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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Everything you need to know about basestealing but were afraid to ask    

Baseball Analysts just posted a pretty comprehensive listing of individual and team success in stealing bases this year. It's a great read, and I encourage everyone to check it out. Having a stat like net stolen bases compiled for you is key, and it's nice to know how often it's important to be successful in order to break even in the different situations. Here's what I take from the article:

1) I-CHI-RO! I-CHI-RO! Finally, the best basestealer in baseball this year. I was always hoping that would happen. He had a truly incredible season on the basepaths. He's usually good, but he's never been caught this few times, and I'm glad to see him now effectively tied with '04 Carlos Beltran for most efficient basestealing season of recent years. I already knew how good he was this year, but I didn't realize for sure that no one else was as good. That's nice.

2) Enough of jokers like Juan Pierre, Chone Figgins, and Scott Podsednik. I can't believe guys who get caught this often get so much credit for being great baserunners. This isn't an isolated incident either, though they were worse in this regard than usual. And these are guys who have parlayed gaudy SB numbers into batting leadoff with pretty poor OBP, too. So it's not just fans and fantasy players who get duped by this BS. That said, they do steal well enough to break even. Let me say that again, TO BREAK EVEN. Well, not Podsednik this year, but he was better last year (and legitimately impressive in '04). Anyway...

3) Lehr is right! The Yankees do play a fair amount of small ball, if steals can really stand in for that all by themselves. What's more, they're actually really good at it. Credit the Mets and Yankees actually for having extremely efficient SB numbers team-wide. That's smart managing, at least in this one aspect of the game. And it helps out Jeter's MVP case a little; he was pretty darn good at it this year. I still have trouble voting MVP for someone whose team probably would have made the playoffs without him, but he did have a good season and there's no obvious choice so he'll probably get it. Personally, I keep flip-flopping around, but I think I'm back to Santana. Nobody on the offensive end dominated like he did this year.

4) The guy in the comments is right; this is only a start. Garbage time steals should not be given the weight that high-leverage steals are. The authors came back and said basically "well, why not adjust batting average for the high leverage of the situation then?" But I think that's BS; steals are different. Leverage is a really, really important way of evaluating their contribution (like hitting to an extent) but also how hard it was to do (less like hitting, though I'm sure there's some of that there as well). So, it's important. I however am not interested in thinking very hard about this. I look forward to the day when statheads who care more than me have solved this problem and put a pretty number up on the Hardball Times that I can sort hitters by.

5) I don't know how much it makes sense to combine the offensive net and the defensive net numbers. What does that really tell us? Sure, you know how much a team, overall, was helped or hurt by the total amount of stealing that occurred when they were playing, but the two things are such different skill sets that I don't really see the point. Totally different aspects of roster construction, etc. Kind of interesting though I guess.

Thoughts? Comments? Criticisms?

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