Baseball BeatJanuary 03, 2007
Run Element Ratio
By Rich Lederer

In the 1988 Baseball Abstract, Bill James introduced the concept of "run element ratio" when discussing Rickey Henderson in the Player Ratings and Comments section.

Run element ratio divides the parts of secondary average into that which is valuable early in the inning, valuable for scoring runs (walks and stolen bases) and that which is valuable late in the inning, or valuable for driving in runs (power). The formula is (SB+BB)/(TB-H). If a player is over 1.00, then generally speaking you want him up early in the inning. If he is under 1.00, then he is more valuable later in the inning. Vince Coleman's career run element ratio is 4.4, meaning that he has little use except as a leadoff man; Don Mattingly's is .38, meaning that he is much more valuable later in the inning.

With the foregoing in mind, I thought it would be interesting to examine the run element ratio leaders and laggards for the 2006 season.

TOP 20

 1. Joey Gathright       3.05
 2. Jason Kendall        2.46
 3. Willy Taveras        2.09
 4. Dave Roberts         2.00
 5. Brad Ausmus          2.00
 6. Scott Podsednik      1.96
 7. Felipe Lopez         1.89
 8. Luis Castillo        1.88
 9. Chone Figgins        1.77
10. Bobby Abreu          1.71
11. Nick Punto           1.68
12. Ryan Freel           1.62
13. Kenny Lofton         1.60
14. Brady Clark          1.53
15. Omar Vizquel         1.48
16. David Eckstein       1.46
17. Ichiro Suzuki        1.45
18. Brian Giles          1.40
19. Jamey Carroll        1.38 
20. Craig Counsell       1.35

The number one mission for any leadoff hitter is to get on base. As James points out in another essay (entitled "The Lineup") in the same Abstract, "The largest determination of how many runs are likely to be scored in an inning is whether or not the lead-off man reaches base. If the lead-off man reaches base, the number of runs that will probably be scored in an inning is about three times as high as if the lead-off man is put out."

Players with high OBP and high run element ratios are ideal leadoff hitters, especially if they also run the bases well. Brad Ausmus, for example, doesn't have a high OBP (.308) and isn't as fast as he was earlier in his career. Therefore, he is an outlier and would not be a good fit at the top of a lineup.

In the Cory Snyder comments, James lists the players with the lowest run element ratios. Well-known names include Mattingly, Mark McGwire, Jim Rice, Harold Baines, Will Clark, and Joe Carter. "These are all players who are much better at finishing trouble than at starting it."


 1. Miguel Olivo         .145
 2. Juan Uribe           .147
 3. Jeff Francoeur       .195
 4. Johnny Estrada       .220
 5. Joe Crede            .231
 6. Shea Hillenbrand     .239
 7. Bengie Molina        .253
 8. Robinson Cano        .261
 9. Kenji Johjima        .284
10. Pedro Feliz          .306
11. Craig Monroe         .317
12. A.J. Pierzynski      .319
13. Aramis Ramirez       .325
14. Ben Broussard        .333
15. Juan Rivera          .344
16. Angel Berroa         .362
17. Matt Holliday        .363
18. Ty Wigginton         .364
19. Rich Aurilia         .385
20. Jacque Jones         .386

James concedes that "there are two types of players who are awkward to position properly in the an offense. Those are 1) players who have no speed but still have high run element ratios, like Mike Scioscia and Mike LaValliere; and 2) players who have extremely low run element ratios. A player like Scioscia is difficult to position offensively because he is much more valuable early in the inning than late in the inning, but managers are reluctant to use him early in the inning because of his lack of speed."

As it relates to lineup construction, James counters the conventional wisdom that was popular back then and, for the most part, today.

One of the things that I have found, just in the last year, is that one problem in the design of an offense is the use of players with extremely low run element ratios in the four and five spots, who often lead off the second inning, leading to extremely few runs scored in the second inning. If you look at the list above, you'll see that many of these players, who are the least suited in baseball to lead off an inning, usually bat in the spot where they often lead off the second inning. I think you should try to avoid that.

If the player is an outstanding hitter, like Don Mattingly or Harold Baines or Mark McGwire or Will Clark or Jim Rice at his best or Matt Nokes last year, you can avoid this problem by placing the player in the number three spot. In the case of Nokes, for example, you can move Kirk Gibson or Alan Trammell, who run element ratios are about 1.00 and who therefore are as valuable at one part of the inning as at another, to the fourth and fifth spots, and use Nokes at third; that way you'll score just as many runs in the first inning (I think) and more in the second.

The harder case is when you have a player who has a very low run element ratio, but who isn't really a good enough hitter to be put in the number three spot, like Cory Snyder or Jim Presley. In my opinion, these people logically should hit eighth. The eighth spot is the end of the cycle of the offense, either in the NL, where the pitcher bats ninth, or in the AL, where the ninth spot is ideally filled by a player who doesn't get on base enough to be a lead-off man, but who still has a high run element ratio - thus starting off the next offensive cycle. But that creates a problem, too, because if you put an undisciplined hitter batting ahead of the pitcher he won't get any pitches to hit, and his strikeouts will usually go through the roof. So Cory Snyder is a hard player to use offensively - wherever you put him, you create one problem or another.

James says Andre Dawson (whose run element ratio was .246) "wasn't anything like the Most Valuable Player in the National League. If you drive in runs but don't do anything to carry on the offense, that's going to show up in the RBI count of the next two or three players." Later on, James points out, "An RBI man helps the offense in one way but hurts it in the other; a player who sets the table helps the offense in both ways. That is why the St. Louis Cardinal offense works so well - an offense of eight leadoff men, or eight guys with high run element ratios, is a perfectly workable offense, because so long as people keep getting on base, runs are going to keep scoring. But an offense that strings together several people with low run element ratios is not workable."

The Detroit Tigers may have been a bit one-dimensional last year. And I don't mean pitching. I'm talking about the type of offensive players. The lineup was filled with low run element ratios in basically every spot.

Craig Monroe          .317
Magglio Ordonez       .434
Brandon Inge          .439
Ivan Rodriguez        .453
Chris Shelton         .486
Placido Polanco       .563
Curtis Granderson     .698
Sean Casey            .717
Carlos Guillen        .843

The Tigers were third in the AL in HR but second-to-last in BB. The team was 12th in OBP, 11th in SB, and last in SB%. Sure, DET was fifth in runs scored but perhaps the club could have been even more productive by changing out a "run producer" for a set-the-table type offensive player.

There is more than one way to skin a cat or score runs to be more specific. Walks are always good, but they are generally more valuable at the beginning rather than later in an inning. Hits, on the other hand, are usually worth more with runners on than with nobody on base. Having the proper balance and knowing when to emphasize one over the other are two ways of getting the most out of a team's offense.

[Update: The Run Element Ratios for all players with at least 400 plate appearances are listed in the comments below.]


Very interesting topic - is there a source where you can find this statistic for all current players?

Interesting discussion. But perhaps pitchers are more willing to walk a guy with 2 out than with nobody out, so the "walks" data is potentially skewed or over-rated.

Nobody wants the lead-off guy to get on, but how many times does a pitcher get behind in the count with 2 out and nobody on and walk the guy rather than groove a pitch that might end up in the seats?

Similarly, if I was a pitcher and I was going to give up a homer, I'd rather give it up to a guy leading off an inning than later in the inning with guys on base.

Intuitively, pitchers would seem to challenge hitters more with nobody out. So it would be harder as a batter to draw a walk opening an inning.

Some guys draw a lot of walks, but a walk with 2 outs and nobody on isn't nearly as likely to produce a run as a walk leading off an inning.

There should be a way to "weight" the stats so walks early in an inning count more than those late in an inning.

i'd be interested in seeing Barry Bonds' ratios throughout his career - there was a lot of talk (especially after Kent left) that he should bat 1 or 2, what with the amount of walks he was taking those yars. Always seemed like a good idea to me, but curious if the ratio says whether it was or not.

Go Giants! Barry hits .295/.465/.580 with 30 dingers, and the other Barry wins 17. Giants win 89 and the West

Joe Carter may not have been a good run element ratio guy, but he wasn't stupid. One year in Cleveland he bunted 6 times and got 6 hits for his trouble. I look on a team being behind by more than a run, late in the game and leading off as an appropriate time for a slugger to do this. I don't have any info if those were the times he did it, but I often thought that sluggers with some speed ought to consider bunting in such situations. The 3B isn't going to stand 35 feet away with Carter up.

Speaking of sluggers laying one down, bunting always seems to enter the conversation when teams shift their entire infield over to counter a left-handed pull hitter, ie. The Bonds/Williams Shift. Williams and Bonds, for whatever reason, usually seemed to just ignore the shift. When you OPS 1.400, I can understand the "I don't get paid to bunt" philosophy, but I always wondered if they wouldn't be better off just taking the guaranteed single in most situations.

Statistically speaking, handing out the automatic IBB is one of the more ill-advised maneuvers made by major league managers, and it stands to reason that voluntarily allowing a base hit would be equally detrimental. If nothing else, occasionally laying a bunt down the third base line sends a message to the opposing team that they can't always stack up fielders on the right side.

I like this, especially you putting the whole Tigers' lineup at the end...any chance you could post up a few more lineups from last year?

As requested, here is a list of players (sorted by team and ascending from low to high Run Element Ratio) with 400 or more plate appearances last year:

PLAYER           TEAM       RER
Johnny Estrada	Ari	.220
Eric Byrnes	Ari	.488
Chad Tracy	Ari	.584
Luis Gonzalez	Ari	.683
Orlando Hudson	Ari	.722
Conor Jackson	Ari	.753
Craig Counsell	Ari     1.353
Jeff Francoeur	Atl	.195
Adam LaRoche	Atl	.404
Brian McCann	Atl	.406
Wilson Betemit	Atl	.506
Andruw Jones	Atl	.566
Chipper Jones	Atl	.598
Edgar Renteria	Atl	.919
Marcus Giles	Atl     1.043
Ramon Hernandez	Bal	.431
Miguel Tejada	Bal	.477
Nick Markakis	Bal	.584
Jeff Conine	Bal	.672
Kevin Millar	Bal	.845
Corey Patterson	Bal	.857
Melvin Mora	Bal	.890
Brian Roberts	Bal     1.300
Alex Gonzalez	Bos	.418
Mike Lowell	Bos	.450
David Ortiz	Bos	.615
Manny Ramirez	Bos	.746
Jason Varitek	Bos	.797
Coco Crisp	Bos     1.060
Mark Loretta	Bos     1.104
Kevin Youkilis	Bos     1.129
Trot Nixon	Bos     1.250
Aramis Ramirez	ChC	.325
Jacque Jones	ChC	.386
Michael Barrett	ChC	.418
Ronny Cedeno	ChC	.500
Matt Murton	ChC	.746
Todd Walker	ChC     1.075
Juan Pierre	ChC     1.343
Rich Aurilia	Cin	.385
Ken Griffey Jr.	Cin	.390
E. Encarnacion	Cin	.588
B. Phillips	Cin	.741
Austin Kearns	Cin	.780
Adam Dunn         Cin      .826
Scott Hatteberg	Cin     1.134
Royce Clayton	Cin     1.158
Ryan Freel	Cin     1.621
Felipe Lopez	Cin     1.894
Ben Broussard	Cle	.333
Ronnie Belliard	Cle	.535
Travis Hafner	Cle	.629
Grady Sizemore	Cle	.629
Casey Blake	Cle	.646
Jhonny Peralta	Cle	.767
Victor Martinez	Cle	.835
Jason Michaels	Cle	.852
Matt Holliday	Col	.363
Clint Barmes	Col	.491
Garrett Atkins	Col	.606
Brad Hawpe	Col	.712
Cory Sullivan	Col	.808
Todd Helton	Col	.989
Jamey Carroll	Col     1.375
Juan Uribe	CWS	.147
Joe Crede         CWS      .231
A.J. Pierzynski	CWS	.319
Jermaine Dye	CWS	.400
Paul Konerko	CWS	.452
Brian Anderson	CWS	.694
Jim Thome         CWS      .704
Tadahito Iguchi	CWS	.897
Scott Podsednik	CWS     1.958
Craig Monroe	Det	.317
Magglio Ordonez	Det	.434
Brandon Inge	Det	.439
Ivan Rodriguez	Det	.453
Chris Shelton	Det	.486
Placido Polanco	Det	.563
C. Granderson	Det	.698
Sean Casey	Det	.717
Carlos Guillen	Det	.843
Miguel Olivo	Fla	.145
Dan Uggla         Fla      .446
Mike Jacobs	Fla	.485
Josh Willingham	Fla	.509
Miguel Cabrera	Fla	.720
Hanley Ramirez	Fla	.899
Craig Biggio	Hou	.448
Preston Wilson	Hou	.513
Aubrey Huff	Hou	.543
Mike Lamb         Hou      .578
Lance Berkman	Hou	.616
Chris Burke	Hou	.731
Adam Everett	Hou	.741
Morgan Ensberg	Hou     1.159
Brad Ausmus	Hou     2.000
Willy Taveras	Hou     2.094
Angel Berroa	KC	.362
John Buck         KC       .464
M. Grudzielanek	KC	.508
Mark Teahen	KC	.562
David DeJesus	KC	.662
Emil Brown	KC	.722
Tony Graffanino	KC	.833
Joey Gathright	KC      3.048
N. Garciaparra	LA	.474
Andre Ethier	LA	.582
Jeff Kent         LA       .747
J.D. Drew         LA       .858
Russell Martin	LA	.859
Julio Lugo	LA      1.016
Rafael Furcal	LA      1.158
Kenny Lofton	LA      1.604
Juan Rivera	LAA	.344
Garret Anderson	LAA	.470
Vlad Guerrero	LAA	.481
Orlando Cabrera	LAA     1.054
Adam Kennedy	LAA     1.100
Chone Figgins	LAA     1.773
Kevin Mench	Mil	.418
Bill Hall         Mil      .467
Carlos Lee	Mil	.513
Prince Fielder	Mil	.545
Geoff Jenkins	Mil	.759
David Bell	Mil	.815
Rickie Weeks	Mil     1.089
Brady Clark	Mil     1.533
Justin Morneau	Min	.397
Torii Hunter	Min	.483
Michael Cuddyer	Min	.553
Phil Nevin	Min	.608
Joe Mauer         Min     1.048
Nick Punto	Min     1.684
Luis Castillo	Min     1.884
Xavier Nady	NYM	.407
Paul Lo Duca	NYM	.482
Carlos Delgado	NYM	.500
Jose Valentin	NYM	.512
Shawn Green	NYM	.598
David Wright	NYM	.672
Carlos Beltran	NYM	.693
Jose Reyes	NYM	.967
Robinson Cano	NYY	.261
Bernie Williams	NYY	.538
Jorge Posada	NYY	.670
Johnny Damon	NYY	.786
Alex Rodriguez	NYY	.789
Jason Giambi	NYY	.824
Derek Jeter	NYY     1.184
Melky Cabrera	NYY     1.333
Bobby Abreu	NYY     1.711
Jay Payton	Oak	.441
Frank Thomas	Oak	.633
Mark Ellis	Oak	.733
Nick Swisher	Oak	.737
Mark Kotsay	Oak	.893
Eric Chavez	Oak	.926
Milton Bradley	Oak     1.017
Marco Scutaro	Oak     1.146
Jason Kendall	Oak     2.462
Aaron Rowand	Phi	.424
Shane Victorino	Phi	.528
Ryan Howard	Phi	.537
Chase Utley	Phi	.542
Jimmy Rollins	Phi	.674
Pat Burrell	Phi	.867
Freddy Sanchez	Pit	.453
Jose Castillo	Pit	.567
Jose Bautista	Pit	.649
Jack Wilson	Pit	.698
Jason Bay         Pit      .807
Ronny Paulino	Pit	.919
Mike Piazza	SD	.391
Adrian Gonzalez	SD	.464
Khalil Greene	SD	.587
Josh Barfield	SD	.662
Mike Cameron	SD	.814
Brian Giles	SD      1.395
Dave Roberts	SD      2.000
Kenji Johjima	Sea	.284
Jose Lopez	Sea	.419
Y. Betancourt	Sea	.438
Richie Sexson	Sea	.458
Raul Ibanez	Sea	.472
Adrian Beltre	Sea	.475
Ichiro Suzuki	Sea     1.446
Pedro Feliz	SF	.306
Ray Durham	SF	.475
Randy Winn	SF	.753
Steve Finley	SF	.841
Barry Bonds	SF      1.168
Omar Vizquel	SF      1.481
J. Encarnacion	StL	.391
Scott Rolen	StL	.543
Albert Pujols	StL	.544
Yadier Molina	StL	.614
Jim Edmonds	StL	.760
Aaron Miles	StL     1.111
David Eckstein	StL     1.462
Ty Wigginton	TB	.364
Jorge Cantu	TB	.422
Jonny Gomes	TB	.747
Carl Crawford	TB	.896
Michael Young	Tex	.550
Mark DeRosa	Tex	.578
Gary Matthews	Tex	.602
Mark Teixeira	Tex	.623
Hank Blalock	Tex	.650
Ian Kinsler	Tex	.718
S. Hillenbrand	Tor	.239
Bengie Molina	Tor	.253
Vernon Wells	Tor	.486
Alex Rios         Tor      .521
Lyle Overbay	Tor	.526
Reed Johnson	Tor	.554
Troy Glaus	Tor	.631
F.Catalanotto	Tor	.869
Aaron Hill	Tor	.904
Alfonso Soriano	Was	.590
Ryan Zimmerman	Was	.637
Jose Vidro	Was	.857
Nick Johnson	Was     1.043
Brian Schneider	Was     1.333