The title of this post is misleading. I don’t LOVE leaving men on base. Like the average fan, I get pissed off about missed opportunities too, especially in close games. However, leaving men on base does not cause me to want to make wholesale changes on offense. Here’s why…
This is a chart of the number of runners left on base per game for a team vs. the number of runs they score per game. This data is taken from 1950 to 2010 and includes every team season from those years. As you can see, there is a definite positive correlation between leaving men on base and scoring runs. But why?
Well, offense is about creating opportunities. In general, the more opportunities that a team gets, the more runs they will score. However, no offense is 100% efficient. In fact, most offenses leave over 60% of their base runners on base during the year. That means to score 5 runs, you generally need to get 12 or 13 runners on base in the game. That’s going to lead to a lot of “missed opportunities.”
A little more food for thought on leaving men on base. One of my favorite stats of all time is this: The team that left the most men on base in a season in the history of baseball was the 1976 Reds with 1326. One of the greatest offenses of all-time also had the most “missed opportunities” in a season. Why? Because they had an enormous number of opportunities and, frankly, you just can’t score every runner that reaches base.
Consider this about the top 25 teams in history in terms of the number of men left on base per game:
- 24 of them averaged at least 4.5 runs per game; 18 averaged over 5 runs a game
- 23 of them scored better than the league average that season
- 16 of them finished in the top 5 in their league in runs scored
- 5 of them led their league in scoring that year
My advice is don’t worry about the team if they are leaving lots of men on base. Worry about them if they aren’t even getting the chance to leave men on base. Key hits will come in due time, unless of course they never get the opportunity to do so.