There are a few distinct mentalities people have when it comes to a team’s third base coach. “Better safe than sorry” and “if you aren’t being thrown out you aren’t trying” are two of the more prevalent approaches. Personally, I would rather see a player stay at third on a close play at the plate. Of course dozens of situations within the game usually spell out what to do in any given potential play at the plate. Rob Thomson, the Yankees’ third base coach for the last six years, clearly is an aggressive coach, but is he hurting the team?
The Yankees were thrown out at home plate 16 times heading into the All-Star break, more than any other team in baseball. For comparison, the Yankees were thrown out at home 13 times in all of 2013. Of course, Thompson was the coach then as well. The difference is player familiarity. Kelly Johnson has been thrown out 3 times himself. Fellow new comers Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran have been thrown out twice. However, it is not just at home that we are seeing poor base running. If you are familiar with WAR (wins above replacement), you understand that the stat compares a player’s statistics to the “average” player. Similarly, there is a stat called “Hit Advancement Runs” or EqHAR. EqHAR measures how many runs a base runner contributes compared to what he should have contributed based on the opportunities presented to the player. As a team, the Yankees EqHAR this season is -6.63. This number is also the worst in the majors. This number is a little misleading, because it measures being able to advance on hits without necessarily scoring. Rob Thomson can’t help Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann run any faster.
This statistic shows us just how slow the Yankees are and how infrequently they even attempt to advance an extra base. The Yankees are playing station to station baseball until they reach third when Rob Thomson windmills his arm to make sure we are making extra outs at home. Not all of the blame can be placed on Thomson, but he needs to understand what the Yankees are: an old team with slow players. Being thrown out at home 16 times in under 90 games is absolutely ridiculous. His approach coaching third needs to change or he needs to go.