B.J. Upton has not been able to shake the general population's perception that he is lazy. After being thrown out last night trying to stretch a double into a triple largely due to a delayed shift into second gear, Carl Crawford is finding himself demonized in the same manner. Meanwhile, Ben Zobrist had the play of the game running hard on a Pat Burrell ground ball up the middle to beat a force out in the bottom of the 8th with 2 outs. The Rays went on to score 5 insurance runs.
Upton and Crawford are easily the fastest two players currently on the Rays roster. Upton was thrown out at the plate aggressively running home on a shallow fly out to left, a play where most likely no one else even attempt to run on. Crawford tried to stretch a double into a triple on a play few would attempt to move past second on. Both Crawford and Upton were guilty of not running hard immediately out of the box on extra base hits. This practice is far more the norm than the exception in Major League Baseball.
How can we measure hustle? The easiest place to measure hustle is running out infield ground balls to first base. A common metric looked at is IFH/GB. What if we were to isolate the ground balls that did not leave the infield and also factor in reaching safely on errors? Surely, hustling down the line increases the chance of an errent hurried throw or a bobble in transfer.
Let's take a look at each player's Reaches on Error which include beating out a fielder's choice (available on baseball-reference), as well as each player's Infield Hits. We then want to compare that to the player's number of ground balls that do not leave the infield.
In order to isolate infield ground balls we need to first take the # of ground ball hits and subtract the Infield Hits, This produces ground ball outfield hits. If we then subtract that figure from the # of ground balls, we have our infield ground ball totals. We will then add the number of bunt attempts to that figure. Now we can add our IFH to our ROE and divide it by the sum of the infield ground balls and bunts.
(ROE + IFH)/(IFGB+Bunts)
We get the table below:
While this is an imperfect science, it is clear the right handed Bartlett is a Grade A Hustla. BJ and CC are going to burdened by greater expectations, but they do have high success rates. For Ben Zobrist to be third on this list is a pretty good indication he hustles as much as anyone. You would think CC would have a higher % based on a left handers head start. If all players hustled equally you would expect the rankings to be in the order of player speed. While there is a trend, that does not equate to the exact order.