A LOB in baseball and softball is an abbreviation that stands for left on base. The number of baserunners left on the diamond at the end of an inning means left on base. Generally, during an MLB game, you will hear the TV announcer say something like “no runs, two hits, two runners left on base at the end of the third inning, etc.” That saying signifies that two runners stood out at the diamond and could not score during that inning.
So, why do baseball and softball teams care about LOB? What is the difference between LOB and RLISP? How many runners are left on the bases on average per baseball game? Is LOB a good baseball statistic to use, or are there flaws in only using that metric?
Here is the complete guide to LOB in baseball/softball and more!
What are Examples of LOB in Baseball / Softball?
Let’s pretend that the leadoff batter leads the game off with a triple in the first inning. Things are promising since a runner is in scoring position with no outs, but their team can’t bring him in. The team ends the inning without scoring a run, so the box score illustrates one team’s LOB.
Another example is if a hitter gets on base via a walk. The following two hitters also get on base via base on balls, so now the bases are loaded. If the inning ends and none of those baserunners can score, the inning ends with three runners left on base.
Finally, let’s say that there is a runner on second with two outs. The next hitter hits a home run, so the runner on second scores. Then the following batter gets out, so the inning ends with zero runners left on base.
Why Do Baseball / Softball Teams Care about LOB?
Scoring runs is vital to winning baseball and softball games. One way to score runs outside of hitting home runs is moving baserunners up the basepaths with timely hitting and walking. Sometimes a team can move a baserunner to home plate on a sacrifice fly or a ground, which are productive outs since they remove a runner on the basepaths.
Does OBP Play a Role in LOB?
OBP (on-base percentage) calculates how often a hitter can get on base either from a hit, a walk, or a hit by pitch (HBP). Getting on base as a Minor League or Major League Baseball helps increase your OBP going into LOB. As you get on base via a walk, hit by pitch, or walk, you increase your OBP and are now on the base.
Increasing the number of runners on the bases helps pressure the defense and pitcher. By placing strain on the defense, you can score runs by them making an error or simply by a fielder’s choice on a play.
What is the Difference Between LOB and RLSP?
LOB stands for “Left on Base,” while RLSP stands for “Runners Left in Scoring Position” during a game. These two baseball statistics tell a detailed story of what is going on during a match and if there is a reason why a team that had a high LOB did not drive in enough runs.
For example, let’s say that the Toronto Blue Jays are playing the Chicago White Sox. The baseball scoreboard shows that both teams left seven runners on base, but one team had more runners in scoring position than the other. The Blue Jays lost the game 3-1 and had five runners left in scoring position during the game, while the Chicago White Sox only had 1.
In this scenario, the Blue Jays, at a minimum, had at least five different runners at some point on second or third base to end an inning. That means they had a chance to drive in these runners with a base hit but could not add a clutch hit when they needed it most. While on the surface, both teams had seven runners left on base, it was the Blue Jays that had the most difficulty getting hits when it mattered most.
What is the Average LOB During a Game?
According to Baseball-Reference, in 2021, Major League Baseball teams, on average, left 6.7 runners left on base during each game. Even with a shortened season, the 2020 season had an average LOB of 6.6, and 2019 had a 6.7 lob.
Is there any Connection Between Winning Games and a Low LOB?
Taking the data from Baseball-Reference in 2021, the top 10 teams with the most LOB was split between good and bad records. However, the data is a split between good and bad teams, which needs an explanation.
- Washington Nationals: 1,185 and was last in their division with 62 wins
- Los Angeles Dodgers: 1,169 and was second in their division with 106 wins
- Houston Astros: 1,159 and was first in their division with 95 wins
- Arizona Diamondbacks: 1,152 and was last in their division with 52 wins
- San Franciso Giants: 1,138 and was first in their division with 107 wins
- Pittsburgh Pirates: 1,128 and was last in their division with 61 wins
- Chicago White Sox: 1,125 and was first in their division with 93 wins
- San Diego Padres: 1,123 and was third in their division with 79 wins
- Philadelphia Phillies: 1,115 and was second in their division with 82 wins
- Milwaukee Brewers: 1,113 and was first in their division with 95 wins
LOB data only counts the total number of players left on bases, so it doesn’t count double plays, putouts, and caught stealing chances. These other baseball statistics will lower the LOB for teams, so using LOB as a data point for good and bad teams will be difficult to measure.
How Can LOB Be a Misleading Metric During a Baseball/Softball Game?
A team can get a runner on base, but there are ways that they can leave the bases before the end of the inning. When you consider LOB, you also have to factor in these other baseball statistics and scenarios to tell the story of what took place during a baseball game.
- Caught Stealing: A baserunner who attempts stealing a base and is out does not count against LOB. Since they got out on the basepaths, they were not left on base to end the inning, even if they got the final out.
- Out via a Put Out: A putout can occur if a fielder catches a baserunner trying to take an extra base on a play. For example, a runner is on first base, and the next hitter hits a single. That runner initially on first tries to get to third base on the hit, but the outfielders throw them out at the third base. That runner no longer counts as a LOB in this scenario if the inning ends.
- A Double Play: If a team has a runner on first and a double play occurs, no more runners are left on base. Sometimes a baseball/softball team will have a runner on first with one out, but then they ground into a double play. When that occurs, there are no longer any runners left on base.
Conclusion: What Does LOB Mean in Baseball?
In summary, LOB in baseball and softball means runners left on base. Runners left on base can occur on first, second, or third base. If runners don’t score to end an inning, they count against the LOB. In the 2021 season, teams, on average, left under seven runners on base per game.
However, while LOB is a good baseball statistic, some things you must also consider when using it. LOB doesn’t count runners out via a caught stealing moment, a putout, or a double play. That means that teams and fans should also look at the ratio between runners left on base, double plays, putouts, and caught stealing to tell a more accurate picture. Also, RLSP tells an even deeper story since that explains the number of runners in scoring position, so that is more important than a runner being left on first vs. second base.