A couple of fascinating articles at The Baseball Analysts, wherein Dan Fox and Neal Williams attempt to grade third-base coaches by quantifying and then comparing their skill at waving runners around the bases.

I won't even attempt to describe the methodology here, except to say that in the first of the articles, Fox and Williams ranked the 2006 Third Base Coaching Class by a metric called Equivalent Hit Advancement Runs or EqHAR. That is defined as "the contribution of baserunners above and beyond what would be expected in opportunities they have for advancing on singles and doubles."

The 2006 leader in this statistic was Angels third-base coach, Dino Ebel. Bill Dancy (Phillies), Doug Mansolino (Astros), Tom Foley (Devil Rays), and Gene Lamont (Tigers) rounded out the top five. The Cubs' now former 3B Coach, Chris Speier, was way down the list at 24th, having made a negative contribution per the analysts' calculations. Speier, however, was six positions ahead of the White Sox' Joey Cora, who held the bottom spot.

In the second of their articles, Fox and Williams fine-tune the statistic to better separate the coaches' responsibility for runner advancement from that of the runners, themselves. Again, you should consult the source for details.

In any case, with this adjustment, Cora, who, after all, had the likes of Joe Crede, Paul Konerko, and Jim Thome shlepping around the bases, rises all the way up to 11th; the Cubs' Speier drops to the very bottom. The reason for Speier's fall is that the Cubs "performed quite well in non-coach opportunities." In other words, Cub runners actually did better in those circumstances where Speier wasn't a factor than where he was.

Finally, the writers apply their yardstick to all Major League traffic cops between 2000 and 2006, and there, at #13 in a list that is 74 coaches long, behind Juan Samuel and ahead of Jeff Datz, sits the Hawaiian Windmill, Wavin' Wendell Kim. Speier comes in at a feeble 73rd.

I enjoyed the articles thoroughly, though it is impossible for me to reconcile Kim ranking so much higher than Speier. Maybe it's that, after watching Kim send all those runners to certain doom in his time with the Cubs, I would have found anyone to be a relief. You know, it's like the old joke about the benefit of hitting yourself in the head with a hammer:

It feels so good when you stop.


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