Clearing the Bases

Jams are something that even the best pitchers have to deal with occasionally. In fact, Mets ace, Johann Santana, has seen the bases juiced 79 times in his 10-year career and no doubt has seen plenty of other nerve-racking situations. Quality pitchers like Santana are better at slithering out of these tight spots, but even the average major league pitchers keep 70% of all baserunners stuck on base (LOB%).

This is why Kevin Slowey’s start today was particularly perplexing. At first glance, the box score tells us that the Twins starter gave up six earned while allowing five hits and no walks. Since it is impossible for six runs to score with only five baserunners, a closer examination of the fine print below the pitcher’s line indicates that he hit poor Brandon Inge, allowing a free pass to first.  So, of the six baserunners that Slowey allowed, all six scored for a LOB% of zero…zilch…nada.

While the events of a single game often vary to an extreme like Slowey’s tough outing, in a full season a starter’s LOB percentage rarely falls outside the 60-80% range. In addition to BABIP, LOB% is a potential indicator of a pitcher’s luck. Good pitchers have some control over stranding runners, but for the majority of major leaguers expect a figure right around 70%.

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