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 Sportsraised 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: