Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Return of the Stolen Base

David Pinto analyzes the return of the stolen base. In the process he notes that baseball men are possessed of a certain wisdom that the sabermetrician types often overlook:

Baseball researchers called Sabermetricians take some heat for discouraging the stolen base. That's not quite fair. Sabermetricians like the stolen base, they just hate the caught stealing. They encourage stealing above the break-even level.

As it turns out, managers find this level automatically. Run expectancy charts from George Lindsey representing the 1959 and 1960 seasons shows a break-even point of 60 percent for the above situation. Pete Palmer, in "The Hidden Game of Baseball," published in 1984, showed a break-even point of 67 percent. Note that those two numbers almost exactly match the major league's stolen base percentage of those eras.

Sabermetricians discovered what baseball figured out intuitively.


Dre said...

Nowadays, the benefit of the stolen base becomes valuable when having about an 75% success rate.

Joseph said...

I expect to see a lot more "small ball" with the crackdown on steroids. Of course, many speedsters were those who got caught.

Crawdaddy said...

what is interesting is that managers can intuitively call steals to the break even point, but that is where stealing cancels itself out. so either managers steal just enough that they don't matter or maybe we have not yet figured out how to measure the production that results from stealing.