FIRE JOE MORGAN: Clogging the Bases: Does This Ever Make Sense?


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Thursday, April 24, 2008


Clogging the Bases: Does This Ever Make Sense?

The title of this post isn't a rhetorical question. Objectively speaking, yes, a fast guy is more valuable than a slow guy on the basepaths. So if Xavier Slowplayer and Yadier Speedygas both OBP-ed .315 and slugged .390 and you could reasonably expect them to maintain those rates, I think you could say with a straight face, I'd rather have Speedygas because Slowplayer clogs the bases.

Maybe not the terminology I would use, but the point stands.

The problem is, 99.99463% of the time when writers use "clog the bases" or "clog the basepaths" or some variant thereof, the guy they're accusing of base-clogging is way better at getting on base, hitting home runs (the opposite of base-clogging -- it's base-Drano-ing!), or both. So it makes little to no sense to complain about their lack of speed. It's like grumbling that your awesome Bugatti Veyron has shitty trunk space. It would be nice if the Veyron could fit more than one of those baby-sized Coke cans in its cargo hold, but in the grand scheme of things, it's just not that important.

And now I realize that the whole analogy is completely mangled because the Veyron is fast, and base-cloggers are slow. Avert your eyes from this car crash of a mixed-metaphor clusterfuckfest.

Gwen Knapp has a theory that speed is undervalued in today's game, so the A's should abstain from signing Frank Thomas for the minimum. Too late, of course, but still. She pushed our clog the b-paths button, so here we go:

Sweeney is hitting .309, and he has already become an important clubhouse presence for the A's, much as Thomas was in 2006. Thomas or a hitter of his ilk would add a fear factor to the middle of the lineup, which is currently almost indistinguishable from the top. But Thomas would be an equal threat to clog the basepaths, where the A's move faster and more efficiently than they have in a long time.

Sweeney is off to a good start. OBP-ing .391, slugging .418. But we're talking 55 at bats. Thomas is off to a miserable start -- but in 60 at bats, he's already only four home runs shy of the total number of homers Sweeney hit all of last year, when, for the Royals, Sweeney went for a sweet .260/.315/.404.

Thomas got on base at a .377 clip and slugged .480 while appearing in 155 games. We could go back a year further and see that Sweeney put up a respectable .258/.349/.438 in 2006. But Thomas was a monster who (sort of undeservedly) got MVP votes in 2006, with his .926 OPS and 39 home runs -- for Oakland!

So Ms. Knapp: should we really be fretting about how clogged those bases are when it's pretty clear that Thomas is a way more valuable offensive player? Granted, he's 95 years old, but Sweeney's the one who appears to be in more drastic decline -- he hasn't even played a full season since 2001.

Verdict: I still haven't seen anyone use "clogging up the basepaths" in a way that makes any sort of compelling argument. Aren't you glad you know what I think about this?

Next post will be more shrill and have more jokes about barf and testicles and stuff, I promise.

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posted by Junior  # 2:48 PM
In his first plate appearance for the A's Frank Thomas walked and clogged each base on his way to scoring a run.

Thanks, reader Matthew.
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