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June 30, 2011

Fantasy Beat

League-Wide Stolen Base Woes

by Jason Collette

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Editor's Note: This article originally ran yesterday, June 29.  Thanks to reader qwik3457bb for pointing out an error in the data, which altered some of the analysis.  The error has been corrected and the analysis has been corrected to match.

****

At two different points this season, I have referenced stolen base tendencies in the league this season compared to what teams did last season. Earlier this month, I also showed how teams are increasingly successful season by season compared to their contemporaries in previous decades. Now that we are at the midway point of the season, it seems like a good time to check in and see how teams are doing on the running game in 2011. The results are rather surprising.

Once again, two metrics come in handy when looking at team behaviors on the basepaths, Stolen Base Attempt Percentage (SBA%) and Stolen Base Opportunity Average (SBO%). SBA% represents the percentage of times a runner will attempt to steal second base while SBO% shows the percentage that the runner has the opportunity to execute that stolen base attempt.

Tm

2010SBA

2010SBO

2011SBA

2011SBO

SBADiff

SBODiff

ARI

9%

24%

13%

23%

4%

-1%

ATL

6%

26%

7%

22%

1%

-4%

BAL

7%

25%

5%

25%

-2%

0%

BOS

5%

24%

9%

26%

4%

2%

CHC

6%

24%

5%

24%

-1%

0%

CHW

15%

25%

8%

25%

-7%

0%

CIN

9%

25%

9%

26%

0%

1%

CLE

8%

25%

9%

24%

1%

-1%

COL

9%

25%

10%

24%

1%

-1%

DET

6%

26%

5%

25%

-1%

-1%

FLA

8%

24%

8%

24%

0%

0%

HOU

10%

24%

11%

24%

1%

0%

KCR

10%

26%

13%

25%

3%

-1%

LAA

11%

24%

12%

24%

1%

0%

LAD

9%

25%

9%

26%

0%

1%

MIL

7%

25%

10%

24%

3%

-1%

MIN

6%

26%

8%

24%

2%

-2%

NYM

12%

24%

13%

26%

1%

2%

NYY

8%

27%

13%

26%

5%

-1%

OAK

12%

25%

11%

24%

-1%

-1%

PHI

8%

25%

8%

25%

0%

0%

PIT

9%

23%

11%

25%

2%

2%

SDP

11%

25%

13%

25%

2%

0%

SEA

13%

24%

12%

23%

-1%

-1%

SFG

6%

24%

10%

23%

4%

-1%

STL

8%

26%

7%

26%

-1%

0%

TBR

14%

25%

15%

23%

1%

-2%

TEX

10%

26%

13%

24%

3%

-2%

TOR

6%

21%

13%

24%

7%

3%

WSN

10%

24%

13%

23%

3%

-1%

 

Toronto should jump off the page to you because their stolen base attempts have increased dramatically in 2011, so much so in fact that they have already eclipsed their entire 2010 stolen base total at this point in the season under John Farrell’s more aggressive style. After Toronto, it should come as a bit of a surprise to see the New York Yankees as the second largest gainer as far as attempts, but they are running more and it is coming from unlikely sources. Eduardo Nunez, Russell Martin, and Francisco Cervelli account for 27 percent of the team’s stolen base total this season. Conversely, nobody’s behavior has been affected more than the White Sox.

Ozzie Guillen has traditionally been very aggressive with the running game but this season, it just has not been there thanks to the massive struggles from Juan Pierre and Alex Rios. Their opportunities are still there as a team, but the attempts have nearly been cut in half as three of their four highest on-base percentages belong to the slow A.J. Pierzynski, the slower Carlos Quentin, and the slowest Paul Konerko. 23 of the 30 teams in baseball are attempting steals of second base more frequently in 2011 than they did last season despite the fact that half of the league has had fewer opportunities to do so this season.

It is obvious the White Sox are not going to match their total of 160 stolen bases from last season, but can the other 29 teams do so? The schedule is now 50 percent percent played out so the pace column on the table below shows the expected stolen base totals for teams for the rest of the season, assuming they continue their current stolen base trends.

Tm

2010SBs

2011SBs

Left

To Match 2010

match?

ARI

86

61

64

25

Yes

ATL

63

23

23

40

No

BAL

76

31

35

45

No

BOS

68

54

58

14

Yes

CHC

55

26

27

29

No

CHW

160

31

32

129

No

CIN

93

53

54

40

Yes

CLE

91

46

51

45

Yes

COL

99

49

51

50

Yes

DET

69

28

29

41

No

FLA

92

34

36

58

No

HOU

100

65

68

35

Yes

KCR

115

78

83

37

Yes

LAA

104

67

68

37

Yes

LAD

92

52

52

40

Yes

MIL

81

53

56

28

Yes

MIN

68

40

47

28

Yes

NYM

130

77

83

53

Yes

NYY

103

66

83

37

Yes

OAK

156

57

58

99

No

PHI

108

49

51

59

No

PIT

87

55

61

32

Yes

SDP

124

74

75

50

Yes

SEA

142

55

59

87

No

SFG

55

43

47

12

Yes

STL

79

35

36

44

No

TBR

172

70

72

102

No

TEX

123

75

77

48

Yes

TOR

58

67

69

-9

Yes

WSN

110

67

69

43

Yes

 

That puts 19 teams on pace to exceed last year’s total which points to teams compensating for the declining power numbers in the league.  On one end of the spectrum, we have John Farrell pushing the pedal more often with the Blue Jays than Cito Gaston did last year. Rajai Davis and Corey Patterson have combined for 30 steals despite the fact that neither can get on base even 30 percent of the time while Aaron Hill, Jose Bautista, and Travis Snider have added another 20 steals this season. On the other end of the spectrum is the mess on the south side of Chicago. Last season, Ozzie Guillen had the team looking like to the go-go Sox of 1959 as the team swiped 160 bases. This season, they’ve become the no-go White Sox as Juan Pierre is the only player on the team with double-digit steals, but he is just 10 for 19 on the year. He and Alex Rios combined for 102 steals last season; they have 15 so far this season as both are having miserable seasons at the plate. In between, we have new full-time and/or first time managers Kirk Gibson, Don Mattingly, Ron Roenicke, and Clint Hurdle on pace to exceed last season’s totals.

With the increased frequency of steals comes the increased frequency of teams giving away outs in the form of pick-offs.  Already this season, 260 runners have been picked off, which is on pace to blow away the 390 that were picked off in 2010 and the 404 in 2009. Improved pick-off moves can sometimes lead to more balk calls, but that is not the case this season as 95 balks have been called in the league so far, putting pitchers on a pace to just barely exceed the total of 182 balks from last season.

Hitting may be down overall, but teams are attempting to make up for it on the basepaths. Last season, the 30 teams combined for 2,959 stolen bases, but this season, teams are on pace to exceed last season’s total by nearly 11 percent.  35 players swiped at least 20 bases in 2010, and at this midway point, 51 different players are on pace to steal 20 bases this season. Home runs are tougher to find this season, but stolen bases are not.

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  Stolen Base,  Stolen Base Attempts

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