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Thread: Stolen Base Value

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    The Big Dog mth123's Avatar
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    Stolen Base Value

    In discussing offseason acquisitions a number of "Stolen Base types" have been mentioned as potential CF replacements. Now I want the CF to have plenty of speed and range and I want a guy who is fast on the bases. However, I am of the opinion that the stolen base is way over rated and I don't really want to pursue a player whose offensive value is primarily derived from stealing bases. I would go so far to say that the actual value of a good base stealer may be the pressure put on the defense, distraction to the pitcher, etc. Moreso than the actual base acquired. It seems that a steal is just the little man's way of simulating an extra base hit but carries with it a significant risk of getting thrown out. Why go for steal guys when you can just get a guy that hits a double in the first place? Seems a lot less risky. This got me to thinking about statistically measuring the effect of the base stealer on an offense.

    I apologize in advance because I'm not really a huge stat guy from a calculating and theorizing perspective, but I do think they are important tools for evaluating a player's past and future performance when properly used. So if anything I'm about to say is way off base don't shoot me. I also find it hard to believe that I'm the first to think about this. Sorry if this is a dead horse.

    Many on here use OPS as a guideline which I also put a lot of stock in. OPS seems to be a little lacking to me when a lot of a player's value is derived from the steal. This got me thinking that maybe some type of adjusted OPS should be used. Specifically the Slugging % portion should add a base acquired to the numerator for each steal. In addition times caught and picked-off should also be factored in. I would think that you should subtract 1 from the numerator of the OBP calculation for each CS or time picked-off. You should subtract at least 1 from the numerator of the slugging percentage calculation. I would go a step further and subtract one for each base given up. If a guy is caught stealing 3rd, I'd subtract 2 because 2 bases had already been acquired. Similarly, if a guy was picked off of third, I would subtract 3 because 3 bases had already been acquired. Not trying to create a new stat here but the number of bases surrendered seems as important as the fact that an out was made or runner removed. Logically it seems that having a runner removed from 3B would be more damaging than one removed from 1B. Using this logic, base stealers need to be extremely successful to add to the basic value that OPS provides. I haven't done the math (can't find stats for Pick-offs) but I would think that Ryan Freel would actually hurt his value because of the number of times caught and picked-off.

    Based on the above, I have a few questions for the board. Do you think the premise is faulty? Has any research or similar calculation been done? Are times picked-off included in the calculations that exist? I see CS factored in the EqA formula, but it doesn't seem punitive enough to me for the damage that getting thrown out seems to do. I don't see times picked off in any stats. What I'm really interested in is finding, for lack of a better term, a base stealing break-even point. How successful does a guy have to be on steals to be adding value? If he isn't highly successful how much value is he losing?

    A link to any research in this area would be appreciated. If none exists, are there any places that statistics are accumulated for times picked-off? Any way to find which base a guy was caught stealing at or picked-off from? I wouldn't mind doing this calculation for a few selected players if I can find the data. I'd probably start with Freel (who gets picked-off and caught a lot) and Phillips (who seems to have a high success rate). I would also like to see what this calculation would do to Pierre, Lofton, Roberts and a few of the other CF suggestions that make me tremble in fear.

    Thanks for any information.
    Last edited by mth123; 09-23-2006 at 03:53 PM.

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    Member Highlifeman21's Avatar
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    Re: Stolen Base Value

    Winshares, RC, RC/27 (park and league adjusted) are a few of my more favorite ways to assess value to a player. OPS is more so a quick and dirty way to analyze a player, IMO.

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    Little Reds BandWagon Reds Nd2's Avatar
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    Re: Stolen Base Value

    Quote Originally Posted by mth123 View Post
    What I'm really interested in is finding, for lack of a better term, a base stealing break-even point. How successful does a guy have to be on steals to be adding value? If he isn't highly successful how much value is he losing?
    The articles below suggest a player must be successfull 75% of the time or he's better off staying put. There is a formula for Stolen Base Runs that is calculated as such, .3(SB)-.6(CS) or .3[SB-2(CS)]. The break even success rate is 67%. I do not have any articles that discuss this metric, so I'm not certain how they arrived at the formula or if it correlates to actual run production. Hope this helps. Below is an excerpt from the first link discussing when to steal.

    You want to steal bases when:

    The value of one run is of great importance. In general, one-run strategies--steals, bunts, hit-and-run--are overused early in games. Especially in today's game, teams aren't willing enough to give themselves a chance at a big inning, and cut off a rally with a caught stealing where no attempt would have been the best choice.

    The batter at the plate is a double-play threat. Stealing makes more sense with a right-handed batter up than a left-handed one, and with a groundball hitter up rather than a strikeout or flyball hitter.

    The batter at the plate is much more likely to score the runner from second than he is from first. 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.
    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/ar...articleid=2607
    http://espn.go.com/mlb/columns/bp/1202793.html
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    The Big Dog mth123's Avatar
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    Re: Stolen Base Value

    Quote Originally Posted by Reds Nd2 View Post
    The articles below suggest a player must be successfull 75% of the time or he's better off staying put. There is a formula for Stolen Base Runs that is calculated as such, .3(SB)-.6(CS) or .3[SB-2(CS)]. The break even success rate is 67%. I do not have any articles that discuss this metric, so I'm not certain how they arrived at the formula or if it correlates to actual run production. Hope this helps. Below is an excerpt from the first link discussing when to steal.



    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/ar...articleid=2607
    http://espn.go.com/mlb/columns/bp/1202793.html

    Thank you! Thank You! Thank You! These things are types of things I was looking for. The links are very helpful.

    This still does not address the times picked-off issue. And there is no distinction as to which base is stolen or which bases the player is caught stealing at. Intuitively these things seem important to me. I am guessing that lack of available data is the reason these are not included.

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    Charlie Brown All-Star IslandRed's Avatar
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    Re: Stolen Base Value

    Quote Originally Posted by mth123 View Post
    This still does not address the times picked-off issue.
    Doesn't a pick-off go in the books as a caught stealing? If so, it's already accounted for.

    And there is no distinction as to which base is stolen or which bases the player is caught stealing at. Intuitively these things seem important to me. I am guessing that lack of available data is the reason these are not included.
    A quick "success rate" for any situation can always be figured from the expected runs matrix -- if we know a runner on 2nd with 1 out will typically yield X runs, then by comparing the expected run values of success (runner on 3rd, 1 out) and failure (bases empty, 2 outs) you can calculate the break-even percentage.

    But whatever your question, someone somewhere has already run the numbers, most likely. I've seen lots of advanced stuff on Baseball Prospectus -- some guy (I can't remember who, they have so many writers now) has been analyzing baserunning as a whole, from stolen-base effectiveness to the ability to advance on ground balls and fly balls versus the average. They've also broken down when to play for one run versus when to play for multiple runs, etc.
    Not all who wander are lost

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    The Big Dog mth123's Avatar
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    Re: Stolen Base Value

    Quote Originally Posted by IslandRed View Post
    Doesn't a pick-off go in the books as a caught stealing? If so, it's already accounted for.
    I am pretty sure that times picked-off don't count as a caught stealing. I guess I need to re-check. If you are right a lot of my question is pointless.

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    Little Reds BandWagon Reds Nd2's Avatar
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    Re: Stolen Base Value

    Quote Originally Posted by mth123 View Post
    Thank you! Thank You! Thank You! These things are types of things I was looking for. The links are very helpful.

    This still does not address the times picked-off issue. And there is no distinction as to which base is stolen or which bases the player is caught stealing at. Intuitively these things seem important to me. I am guessing that lack of available data is the reason these are not included.
    Pickoffs are credited to the pitcher or the catcher who made the play and not the baserunner. It's assumed the pitcher/catcher made a great play and the baserunner wasn't at fault, even though the result is an out. I've always felt that a percentage of the pickoff should be given to the baserunner but I've never seen it done that way.

    As far as which bases are stolen or where the player was caught stealing, the data is available in the game logs. You'll have to look it up or find someone who has that information. I'm sure it's available because I remember seeing it one time, but I can't seem to find it now.

    FWIW, Nate Silver wrote an article last year about what he called Speed Adjusted OB%. He combined the baserunners speed/savvy, SB%, and OB% to see what, if any, further contributions were made to his teams run scoring. His conclusion was that "In a few marginal cases baserunning might even be enough to warrant placing a player in the lineup when he otherwise should not be. For the most part, however, baserunning and base stealing ability just doesn't make a large enough magnitude's worth of difference to change our conclusion about who the good offensive players are, and who are the bad ones".

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/ar...articleid=4344
    "...You just have a wider lens than one game."
    --Former Reds GM Wayne Krivsky, on why he didn't fly Josh Hamilton to Colorado for one game.

    "...its money well-spent. Don't screw around with your freedom."
    --Roy Tucker, on why you need to lawyer up when you find yourself swimming with sharks.

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    The Big Dog mth123's Avatar
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    Re: Stolen Base Value

    Quote Originally Posted by Reds Nd2 View Post
    Pickoffs are credited to the pitcher or the catcher who made the play and not the baserunner. It's assumed the pitcher/catcher made a great play and the baserunner wasn't at fault, even though the result is an out. I've always felt that a percentage of the pickoff should be given to the baserunner but I've never seen it done that way.

    As far as which bases are stolen or where the player was caught stealing, the data is available in the game logs. You'll have to look it up or find someone who has that information. I'm sure it's available because I remember seeing it one time, but I can't seem to find it now.

    FWIW, Nate Silver wrote an article last year about what he called Speed Adjusted OB%. He combined the baserunners speed/savvy, SB%, and OB% to see what, if any, further contributions were made to his teams run scoring. His conclusion was that "In a few marginal cases baserunning might even be enough to warrant placing a player in the lineup when he otherwise should not be. For the most part, however, baserunning and base stealing ability just doesn't make a large enough magnitude's worth of difference to change our conclusion about who the good offensive players are, and who are the bad ones".

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/ar...articleid=4344
    Thanks again. This helps. I don't have a subscription (I'll be getting one of those I think) so I didn't read the whole thing yet. I get the concept that speed makes the runs scored rate higher on the times that you do get on base, but it seems more appropriate that the statistic to adjust would be slugging %. A single and steal is the same as a double but the double counts more. I guess its because slugging doesn't count walks and you can steal after a walk and help your slugging. In my mind all that this proves is that all these statistics contain some flaws and the trick isn't in the calculation but understanding the flaws in the interpretation.

    I guess pick-offs are tricky. I think in Freel's case (or Phillips' last night) those usually aren't great plays by the defense but bonehead plays by the runner. I would say that Freel would need a higher than 75% success rate to be adding value. I guess this is that interpretation part I was referring to above. Freel's success rate is borderline now anyway and add in a couple (or more) pick-offs (and who knows how many other times he gets thrown out on the bases) and his value really drops. The funny thing is before I started thinking about this, I thought Freel's speed was pretty valuable. Now I think he would be better off running a lot less and his value is really from his OBP independent of his speed. I still think his (or anyone's) first to third or second to home speed is very important and this team needs more of it. I just wouldn't pay for a free agent base-stealer to lead-off. Team needs power more than lead-off IMO anyway.

    I'll use your links to do some more reseach in this area. You should get a commision from Baseball Prospectus. This discussion has convinced me to join.

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Stolen Base Value

    A runner on 1st doesn't score from a single and a steal. The value in SLG% is not just the bases you advances but the extra bases advanced by the runners already on base.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    The Big Dog mth123's Avatar
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    Re: Stolen Base Value

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    A runner on 1st doesn't score from a single and a steal. The value in SLG% is not just the bases you advances but the extra bases advanced by the runners already on base.
    Your right. That is a flaw that I was aware of in my original concept. I think Slugging has value from a perspective of both advancing existing runners and yourself as the hitter. Bases Acquired are Bases Acquired, but the single and the steal does not advance any existing runners as much as a double and should not be as valuable in any formula. That is very correct. Probably why I intuitively lean toward slugging guys in the first place.

    I'm actually more concerned about the outs made on the bases and how much they negate any value in the steals, slugging and OBP. The Reds make a lot of them and I don't really want to add any more high risk base runners to this team.

    Earlier in the year we wondered why the OBP and Slugging didn't add up to as many runs scored as it should. I wonder how much making outs on the bases has something to do with that.
    Last edited by mth123; 09-24-2006 at 03:05 PM.

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    Little Reds BandWagon Reds Nd2's Avatar
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    Re: Stolen Base Value

    Quote Originally Posted by mth123
    Thanks again. This helps. I don't have a subscription (I'll be getting one of those I think) so I didn't read the whole thing yet.
    Yea', sorry about that last one. It's a premium article and you have to pay for access. I'd post it, in it's entirety, but Baseball America has already balked at posting their premium content and I don't want to get the board in any more trouble. BP has alot of free stuff though. You can check it out HERE.


    Quote Originally Posted by mth123
    I get the concept that speed makes the runs scored rate higher on the times that you do get on base, but it seems more appropriate that the statistic to adjust would be slugging %. A single and steal is the same as a double but the double counts more. I guess its because slugging doesn't count walks and you can steal after a walk and help your slugging.
    Nate Silver discusses this very thing in his article. In fact, he even uses your example of a single and a stolen base comparing it to a double. In both scenarios the runner ends up at second base, but the double has the ability to drive in more runs, assuming there are runners on ahead of the batter. One thing to remember, SLG% = TB/AB's. You're correct that walks won't help your SLG%, but neither do stolen bases. OBP is a measure of avoiding outs and setting yourself up to score runs (which a stolen base does). SLG% is a measure of driving in those runs. Stealing a base won't drive in any runs, but getting picked off or caught stealing does result in an out. That's why you would look to adjusting OBP.


    Quote Originally Posted by mth123
    In my mind all that this proves is that all these statistics contain some flaws and the trick isn't in the calculation but understanding the flaws in the interpretation.
    There is a difference between statistics and metrics. The statistics come from the actual play on the field. The metrics are ways of analyzing those stats. It's why people who are much smarter than me keep crunching the numbers to come up with even better metrics for performance analysis. Just because a particular metric has some flaws, doesn't mean something useful can't be gleaned from it. Keep this in mind particularly when looking at fielding metrics.

    Quote Originally Posted by mth123
    I guess pick-offs are tricky. I think in Freel's case (or Phillips' last night) those usually aren't great plays by the defense but bonehead plays by the runner. I would say that Freel would need a higher than 75% success rate to be adding value. I guess this is that interpretation part I was referring to above. Freel's success rate is borderline now anyway and add in a couple (or more) pick-offs (and who knows how many other times he gets thrown out on the bases) and his value really drops.
    I agree. That's why I think there should be some distribution of credit/blame assigned to pick-offs. The trouble would be in defining the percentages to alot to the pitcher/catcher (credit) and the baserunner (blame). When you get into actual baserunning ability, you have to factor in park effects and the strength/accuracy of the outfielders arms. Oh yea' let's not forget, stolen bases aren't always due to the speed of the baserunner either. Handedness and type of delivery of the pitcher, catcher arm strength also factor into the discussion as well. As always, lot's of questions and no easy answers.


    Quote Originally Posted by mth123
    The funny thing is before I started thinking about this, I thought Freel's speed was pretty valuable. Now I think he would be better off running a lot less and his value is really from his OBP independent of his speed. I still think his (or anyone's) first to third or second to home speed is very important and this team needs more of it. I just wouldn't pay for a free agent base-stealer to lead-off. Team needs power more than lead-off IMO anyway.
    As the saying goes, speed never slumps, but the real value is in avoiding precious outs at any cost. Should Freel run less? Probably, but then that can probably be said for alot of lead-off burners too. Juan Pierre could be available this off season. Interested?



    Quote Originally Posted by mth123
    I'll use your links to do some more reseach in this area. You should get a commision from Baseball Prospectus. This discussion has convinced me to join.
    I wish. LOL I really don't mind recommending the sight to anyone. It's a great sight and has something for almost everyone.
    "...You just have a wider lens than one game."
    --Former Reds GM Wayne Krivsky, on why he didn't fly Josh Hamilton to Colorado for one game.

    "...its money well-spent. Don't screw around with your freedom."
    --Roy Tucker, on why you need to lawyer up when you find yourself swimming with sharks.


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