I got to pitch the next time we played them and got to face one of the two pitchers that day that hit me -- I'd told him I was going to pay him back so he was ready when I drilled him on the hip -- he got me with a soft curve -- I didn't have a soft curve -- we're still friends 45+ years later
This is an older article by Sheehan, and the math has changed some, but....
Teams will often use their best base stealers at the top of the lineup, even players with low on-base percentages, in front of their most powerful batters. In fact, they should be using those players lower in the lineup, in front of their least powerful hitters. Risking an out to advance from first base to second base is much more important when the guy at the plate can't get the runner home from first base.
The vaunted secondary effects of stealing bases--distracting the pitcher, putting pressure on the defense--do not appear to exist. In fact, most secondary effects argue in favor of keeping the runner of first base. A runner on first is more disruptive to a defense, with the first baseman holding and the second baseman cheating towards second for a double play, than a runner on second. Additionally, studies show that stolen-base attempts negatively impact the performance of the batter at the plate, presumably due to hitters getting themselves into negative counts by taking pitches or swinging at bad balls to protect the runner.
I get behind steals having a place in the game, I get behind that place being defined as being the "right" time and the "wrong" time, I get behind the fact that only some guys need to steal.
I don't get behind station to station baseball as a pure percentage move 100% of the time.
The first team that ever had my full attention was the 72 Tigers, station to station at its finest
CAUGHT STEALING displayed only--not a sorting criteria
STOLEN BASES YEAR SB CS
1 Tigers 1972 17 21
2 Pirates 1973 23 30
T3 Mets 1994 25 26
T3 Indians 1970 25 36
5 Mets 1973 27 22
T6 Blue Jays 1978 28 52
T6 Tigers 1973 28 30
8 Tigers 1970 29 30
T9 Red Sox 1983 30 26
T9 Cubs 1969 30 32
The main issue with this calculation is it doesn't take into account the first pitch of a count because it's impossible to steal a base before the batter sees the first pitch. Therefore times when the runner attempts to steal on the first pitch and the batter hits the ball are not included (or any time the runner is going and the batter hits the ball). You also have to take into account hit and run attempts, which certainly negatively affects the batter. If the batter doesn't hit the ball not only is he put in a worse count than he should have been (most likely because he attempted to hit a ball out of the strike zone) but it shows up as a stolen base attempt. They only way to truly find the stats is to determine the success of a batter when the runner has the green light, and it's not a hit and run. Stats cannot take that into account, and therefore the statistics are flawed.
The analysis is just way too simplistic and one of the things I hate when I see blind statistics used. So much of that is analysis in a vacuum and I can't go into all of it. Plus, the numbers have not just changed a bit. They have actually dramatically changed since 2004. I forget the exact number now, but stealing base success rate benefit is now something like 66% (I think there is a fangraphs article on this). Way different than the 75% claimed in the article.
BTW...when looking at ERT you have to take into account deltas because with zero men on you can still score, and then there is the expectancy of scoring at all vs. not scoring any runs which are different numbers. That would of course lead to the debate of the importance of scoring more runs but always scoring in bunches vs. scoring a little less but more consistently. Yet I will stay away from that.
edit: I will note the same thing I stated before. It will all come down to Hamilton getting on base. If he can get on a base at a good rate, he should be at the top of the order. If it's poor, he shouldn't. Basestealing should not be the main reason he is put at any spot in the order, be it first to "create havoc" or 7th so he is not stealing in front of Votto.
I will just further add, you cannot apply league wide stats to extreme examples. When it comes to basestealing, there is pretty much no more of an extreme example than Billy Hamilton. The only thing league wide stats tell us is basestealing should not be a blindly followed philosophy used with all players.
Second, his charts of teams that stole lots of bases, and their overall run production, and of teams that were high scoring teams and their SB propensity, are pretty much meaningless. They tell us nothing. If he had turned that into one of my logic or stat classes, I would have failed him.
The first chart only tells us that teams that use SB's usually don't have powerful offenses. It doesn't tells us what their production would be if they didn't steal bases. Same with the second chart. If one wanted to know the effect that SB's have on a teams's production, the only accurate way is to chart their production in years that they do steal a bunch against years where the same team, with the same players, don't steal a bunch of bases. Of course that's impossible.
Third, having a speedy leadoff hitter is better than having him in the middle of the lineup, because he will be in scoring postion when your best hitters are at the plate. Then middle of the lineup hitters not only hit for more power, they just hit better overall.
Last season, the bottom the Reds lineup had 270 singles. The middle of the lineup, 346. That's 76 more hits. That's why you want your speedy leadoff hitter hitting in front of your best hitters.
Our buddy SteelSD used to use something he called "Speed Adjusted OPS"
Here's his formula
(Hits + BB + HBP - CS)/TPA
(Total Bases + SB - CS)/AB
In the minors last year, Hamilton had an impressive .410 OBP
When you adjust his OBP for speed, it's corrected to .347.
Last year he had a SLG of .420.
When you adjust for speed, it's corrected to .650
Dude's a power hitting middle of the order guy.
I do agree that it's smart to have a speedy guy hitting fifth or sixth, for the reasons your mentioned. I just think you want your best speedy guy leading off. I remember the Cards would bat Willie McGee in the fifth slot and that worked quite well.
The question is, what does Hamilton need to OBP to make the CS's ok?
Last year's CS numbers had the net effect of knocking his OBP down 60-70 points.
If Hamilton steals second while Phillips is up and, subsequently, Phillips makes an out while failing to advance him; does Slidin' Billy race back to first so that they can't pitch around Votto?
I have no idea how to figure it out, but if the batter is stealing at an 80% rate, that would logically increase his overall production.
And that shouldn't be surprising. As others have pointed out, in the '70s and '80s, many teams played on Astroturf. Turf put a premium on defensive speed. Speedy defenders usually aren't power hitters too, so unlike most of today's lineups, there wasn't home-run power all the way through the order. So teams had to find ways to score beyond sitting around waiting for the dinger, and the turf gave basestealers a fast track. It's all connected.