Carl Crawford, who plays outfield for the Tampa Bay Heathen Sea Frisbees Rays, is on pace to steal 108 bases this year. While that number would fall short of Rickey Henderson’s single-season record (130), Crawford could make a different kind of history — stealing more than 100 bases without being caught.
But does it matter? Are stolen bases more than just a flash of temporal excitement? Do they unnerve pitchers? Do they bring the defense out of position? Do they increase the likelihood of the batter getting a hit?
Not really, according to Bill James and other statistically-inclined thinkers. They say the stolen base has little correlation with wins, despite plays like Dave Roberts’ epic steal of second base against the Yankees in game 4 of the 2004 ALCS.
Over at the WSJ, Tim Marchman looks more closely at this kind of thinking and applies it to Crawford’s ridiculous run:
As a rule, according to baseball researcher Tom Tango, a team adds .02 wins to its season total when it steals a base, and loses .04 when someone is caught stealing. By this math, last year’s Rays, who led the majors with 142 steals in 192 tries, gained just a single win from their exploits. A team stealing 200 bases in 250 tries would add just two wins in an entire season.
But what about a player who steals 108 bases in 108 tries, as Mr. Crawford was on pace to do going into Friday’s game? Because he’s losing no value by getting caught, this player would add two wins all by himself.
So the Rays might get two extra wins this year just on Carl Crawford’s legs. The next step is for Joe Madden and his questionable math skills to devise some sort of formula to prove that 2=8 or 108=162 or some shit like that. Good luck, Joe!