February 16, 2017
Stolen Bases, Scarcity, and Magnitude Effects
Stolen bases and stolen base attempts are down over the past 10 years and are so particularly over the past five years. The graph below shows league-wide totals for stolen bases, caught stealing, and stolen base attempts from 2007 to 2016 by year.
While caught-stealing totals having remained pretty much flat, stolen-base attempts and stolen bases were down in 2016. The consequence of this is that a single stolen base was more valuable in fantasy baseball in 2016 than it was in any season over the past 10 seasons.
Also down over the past five years, from 48 in 2012 to 28 in 2016, is the number of players that stole 20 or more bases. Assuming your league has not decided to discount the stolen base category, 20 or more stolen bases from a player in 2016 was more valuable in fantasy baseball than it was in any season over the past five season.
Upon reading or knowing these things, most fantasy baseball participants start to think the same thing—that it will likely be worth paying up for a top base stealers and that failing to do so will make competing in the category impossible. These conclusions are likely the result of scarcity on the brain. We discussed the “scarcity principal” as coined by Robert B. Cialdini in the very excellent Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion during shortstops week last year, but we’ll run back the quoted text because it is (i) excellent and (ii) a personal favorite: