Orioles fans have been watching an interesting experiment take place on the diamond through the first eight games of the season. Buck Showalter has first baseman Chris Davis holding runners on a few steps off the bag.
Pickoff attempts may seem a bit strange, as Davis has to move over with the runner to place the tag, but like everything with the Orioles this subtle change has taken place for numerous reasons.
David Laurilla highlighted the numbers side of this new technique in a great piece on FanGraphs.com.
With the bases empty last year, batters posted a .295 BABIP, but with a runner on first base, that jumped to .308. Holding the runner on isn’t the only variable between those two situations — for instance, bad pitchers are more likely to put runners on base, so the population of pitchers in the man-on-first sample is almost certainly worse than the population of pitchers in the bases empty sample — but the less than optimal defensive alignment almost certainly does lead to a greater amount of base hits with a man on first base.
In addition to the numbers, Showalter’s move displays confidence in Matt Wieters‘ arm and creates a level of uncertainty for runners on first base. “You can create some unknown in the runners mind,” Showalter said in Laurilla’s column.