Rutgers Baseball moved in the wrong direction last week slipping to 5.5 games back in the Big Ten Conference as compared to 4.5 games before facing the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Fans were hoping RU could put together enough wins to gain momentum and make a bid for conference tournament play. However, after dropping 2 games to 1 against Nebraska by a combined score of 18 to 8 and facing tough competition in Maryland and Michigan in the next two weekends, tournament prospects look bleak. Only the top 8 teams in the standings qualify. Here is a look at the Big Ten standings, for a team by team breakdown, click here.
Rutgers currently finds itself in the same hole as when they finished the 2015 season, third-to-last place in the Big Ten. Yes, they have won more games this year than last and the team batting average has improved from .258 in 2015 to .264 this season. Among the 13 teams that compete in the Big Ten, the Scarlet Knights’ batting average ranks 9th place. Team slugging percentage, which is a more precise statistical measurement of a player or teams’ offensive production than batting average, is also ranked 9th at .363.
Obviously, if RU is going to be competitive in the current race for tournament play (unlikely) the team has to do a better job swinging the bats.
Let’s look more closely at Rutgers’ offensive production using Base Running (BsR), an advanced statistic, specifically one of the run estimators, that baseball fantasy diehards and statistics geeks get giddy about – mostly because the formula is very flexible and can be presented in different ways. The scope of this post will utilize a simpler version of BsR in which offensive statistics are presented as a rate per plate appearance and computed similarly as batting average, slugging percentage, and other familiar baseball stats.
A close examination calls for breaking down BsR by its component parts, such as Runners on Base Average and Advancement Factor. The terminology is credited to Brandon Heipp who wrote one of the best blog posts on BsR, which can be found here. It is highly encouraged to read Heipp’s article to understand the other uses of BsR.
Rutgers Baseball BsR in Big Ten Play
The Rutgers lineup has managed to hit .291 in Runners on Base Average (ROBA) this year, which reflects the number of "final" baserunners who were not retired once they reached base. Big 10 Conference ROBA is .332.
Rutgers’ Out Average (OA), which shows the team batted a .699 OA compared to the Big 10 OA of .654, accounts for outs made by batters and includes sacrifice flies and bunts. In this case, the higher the ratio, the worse the offensive performance.
A critical factor in calculating the BsR formula is called the Advancement Factor (AF) and it can become a bit convoluted due to the degree of variation in its inputs. AF formulates data like slugging percentage, batting average, on-base average, home runs per plate appearance, among others to estimate the advance of baserunners toward scoring. Practitioners find it often possible to improve AF’s accuracy by tweaking it. Again, using a simpler version, Rutgers averaged .099 AF, compared to the Big 10 average of .163.
Piecing together the aforementioned factors that make up BsR, which in this example is expressed as a rate rather than a raw number, reveals the number of runs a team "should have" scored given a team’s component offensive statistics as stated by sabermetrician and BsR inventor David Smyth when he developed the statistic decades ago.
In summary, scoring on a per plate appearance basis Rutgers has batted .104 BsR this season. Big Ten teams on average have batted a .114 BsR. Scarlet Knight batters did a substandard job once fellow teammates managed to reach base. Too many stranded runners and lost RBI opportunities are the reason Rutgers baseball will be home watching the Big Ten Tournament this season.