mercer. He may be receiving too much credit as the No. 8 hitter moving up on sacrifice bunts, but Mercer’s only TOOTBLAN was being picked off first base on April 2.

Anyway, there have been roughly 1,300 TOOTBLANs in the major leagues this season. That would put the Pirates, with 53 of them, about 10 above average. The number of curses unleashed at the TV screen by Pirates fans after a TOOTBLAN is unavailable, but multiplying by a factor of 1,000 is probably conservative.