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April 19, 2013

Pebble Hunting

The Search for the Missing Steals

by Sam Miller


There was a time when goliaths roamed the Earth. Runs were plentiful, and with few natural enemies, these behemoths could grow larger and larger, more and more sedentary. They had no need to run, so they lumbered about, leisurely returning home unmolested by predator or foe.

But the metaphor could not last forever. Eventually, offense in baseball went back down to more typical levels, and the game once again welcomed back the singles hitter, the glove man, the productive out. And, as runs went down, stolen bases went up. I gave the following graph, showing leaguewide scoring and stolen base totals by year, a pun title. 

That’s the narrative, and it’s a good one. No problems with that narrative. Offense goes down, stolen bases go up. With runs at a premium, home runs less available, and basestealers getting better and better at avoiding caught stealings, the small-ball tactic takes on great significance.

What’s weird is that 2013 has disrupted the narrative, so far at least, and it’s not easy to say why. Here’s the same chart above, but with runs and stolen bases (prorated across a full season) added for 2013:

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<< Previous Article
Overthinking It: This ... (04/19)
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