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September 3, 2013

Painting the Black

For Detroit, Who'll Stop the Run?

by R.J. Anderson


How flawed is too flawed?

Detroit entered the holiday weekend with the American League's largest division lead and exited, thanks to a series win against second-place Cleveland, all but assured a spot in the postseason. As a result the Tigers now inhibit that special late-season territory, where we no longer worry about how a team will make it to October, and instead wonder what they'll do when they get there. Most arrive at these conclusions through some means of micro-analysis. To wit, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports raised a valid concern last week about the Tigers: their catchers' AL-worst caught stealing rate.

Armed with that information and nothing more, it stands to reason the steal-happy Rangers and Red Sox could give the Tigers fits; so could other teams' designated pinch-runners. Yielding free bases is never a good idea, and even if the differences between the regular season and postseason run-scoring environments are historically overstated, the differences in exposure are not. A battery can give away second base late in a July game without anyone hooting, but not so in October. Still, while Morosi's point is valid, there is another side to it: caught stealing rates, as a stat, tell lies.

Let's state the obvious: caught stealing rate is true to its name. The metric measures what it claims to, whether the basestealer succeeded or not, on a per attempt basis, and does so about as well as a stat concerned with a binary conclusion can. The trouble is with the application. In a sense, caught stealing rate is a defensive-minded cousin of runs batted in: both tell us an ending without giving us the rest of the story. For an example, let's get back to the Tigers and their pitiful caught stealing rate:

Tigers Pitchers by CS%, 2013 (Min. 5 SBA)

Pitcher

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article What You Need to Know:... (09/03)
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Premium Article Painting the Black: Fi... (08/22)
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