"MLB's Worst Tools" Awards: Speed Edition

Konerko puts it into high gear but is caught but the lightning-quick Jared Saltalamacchia - Winslow Townson

Being unable to run fast is a surprisingly common trait among baseball players, but only one man truly runs like there is a gargantuan furnace strapped to his back

Today I am proud (proud might be an overstatement) to bring you part three of the five-part series "MLB's Worst Tools" Awards. This edition looks at possibly the flashiest tool of the lot: speed. Speed has probably always been more exciting than it is valuable, but there is no doubt that on the base paths and in the field it has its uses. Most teams have at least one or two guys that run as if they have cement blocks tied to their feet and have just finished a 24-hour pie eating contest, but when it comes to these awards, there can only be one winner.

In this case the winner is a pretty clear one, and a guy whose lack of mobility is borderline legendary in the town he plays his games, but also league-wide. I'm speaking of none other than White Sox 1B/DH Paul Konerko.

Konerko has been an excellent player for a long time, but that has always been very much despite his horrendous wheels. This may seem like me picking on an old guy, but the reality is that Konerko has always been a heinous performer on the bases. In fact since FanGraphs introduced UBR to their Base Running Runs (BsR), evaluating runners not only for their base stealing efficiency but also their ability to take extra bases and avoid outs while on the base baths, Paul Konerko has been measured as the league's worst base runner no matter the time frame you choose:

Time Period BsR Score for MLB’s 2nd Worst Baserunner
Since UBR was introduced to BsR (2002) -67.9 -58.5
Last 10 Years -61.1 -50.8
Last 5 Years -35.3 -30.8
Last 3 Years -25.8 -19.7
Last Season -8.4 -8.2

Although Victor Martinez challenged Konerko for the crown last season, the first baseman ultimately held on to secure his dominance in base running ineptitude. It isn't 100% fair to equate poor base running scores with lack of speed because the decisions a player makes are also factored in, but considering how terrible a base runner Konerko is he's hard to argue with as a choice for this award. In his 17-year career, he has stolen nine bases and been caught four times, incredible tiny totals. As a result, the vast majority of these scores are coming from his inability to take extra bases.

Speaking of taking extra bases, conveniently enough, a runner's ability to take extra bases is a statistic that Baseball-Reference tracks. Let's take a look at what Konerko has done in this regard over the last three years, a time period that captures his current level of ability without being too small a sample:

On First when a single was hit Reached Third Base On First when a double was hit Scored On Second when a single was hit Scored Outs on the bases
107 9 (8.4%) 33 2 (6.1%) 29 9 (31.0%) 17

In the last three years Konerko has taken the extra base a total of 20 times and been out on the bases 17 times. You really can't do much worse than that. He is combining incredibly conservative station-to-station running with a propensity to make outs on the bases. That's the kind of combination that gets you the "MLB's Worst Tools" hardware.

When I put this concept for a series together I assumed that I would have some tough decisions to make. In the case of evaluating speed, Paul Konerko made my job easy. In the last two installments, I'm sure it will be a little bit more difficult to decide on who is truly the worst of the worst. Check in throughout the week as we round out the final two winners of the prestigious "MLB's Worst Tools" Awards.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.

Nick Ashbourne is an Editor for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @Nick_Ashbourne.

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