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Basepath Thievery and Inner Thoughts

Regular season baseball! 

While I’m sad to see that college basketball is on it’s way out, I think that the trade of Bill Raftery’s voice for Denny Mathews’ play-by-play is one we can all appreciate. I love me some Denny and I’m sick of hearing Bill.

As the season began I was running spring training results over in my head, thinking of all the things that happened. There was Melky’s surprising consistency (keep it up and boost that trade value), Hosmer’s short, yet solid performance in his first big league spring training, and even the (fashionably) late appearance of Alex Gordon‘s bat.

All of these things are great, but something that interested me (and others I’m sure, it wasn’t exactly a secret) was the furious clip at which the Royals stole bases. In spring training they stole 55 bases in 75 attempts, giving them a 73% success rate. All of this was in 30 games. Now, I know it’s spring training and managers are having players try new things, show more aggression at the plate/on the basepaths, etc. I still don’t think that means we shouldn’t note that if the Royals could keep up the same rate of basestealing they’ve showed us in the spring, by the end of the regular season they’ll have stolen 297 bases giving them 1.83 stolen bases a game.

Like I said before, they did all of this in spring training so it’s not like it has a sure chance of completely translating to the games that count. However, I do think it proves that Yost will stay true to his word about trying to be aggressive when it comes to baserunning.

If you’ve never read Moneyball by Michael Lewis, you should make it the next book on your list. It’s really interesting to see what happens when a team is run by guys who are commited to sabermetrics. Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane has made a name for himself concocting teams of players that so-called “experts” mock, until they keep winning and making fools of their critics. He and the people who work for him disregard stats like batting average and pitcher’s wins and losses as effective tools to judge a player’s worth. He instead focuses on stats like OBP and how many runs a player can help a team achieve during a season compared to the amount of runs he gives up with his defense, among other things.

I reference this because Billy Beane is pretty adamant against stealing in the book. He considers it a waste of an out when a runner is caught stealing and continually argued with his managers and players who wanted to steal more often. Proponents FOR stealing always argued that it was a good way to help the hitter avoid hitting into a double play….if it worked that is.

I can see both sides of the issue. It’s always depressing to see a single or walk wasted when the next batter hits into a double play. At the same time, it’s also pretty depressing when a guy gets thrown out trying to take second and the next batter up rips a double or a homer.

After a little bit of thought, I decided it’d be interesting to look at how many stolen bases the Athletics had grabbed each season over the past 10 years and whether or not there was any correlation with their win totals. Have a looksee.

  • (2001) Record: 102-60/Stolen Bases: 68/Stolen Base Percentage: 70% (obtained a wild card berth in the playoffs)
  • (2002) Record: 103-59/Stolen Bases: 46/Stolen Base Percentage: 70% (won division)
  • (2003) Record: 96-66/Stolen Bases: 48/Stolen Base Percentage:  77% (won division)
  • (2004) Record: 91-71/ Stolen Bases: 47/Stolen Base Percentage: 68% (no playoffs)
  • (2005) Record: 88-74/Stolen Bases: 31/Stolen Base Percentage: 58% (no playoffs)
  • (2006) Record: 93-69/Stolen Bases: 61/Stolen Base Percentage: 75% (won division)
  • (2007) Record: 76-86/Stolen Bases: 52/Stolen Base Percentage: 72% (no playoffs)
  • (2008) Record: 75-86/Stolen Bases: 88/Stolen Base Percentage: 81% (no playoffs)
  • (2009) Record: 75-87/Stolen Bases: 133/Stolen Base Percentage: 73% (no playoffs)
  • (2010) Record: 81-81/Stolen Bases: 156/Stolen Base Percentage: 80% (no playoffs)

The A’s went to the playoffs in ’01-’03 and ’06. They didn’t make it to the playoffs in ’04 and ’05 despite having winning records both years. The highest amount of bases they stole in a season during this time frame of ’01-’06 was 68. Not a ton. So maybe the A’s proved that the stolen base wasn’t a necessity. Maybe Billy Beane proved that it hurt more than it helped.

I appreciate what Beane has done with the A’s. He’s gotten results with his ideas. Sometimes an attempt to steal is simply a waste of a baserunner.

However, I believe that base-stealing IS important if you utilize it with the right personnel and the right situation.

Situational basestealing is important because speedy, dangerous guys affect a pitcher’s concentration. If Carl Crawford is on first base there’s no way a pitcher can fully focus on a batter. If a player on base can cause a pitcher to lose focus on hitters it’s only going to help whoever’s at the plate. Jarred Dyson, Chris Getz or even (maybe) Melky Cabrera and Alcides Escobar  are guys who can be dangerous on the basepaths and steal (ha) a pitcher’s focus.

I don’t have a problem with Yost wanting to be aggressive as long as he doesn’t get too crazy. Billy doesn’t need to steal 10 bases. Billy doesn’t need to have a green light. I don’t care if he was a perfect 3-3 on the basepaths this spring. He has one regular season steal to his name in all the time he’s been in the big leauges. As far as I’m concerned that’s plenty. I’d rather him worry about slapping doubles than stealing bases.

 If you are going to steal. Make it count. Pick the right spots and use the right players. I’d at least like my team to be successful 3/4 of the time and honestly, I’d rather it be higher. Any lower than 70-75% and I start to feel like we’re wasting outs.

/Bonus Round/

In my tiny college town just north of Springfield, MO there are way more Cardinals fans than Royals fans. Fox Sports Midwest typically shows the Cardinals games over the Royals, so to watch my beloved franchise I had to hit up the only sports restaraunt in town on Thursday and Friday to get to the games. There weren’t a lot of Royals fans in the joint. I watched about 7 innings of the first game with a friend before having to leave. I watched 3 innings of the game on Friday with the same buddy before he had to head out, so I finished it up on my own. Here’s a little of my interior dialogue on these two games. Not quite as funny as Kevin’s opening day blog, but I can only work with what I’ve got. These are not in any particular order. Enjoy.

Thursday

  • I like the hop on Hochevar’s fastball.
  • Chris Getz looks a lot like Marky Mark minus the funky bunch. He’s not as muscular though. I bet Wahlberg hits better than he does too.
  • Torii Hunter- Longtime bane of Royals success.
  • Limit the damage Hoche.
  • Alex, don’t swing at the first pitch….especially that one.
  • A Comedy of Errors: The Movie, in theaters now starring Mike Aviles, Luke Hochevar, and Chris Getz.
  • Oh Alex….
  • Way to be patient at the dish Billy.
  • sigh, Luke…..SIGH!
  • Better luck next time Hoche…..I guess it could have been worse.
  • I wish Aaron Crow wouldn’t look so jittery out there. If he’d REALLY concentrated he could have struck out his first 4. Three out of four will do I suppose. I do like watching Hunter have to trudge to the dugout after a strikeout though….silver lining?
  • Huzzah, bullpen! Huzzah!
  • Oh, the bats showed up.
  • Deliver, Alex! Deliver!
  • Oh Alex….

Friday

  • Francis, give me hope
  • Jeff, I can’t deal with us being down in the first inning. Just walk the guy next time.
  • Okay Alex, I see you.
  • Kila Ka’aihue frightens me. I have yet to see that guy look anything but upset. Every time he walks to the plate he looks like he’s going to put someone in a chokehold. I’d tell him to stop striking out, but I’m afraid he’d kill me. I’ll hold my peace.
  • A Comedy of Errors: The Sequel
  • I humbly apologize, Jeff Francis.
  • I even humblier? apologize, Alex Gordon.
  • If we waste another leadoff walk, someone’s going to pay.
  • Ka’aihue is up. He owes us.
  • God bless the 50th state to join the Union!
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Tags: AL Central Baseball Billy Butler Chris Getz Kansas City Royals KC Kila Kaaihue Luke Hochevar Mike Aviles Royals

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