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Thread: Trying to figure out the true value of a stolen base.

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    Battle Toad Historian thatcoolguy_22's Avatar
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    Trying to figure out the true value of a stolen base.

    I'm trying to quantify the true value of a stolen base and how they translate into run production.


    Some Factors to consider...

    -Success rate of the SB
    -Extra base putting a runner into scoring position or into a better scoring position
    -The added stress on the pitcher working against the batter.
    -Increases in the likely hood of errors
    -Increase in Wild Pitches
    -Batter losing concentration due runner's shenanigans or having to protect the hit and run
    -steal 2B only to have the batter walk 2 pitches later
    -thrown out at 2nd only to have the batter walk 2 pitches later
    etc etc



    Are there any stats that show how much benefit a SB gains for RC?

    I have always been against the SB in general. I always felt more often than not a SB was a wash. I've seen time after time someone get caught stealing only to have the batter lace a double or a HR. Or someone walk after 2nd base was swiped. There was a quote I read the other day about (this isn't verbatim by any means) "the 2 hardest things to do are throw the ball and catch the ball. The goal is to force the other team to do this as many times as possible in a game." The SB is a great way to force the action on an opponent and to turn lead off singles into doubles. Now for all saber inclined individuals on the board how much does it actually benefit or am I slowly becoming just another fan who puts too much value into exciting plays?



    EDIT: I found this article to help but I would like to see some good discussion here.
    The Value of the Stolen Base: A Comparison of MLB and NCAA Division I Baseball
    By Mike Current and Chad McEvoy

    Over the years there has been a great deal of debate amongst baseball insiders and fans over the value of the stolen base. Some, such as longtime Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, have argued that the stolen base is rarely worth the risk. Others, however, view the stolen base as a valuable means of applying pressure to the opposing team's defense. The question is: Which side is right?

    Most past research on the stolen base seems to side with Weaver. Using data from Major League Baseball, researchers have found that stealing at less than a 75% success rate is detrimental to success. Joe Sheehan explains in Baseball Prospectus Basics: Stolen Bases and How to Use Them that when considering stolen bases, one must consider both the cost and the benefit. Therefore, the break-even point for successful base-stealing is so high because outs are more valuable than bases in nearly every instance. For example, the Run Expectancy Matrix created by Baseball Prospectus reveals that a runner on first base with no one out is worth approximately 0.864 runs. A successful steal of second base would raise that figure to 1.173. However, a failed stolen base attempt drops that number to 0.270. In this example, the loss is nearly two times the gain.

    In the same article, Sheehan also suggests that the secondary effects of base-stealing, such as putting pressure on the opposing pitcher and defense, do not exist. In fact, he goes as far as to suggest that a runner at first base is more disruptive to the defense than a runner at second base, simply because the first baseman must hold the runner on and the middle infielders are forced to cheat toward second base to have a chance at a double play.

    While these findings have been consistently replicated and are generally accepted by Sabermetricians and others when talking about professional baseball, there has been little or no research conducted examining the stolen base at other levels of play. As a Division I college baseball coach, this leads me to wonder: Is the stolen base a more valuable offensive weapon in college baseball than it is at the professional level?

    The numbers seem to indicate that the stolen base is more a part of the college game than it is the professional game, even to the casual fan who has taken a few minutes to compare player and team statistics from both levels. For example, in 2006, the Los Angeles Angels led all of Major League Baseball in stolen bases with .91 stolen bases per game. That same season, the average Division I college baseball team stole 1.2 bases per game, with the national leader averaging slightly more than three stolen bases per game.

    A deeper analysis of both college and professional statistics is even more revealing. A series of multiple linear regression models were created using data from both NCAA Division I and Major League Baseball. The models used both stolen bases per game and caught stealing per game to predict runs scored, while controlling for base-stealing opportunities. The results were interesting. The first set of regression models, examining the relationship between stolen bases per game and runs scored, revealed that in college baseball, runs per game increased by .295 with each stolen base per game. However, in Major League Baseball, runs per game actually decreased by .208 with each stolen base per game. While it seems strange that a successful stolen base attempt would result in fewer runs scored, it is likely explained by the fact that teams stealing more bases generally do so to compensate for a lack of offensive firepower (i.e. power hitting). Therefore, it is not the stolen base itself that is costing the team runs but the team's overall style of play. The second set of regression models, analyzing the relationship between caught stealing per game and runs scored, indicated that in college baseball, runs per game decreased by .304 with each unsuccessful stolen base attempt per game. In Major League Baseball, the cost of a failed stolen base attempt was even more severe at .845 runs per game.

    So what do these findings actually tell us? In the most simplistic sense, they indicate that the stolen base is indeed a more valuable offensive weapon in college baseball than it is in Major League Baseball for two reasons: 1) The reward for a successful stolen base attempt is greater; 2) The cost of an unsuccessful stolen base attempt is less significant. Therefore, because they have more to gain and less to lose, it makes sense for college teams to utilize the stolen base more liberally. However, the fact that college baseball teams attempt considerably more stolen bases per game than do big league teams seems to suggest that many college coaches are already aware of this more favorable "risk/reward" ratio.

    That being said, it is also important to acknowledge and understand the limitations of these findings. The biggest weakness of this study is the inability to examine specific situations. Therefore, while the above findings provide information about the big picture, they offer little or no guidance relative to specific in-game strategy decisions. In other words, there are a multitude of factors (i.e. the ability of the base runner, the opponent, the game situation, etc.) that were not considered in this study but are extremely influential in the outcome of any base-stealing attempt. As a result, coaches must remember that the actual "risk/reward" ratio changes with the situation. Below is a more detailed look at factors that must be considered before attempting a stolen base.

    The Base Runner
    The speed and base-running ability of the runner are extremely important when deciding whether or not to steal a base. It makes the most sense to run when the base runner is fast and has good instincts.

    The Hitter
    The ability of the hitter at the plate is extremely important. It makes the most sense to attempt a stolen base when the hitter at the plate is a double play threat and/or when the hitter has little chance of driving a runner in from first base.

    The Pitcher/Catcher
    The ability of the pitcher and catcher to stop the running game is also important. A pitcher that is slow to the plate is much easier to run on than one who is quick. Similarly, a poor throwing catcher is easier to run on than one who throws well.

    The Game Situation
    Research has repeatedly shown that in the majority of Major League Baseball games, the winning team scores more runs in one inning than the losing team does in the entire game. This revelation backs up Earl Weaver's advice to play for the big inning, especially early in games. Therefore, one-run strategies, such as the stolen base, make the most sense in situations where one run is of great importance (i.e. late in games or in low-scoring games).

    Michael Current is an assistant baseball coach at Illinois State University. He graduated from Blackburn College with a degree in Communication and recently completed his master's degree in Sport Management at Illinois State University. Last summer, Current served as an assistant coach with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the prestegious Cape Cod League, where his team won the league championship.

    Dr. Chad D. McEvoy is an Assistant Professor of Sport Management in the School of Kinesiology and Recreation at Illinois State University, where he is the coordinator of the sport management program. Dr. McEvoy has published articles in journals including Sport M
    anagement Review, Sport Marketing Quarterly, International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing, and Sport Management and Related Topics.
    Last edited by thatcoolguy_22; 05-13-2009 at 11:51 PM.
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    Five Tool Fool jojo's Avatar
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    Re: Trying to figure out the true value of a stolen base.

    An intuitive way to look at the value of a stolen base is by using run expectancy.

    Here's a matrix for mlb using last season's data (the matrix gives the average runs that scored in an inning after the designated base/out state occurred):

    Code:
    base	0 outs	1 out	2 outs
    0	0.52	0.28	0.11
    3	1.50	0.97	0.35
    20	1.15	0.69	0.33
    23	2.01	1.42	0.59
    100	0.90	0.53	0.23
    103	1.77	1.16	0.48
    120	1.53	0.92	0.46
    123	2.31	1.59	0.80
    So on average, teams scored .9 runs in an inning where they started with a runner on first with no outs. So to see the value of stealing second in that situation, one could subtract the run expectancy associated with having a runner on first with no outs from the run expectancy of having a runner on second with no outs (i.e. the run value of the final base/out state minus the run value of the initial base/out state; 1.15-.9= .25 runs). So in that case, stealing second would've been worth .25 runs. Getting caught stealing in that situation would've had a -.62 run value (.28-.9= -.62).

    The average run value of a stolen base and being caught stealing has been determined across all base/out states by the authors of "The Book" for a data set encompassing about half a decade. They determined that on average a stolen base was worth .175 runs and being caught stealing was worth -.467 runs.
    "This isnít stats vs scouts - this is stats and scouts working together, building an organization that blends the best of both worlds. This is the blueprint for how a baseball organization should be run. And, whether the baseball men of the 20th century like it or not, this is where baseball is going."---Dave Cameron, U.S.S. Mariner

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    Where's my chair? REDREAD's Avatar
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    Re: Trying to figure out the true value of a stolen base.

    The problem with using run expectance analysis though is that it's all about the theoretcial hitter and pitcher.

    Does Wily T on 1b, threatening to steal, change the pitcher's pitch selection, which also impacts the batter's chances of getting a hit? Maybe it does for some pitchers, but not others.

    Does a guy like Wily T successully stealing 2b lead to a different run expectancy than a guy like Ramon Hernandez at 2b? And the counter.. A guy as fast as Wily probably has a higher run scoring expectancy when he's on 1b than a slow player.

    Also, factor in that different pitcher/catcher combinations have different levels of effectness at defending against the stolen base.

    Really, I think just saying a player needs a 73% rate for the steal to be worthwhile is vastly oversimplifying. Different situations are treated differently. If you are down by 5 runs in the 8th, it's probably dumb to attempt a steal and risk an out no matter what your percentage is.
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    Five Tool Fool jojo's Avatar
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    Re: Trying to figure out the true value of a stolen base.

    duplicate post.....
    Last edited by jojo; 05-14-2009 at 10:15 AM.
    "This isnít stats vs scouts - this is stats and scouts working together, building an organization that blends the best of both worlds. This is the blueprint for how a baseball organization should be run. And, whether the baseball men of the 20th century like it or not, this is where baseball is going."---Dave Cameron, U.S.S. Mariner

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    Five Tool Fool jojo's Avatar
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    Re: Trying to figure out the true value of a stolen base.

    Quote Originally Posted by REDREAD View Post
    The problem with using run expectance analysis though is that it's all about the theoretcial hitter and pitcher.
    It's an average across all situations that very quickly gets one at least 90% of the way to the answer. I don't really see that as a problem.

    Quote Originally Posted by REDREAD View Post
    Really, I think just saying a player needs a 73% rate for the steal to be worthwhile is vastly oversimplifying. Different situations are treated differently. If you are down by 5 runs in the 8th, it's probably dumb to attempt a steal and risk an out no matter what your percentage is.
    Nobody is suggesting that one use run expectancy in place of thinking. It's a tool.

    That said, I think one needs to be careful when ascribing extra value to a player because "he can shoot bolts of lightning from his rear". In other words, I'd buy the argument that you'd rather have Taveras on second than Hernandez. But is there a huge difference in run expectancy for having Taveras on second versus the run value generated "on average"? My money is on "it's not as dramatic a difference as one might think".

    It would be an interesting study though (anyone want to wade through the base/out states for Taveras' career?).
    "This isnít stats vs scouts - this is stats and scouts working together, building an organization that blends the best of both worlds. This is the blueprint for how a baseball organization should be run. And, whether the baseball men of the 20th century like it or not, this is where baseball is going."---Dave Cameron, U.S.S. Mariner

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    Re: Trying to figure out the true value of a stolen base.

    Quote Originally Posted by jojo View Post
    But is there a huge difference in run expectancy for having Taveras on second versus the run value generated "on average"? My money is on "it's not as dramatic a difference as one might think".

    It would be an interesting study though (anyone want to wade through the base/out states for Taveras' career?).
    how would I go about doing that? I just got out of surgery and am still on convalescence leave and stuck at home all day. I have oodles of time and am willing to put in the legwork.

    With the recent decline in SLG% across all of MLB could SB begin to play a larger role in future offenses and can a team designed around aggressive base running succeed?

    I'm looking for how many stolen bases would be needed for a season of .350OBP and .350SLG to equate the RC of an .800 OPS. Is it even possible?
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    Where's my chair? REDREAD's Avatar
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    Re: Trying to figure out the true value of a stolen base.

    Quote Originally Posted by jojo View Post
    That said, I think one needs to be careful when ascribing extra value to a player because "he can shoot bolts of lightning from his rear". In other words, I'd buy the argument that you'd rather have Taveras on second than Hernandez. But is there a huge difference in run expectancy for having Taveras on second versus the run value generated "on average"? My money is on "it's not as dramatic a difference as one might think".
    I agree that a faster runner like Tavares might have less of a value in advancing to 2nd, since he's more likely to score from first than a slow runner.

    It's hard to say if the odds of Wily scoring from 1st vs a slow runner is significant.

    Someone did post something interesting though in the offseason. It said that Wily seemed to have a higher percentage of scoring runs when he did get on base. IIRC, this was both in Houston and Colorado. It will be interesting to see if he can maintain that pace here (examine after the season is over).
    Wily doesn't exactly have a powerhouse lineup hitting behind him to drive him in -- Harriston and Votto.. Votto is off to a hot start, for sure, but probably isn't one of the most elite #3 hitters in the game (at least not yet).

    Another thing that makes it difficult to analyze is that there's so few players like Wily.

    I can see the 73% rule making more sense on guys that can only steal maybe 15-20 bases/year if they pick their spots and read the pitchers well.
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    Re: Trying to figure out the true value of a stolen base.

    IMO the true value of steal is a variable and is fluid based on the league and the stealer's team(s) slugging percentage, with the value increasing in low slugging environments and decreasing in high slugging environments

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    Re: Trying to figure out the true value of a stolen base.

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou View Post
    IMO the true value of steal is a variable and is fluid based on the league and the stealer's team(s) slugging percentage, with the value increasing in low slugging environments and decreasing in high slugging environments
    Makes sense. So in theory, going into the post PED era of baseball it is likely that we will see an increase in SB across the board.
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    Waitin til next year bucksfan2's Avatar
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    Re: Trying to figure out the true value of a stolen base.

    Quote Originally Posted by thatcoolguy_22 View Post
    Makes sense. So in theory, going into the post PED era of baseball it is likely that we will see an increase in SB across the board.
    You bring up a great point, the post PED era of baseball. Where the game goes from here I have some ideas but nothing concrete. I also don't know when the PED era is going to end. Players, even stars like Manny are still getting caught which leads me to believe that the era isn't over all together.

    Now back to the topic at hand. IMO I think we will see the game revert back to a style played in the mid 80's with a little difference. Weight training will still be an important aspect of the game but not to the PED degree. Power numbers will likely be up from mid 80's, but not the type of numbers we have seen over the past 15 years. I think we are going to see an era in which the SB becomes more relevant than it has over the past 15+ years. I would imagine that SLG is going to decrease which will mean advancing a base via the stolen base is going to become a great benefit.

    IMO the value of a SB will increase, but at the same time it will be very situation dependent.

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    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    Re: Trying to figure out the true value of a stolen base.

    Are the days of the 90-100 base stealer over? Will we ever see their like again?
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    Score Early, Score Often gonelong's Avatar
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    Re: Trying to figure out the true value of a stolen base.

    Quote Originally Posted by jojo View Post
    It's an average across all situations that very quickly gets one at least 90% of the way to the answer. I don't really see that as a problem.
    ...
    Nobody is suggesting that one use run expectancy in place of thinking. It's a tool.
    I think it's way less than 90% of the answer. At best, it's a rule of thumb IMO.

    A guy with a 5.60 ERA is not a guy that a 75% success rate is an acceptable risk IMO. Chances are you are going to score against that guy in spades anyway.

    A guy with a 1.25 ERA, maybe a 50% chance is an acceptable risk.

    7th inning, one out, and a shutdown closer in the oppo's pen? Maybe 50% is acceptable there too?

    GL

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    Where's my chair? REDREAD's Avatar
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    Re: Trying to figure out the true value of a stolen base.

    Quote Originally Posted by thatcoolguy_22 View Post
    I'm looking for how many stolen bases would be needed for a season of .350OBP and .350SLG to equate the RC of an .800 OPS. Is it even possible?

    Here's a link to the various formulas.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runs_created

    As you can see, the stolen base is devalued, even relative to walks. (Walks are counted in both of the numerator factors that are multiplied together, steals are only in one of the factors). Also a steal only counts as .52 or .55 of a "total base", which kind of makes sense because a double is more likely to drive in a run than a single and a SB.
    Thank you Walt and Bob for going for it in 2010-2014!

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    The Big Dog mth123's Avatar
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    Re: Trying to figure out the true value of a stolen base.

    I think the real value of the SB is that its kind of exciting and gets the fans going. If that has a positive impact on attendance it may allow the team to go out and get players who get on base and/or hit with some pop.
    "All I can tell them is pick a good one and sock it." --BABE RUTH

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    Re: Trying to figure out the true value of a stolen base.

    Anyone remember Vince Coleman or Ricky Henderson? I would say that having someone like them get on and disrupt the pitcher and the entire defense was worth a bunch. When I use to go see the Cards and Reds play in St. Louis during the 80s you could just feel the intensity go up all over when Coleman got on. It was amazing and to be honest was more thrilling than a lot of homeruns that I have witnessed. I personally think the "threat" of being able to steal is more valuable than the actual steal is. Speed on offense and defense makes a huge difference in my eyes...no stats to back it up though.
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