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Evaluating the base coaches

Over the last four seasons, three different third base coaches have paced foul territory for the Phillies. Steve Smith was in the box during the Phillies' World Series run in 2008, then was fired the following offseason. He then went on to a prolific career as a reality television star.

Sam Perlozzo replaced Smith, who was hired before the 2007 season. Perlozzo manned third base in 2009 and 2010 before the Phillies hired Juan Samuel this offseason and flip-flopped their two base coaches. This year, Samuel is at third, and Perlozzo is at first.

Sorry for telling you what you already know, but that's about the only concrete information we can offer about the coaching situation.

Base coaches are like umpires, offensive linemen and middle relievers. The only time you tend to notice them is when they mess something up. Because you tend to remember the negative outcomes more than the positive ones, it is tough to provide an unbiased evaluation of their job performance.

But I figure we should try. As you probably recall, Jimmy Rollins was thrown out at home on a single by Chase Utley on Tuesday night. For those who did not see the play, he and Ramon Hernandez had a enough time to discuss their dinner plans before the tag.

Because of the number of variables in play -- the speed of the base-runner, the velocity of the ball in play, the aptitude of the fielder -- there aren't really any conclusive numbers you can use to evaluate a third base coach.

But I've highlighted a number of different base-running statistics in an attempt to compare the Phillies' performance between seasons:

*NOTE: These numbers do not include the 19-inning game on Wed. night. Because, well, I looked all of them up before the game, and slacked off on writing the blog post.

 1. Outs at Home

Thus far this season, the Phillies have had three base-runners thrown at home. One was Rollins. The other two were Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz. That ties them with Houston for second-most in the NL. The Cubs lead the way with four.

Here are the Phillies' outs at home over the last four seasons, along with the number of times a runner has been successfully waved around from second base on a single or from first base on a double:

One note: at this point in the season last year, the Phillies had four runners thrown out at home.

2. Aggressiveness

Let's say Rollins is on second. Utley lines a hit to right field. The third base coach calculates the risk as Rollins approaches third. Send him, and there is a chance he is thrown out. Hold him, and he will definitely be safe. But the run might never score.

This season, the Phillies have scored a runner from second on a single on 36 of 62 occasions, which ranks 11th in the National League:

Now let's say a runner is on first base. The batter hits a double. The runner is either going to hold at third or proceed to home. The Phillies have scored a runner from first on a double 9 times in 24 opportunities for a .375 conversion rate that ranks 12th in the National League.

What do the numbers mean? Really, you have to draw your own conclusions. It could be an indication that they are less aggressive on the basepaths than other teams. Or it could simply be a matter of slower runners being on base. Or it could be defensive positioning. Or it could be the size of the ballpark. Really, all of these factors come into play.

The only thing you can say for sure is that the Phillies rank in the bottom third of the National League when it comes to their base-running in run-scoring situations.

3. Previous seasons

Here's a look at how the Phillies' current run-scoring/baserunning performance compares to previous years.

First, a look at how often they have scored from second on a single:

The chart below shows the percentage of time they scored a run while taking an extra base including both from 2B on a single, and from 1B on a double.

4. In conclusion

What does this all mean? Well, if I am interpreting them correctly, the numbers seem to indicate that the Phillies are a below-average base-running team. But not much worse than they have been in previous years. Their stolen base success rate is 79 percent, which is lower than it was in any of Davey Lopes season as first base coach. But they have actually scored by taking an extra base at the same rate they did in 2008, when they won the World Series. They haven't scored as often from second base as they did when they won the World Series. But the Phillies also had 8 runners thrown out in 2008.

They have been thrown out at home more than in recent years, but there are two caveats: One, Samuel is in his first year with the team, which means he is probably still getting a feel for his players. Two, it is a small sample size. As we pointed out earlier, the Phillies had four runners thrown out at home at this time last season, but had only two runners thrown out at home the rest of the way.

The Phillies have spent most of the season without their best baserunner in Chase Utley, although they also spent a lot of time without Jimmy Rollins last season.

Thus far, their base-running performance has been well below that of teams like the Cardinals, Braves and Rockies, all of whom are expected to be in contention. They have taken an extra base just 35 percent of their opportunities (1st-to-3rd or 2nd-to-home on a single, 1st-to-home on a double), which ranks 13th in the National League.

It seems to me that the revolving base coaches are less of a factor than the loss of baserunners like Chase Utley, Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino and the continued aging of the NL's oldest line-up.

Would love to hear your own interpretations, or any criticism of my math.

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