Can we talk about Norichika Aoki's baserunning?

Dilip Vishwanat

Norichika Aoki is a valuable asset to the Brewers again in 2013, but is it time for him to tone down the aggressiveness on the basepaths?

Allow me to preface what I'm about to say with the admission that Norichika Aoki is a pretty valuable player to this Brewer team. He's a .305/.381/.403 hitter out of the leadoff spot, but those numbers alone don't do him justice. He's also probably the most likely player on this team to have a good at bat in any given situation, he shows pretty good range defensively and his arm is pretty thoroughly underrated, as shown by this throw to the plate he made on Sunday.

With that said, it really feels like baserunning is becoming a weakness in Aoki's game, and I wonder how much more valuable he could be if some of his aggressiveness could be reined in.

I started thinking about this during Saturday's game, when the seventh inning opened with these events in order:

  • Aoki tripled to right.
  • With Jean Segura at the plate, Aoki was thrown out at home trying to score on a ball in the dirt.
  • Jean Segura and Ryan Braun both singled.

Here's the video of Aoki being thrown out at home, if you missed it. The play was not all that close. Even if it had been a close play, though, running into it was a poor decision: Aoki was on third with no one out and the Brewers' 2-3-4 hitters due up. This was not the time to risk an out at the plate.

Unfortunately, this is hardly an isolated incident. Aoki went 30-for-38 stealing bases a year ago but has already been caught seven times in 13 attempts this year. That's the second most caught stealings in the NL, trailing only Starling Marte (who already has 17 steals for Pittsburgh). TOOTBLAN Tracker also lists him as having made six bad outs on the bases in 2013, and for what it's worth their list doesn't even include the play I mentioned above.

Counting his hits, walks and hit by pitches, Aoki has already been on base 104 times this year, which is a pretty remarkable accomplishment. With that said, he's gotten himself erased on the basepaths on at least 14 of those occasions, which is about one in eight times on base. And since he's batting almost exclusively out of the leadoff spot, every single one of those outs have been made with the heart of the Brewer order due up.

Clearly, even if he does make outs on the bases, Aoki is adding a lot of value to this Brewer team. He's currently riding an eleven game hitting streak and is hitting .342/.411/.418 in his last 36 contests. I just wonder how much of his own value he's taking away by trying too hard to make good things happen.

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