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Nyjer Morgan - The Plush Effect

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We all know how much fun it was to watch Tony Plush on the field last year.  He turned centerfield, which had been an accident waiting to happen, into a team strength. (Check out this catch against the Brewers). We also saw the impact he made on the bases, but is there a way to quantify it?  The Nats were slow and uninspiring on the bases before Nyjer Morgan arrived.  How much did the Plush effect add to the Nats in 2009?

Most people use stolen bases or stolen base percentage as a formula for measuring base running.  A better method is called Running Bases Produced, or RBP.  RBP is basically a total of all of the bases a runner produces on his own.  It includes stolen bases, bases taken through defensive indifference, and a value called Bases Gained (BG). You can think of Bases Gained as the number of extra bases a runner advances over an "average" runner. As an example, when runner is on first, and the batter hits a single, most runners advance to second and stop (insert Nats/Manny Acta snarky comment here).  If a runner advances to third from first on the single, the runner gets 1 Bases Gained.

Nyjer Morgan played 49 games for the Nats last year (30%). His RBP while a Nat was 27.  What does that mean? To find out, we can compute the all of the MLB Bases Produced (BP) in 2009, and see where Morgan and the Nats rank.

BP is the sum of Batting Bases Produced (BBP), Running Bases Produced (RBP), and Team Bases Produced (TBP). 

BBP is the total number of bases a batter achieves with the bat in his hand.  A single/walk is 1 BBP, a double 2 BBP, and so on.  

As we discussed, RBP is the extra bases a runner advances on his own, above an average runner.

TBP is the number of bases a runner advances due to the batter's actions.  So, when a runner on first moves to 2nd on a walk or a single, he gets 1 TBP, etc.  With that in mind, here are the Bases Produced (BP) for each team in 2009.

2009mlbrunsproduced_medium

You can see the Nats were in the middle of the pack in bases produced (BP), but that was almost entirely due to the actions of the batter. The Nats were absolutely dismal in Running Bases Produced. They were well below the league average 127 RBP, and had less than half the RBP of the Tampa Bay Rays.  Here is where T Plush comes in. 

Remember, Nyjer Morgan played 49 games for the Nats last year and had a RBP of 27. That is nearly 28% of the Nats entire 2009 RBP of 97.  Looking at his ratio of RPB/game played, he has the potential for an extra base every other game! Even if his performance falls off to 50% of his 2009 Nats numbers, the Nats will get an extra 15-20 bases with the Plush Effect, which would get the Nats back closer to the league average. This does not even take into account two other important factors. One - Nyjer Morgan on the bases is a distraction to the pitcher. Two - the defense has to cheat out of position to defend him on a steal. 

Looking at Morgan's RBP in DC, you have to wonder why the Pirates fans were so down on him. I went back and computed his RBP during his days as a Pirate. In 157 career games with the Pirates, Morgan only had 37 RBP. We'll attribute the difference to good coaching and an aggressive environment in DC. RBP is actually one stat that is greatly impacted by a manager's style. Jim Riggleman has done an excellent job in this area. (Watch this video of Morgan stealing 2nd and 3rd against the Cubs to see good aggressive base running). 

One more piece of good news - Adam Kennedy had 26 RBP in 2009.  Ronnie Belliard and Anderson Hernandez had a combined RBP of 10.

With Morgan and Kennedy on the bases, it could be a fun year.