Carl Crawford is a winnar

Pax Arcana

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.

Carl_CrawfordSeriously — the dude is fast.

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!

Baseball’s Fastest Man Outruns Math Guys, Too [WSJ]

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Carl Crawford is a winnar

  1. Fallen Angel

    this argument from the stat heads is absurd on so many levels.

    first, your piece

    “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…”

    But arguing they don’t create wins does not imply any sort of answer to the questions you pose.

    It’s an obvious YES to the first two. However, Morgan did have one interesting tidbit, even if it was completely inaccurate, last night in his ramblings about Maury. The guy who hit behind him faced a bunch of 0-1 and 0-2 counts due to taking pitches to let Wills steal. Statistically, that cripples his chances of getting a hit.

    I find the whole concept of win shares and all that shite complete nonsense. The idea of isolating steals to compute wins is outrageous. You need to look at how it affects scoring runs. If you think advancing a runner without giving up an out can be considered insignificant is, quite frankly, retarded.

    I can’t even stand Rays fans who act all calm after soul crushing losses and talk about “regression” and trends and all that bullshit. Stat geeks can FOD.

  2. I agree and disagree.

    A lot of the stats are pretty effective. OBP is better than AVG, etc.

    When you get into that next tier, I agree that they might not be as important as people think. A lot of the things that people laud BP and other stat geeks for can just as easily be understood by common sense. After CWS won the WS, BP said they would struggle the following year because their bullpen was a fluke and their guys were getting older and they stayed fairly healthy in 06. Well no shit. I don’t need any kind of regression to understand that.

    Steals fall into that category, in my opinion, like clutch hitting, where it exists but it’s hard to quantify. I mean, steals obviously rattle pitchers, baserunners have to be in your head. And it changes your repertoire too — who can pitch as effectively from the stretch as from a full wind-up?

    Now let’s move out of the way so Pax can come on here and say that steals are as important as clubhouse chemistry.

  3. This seems like a macro/micro argument to me. In the course of one game — especially a close one — a stolen base can have a huge impact. Like Dave Roberts, who I mentioned already. In the aggregate, however, the total, single-base advancement of even 200 baserunners over 162 games probably isn’t as statistically significant as a multiplicity of other things. Like hitting the ball hard to a place on the field where there are no defenders.

    Morgan makes an interesting point about putting the batter behind you in a hole, but I imagine pitchers are more likely to throw balls than strikes when there’s a big time base stealer on first or second. There are plenty of pitch-outs, naturally, and there’s also the break in concentration to keep checking over to first. I would also argue that batters like have baserunning threats on first because pitchers are more likely to throw fastballs. There are probably statistics to bear out whether I’m right or wrong, but numbers were invented by the Devil to make our brains hurt.

    To the padre’s point, I would argue that steals are even more important than clubhouse chemistry. Clubhouse astronomy, though, is out of this world.

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