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Fantasy Baseball Stats: Analyzing Net Stolen Bases

by BallparkBob

Picking up stolen bases used to be easy.  Just look at the highest SB stat and you had your man.

Active Lifetime Stolen Base Leaders

Johnny Damon has been a very effective base stealer.

AUTO-matic: Sign us up. Damon's stolen base efficiency is top notch.

1.  Juan Pierre - 468
2.  Omar Vizquel - 389
3.  Johnny Damon - 375
4.  Carl Crawford -369
5.  Luis Castillo - 365
6.  Bobby Abreu - 351
7.  Ichiro Suzuki - 347
8.  Jimmy Rollins - 328
9.  Luis Polonia - 321
10.Derek Jeter - 308
The New Stolen Base

But, times have changed for the ancient art of the stolen base with the introduction of Net Stolen Bases.  And, it’s easy to see why.  Those that steal bases more efficiently should be rewarded over those who run wild and get caught much more often.  Hence, many fantasy baseball leagues are now using the category of net stolen bases: total stolen bases minus caught stealings.

An ideal example is listed above in our current active top two MLB base stealers.  Over their careers, let’s take a look at the top ten base stealers:

1.  Pierre 468 - 157 = 311
2.  Crawford 369 - 83 = 286
3.  Damon 375 - 96 = 279
4.  Suzuki  347 - 81 = 266
5.  Rollins 328 - 69 = 259
6.  Abreu  351 - 113 = 238
7.  Vizquel  389 - 157 = 232
8.  Castillo  365 - 140 = 225
9.  Jeter  308 - 81 = 227
10.Polonia  321 - 145 = 176

Other notables:  Reyes (305 – 76 = 229); A-Roid (298 – 70 = 228); Cameron (296 – 82 = 214).  All of these guys are in the top 10 in net stolen bases, although not there yet for total stolen bases lifetime.

You will see that Vizquel, # 2 all-time drops to # 7 in the top 10 list when net stolen bases are analyzed.  Luis Polonia suffers a similar fate thanks to his less efficient 55% success rate.  I suspect the veteran players that do not attempt to steal as much like Vizquel and Polonia are hurt by the fact that a pickoff in official stats is counted as a caught stealing.

The Effectiveness of the Major League Stolen Base

James Click has done a study on the effectiveness of the stolen base in MLB.  Click’s study shows that if a player, on average, isn’t able to steal successfully about 73% of the time, the stolen base attempt is not worth it.  Think about it; a caught stealing is a double edge sword.  Not only do you make an out, but you take a runner off of the base paths!  So much for Polonia.

According to Click, a runner on first with none out needs a 73.2% chance of stealing second to make it worthwhile to attempt to steal rather than stay glued to the bag.  Remember when your old coach told you not to make the third out at third base.  There’s a reason says Click’s research.  With two outs in the inning, you need a 92.7% chance  of  being successful in a steal of third than hoping the guy at the plate will knock you home.  (Special note to youth coaches — this doesn’t apply to youth leagues where singles often aren’t deep enough to score a runner from second and passed balls allowing a runner to score from third are more prevelent.  I have always contended that up until the high school Varsity level, third base is really scoring position, not second!)

The stolen base is the most over-valued statistic in fantasy baseball when compared to real baseball. Perhaps, the save is a close second, but there is no way that a stolen base total deserves to be recognized the same way as a home run category.  Oh well, I guess that’s why most of us aren’t playing real baseball.

Efficient Stolen Base Fantasy Baseball Picks

Want effective base stealers that can help your net stolen bases.  Try these guys on for sure footed thievery:

  •   Carlos Beltran -  286 - 38 = 248
  •   Willie Taveras -  195 - 43 = 152
  •   Jacoby Ellsbury -  131 - 23 = 108
  •   Eric Byrnes  129 - 23 = 106

But, that’s over a career and if you are looking for a sure footed thief for 2010, its best to look at the 2009 stolen base leaders.

2009 Stolen Base Leaders

1.  Ellsbury 70 - 12 = 58
2.  Bourn  61 - 12 = 49
3.  Crawford  60 - 16 = 44
4.  Figgins  42 - 17 = 25
5.  Morgan  42 - 17 = 25
6.  BJ Upton  42 - 14 = 28
7.  R. Davis  41 -12 = 29
8.  Kemp  34 - 8 = 26
9.  Andrus  33 - 6 = 27
10.Kinsler  31 - 5 = 26

Looking for modern day efficiency, try these guys for net stolen base value.

  • Kinsler  31 - 5 = 26
  • Jeter  30 - 5 = 25
  • Gardner 26 - 5  = 21
  • Getz  25 - 2 = 23
  • Choo  21 - 2 = 19
  • Werth  20 - 3 = 17

Now, how many of you thought Derek Jeter was as valuable of a stolen base guy in 2009 as Juan Pierre look-alike and play-alike Nyjer Morgan?

If you played with net stolen bases, take the Yankee captain.

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