Collette Calls: Do You Have a Need for Speed?

Collette Calls: Do You Have a Need for Speed?

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

It has been just over a month since I last wrote about what I was observing in the stolen-base department and a couple of weeks since I saw Top Gun: Maverick in the theater, so the title of this week's installment was an easy one. I've enjoyed the return of steals this season, but not nearly as much as I enjoyed the movie.

The league is pacing ahead of last season's steals pace. I have updated the chart below to show how that trend continues:

As you can see, we are indeed ahead of the pace of steals at this point last season. I don't know about you, but I've missed stolen bases, so it is nice to see them back en vogue in the league as a whole. The crazy thing about steals this year is that the spike has been as much the new faces on the leaderboard as the guys who pushed the totals last year. Below is the top 10 base thieves from 2021 and how many steals they have attempted over the past 30 days:

Player

2021 Steals

Attempts Last 30 Days

Starling Marte

47

4

Whit Merrifield

40

3

Trea Turner

32

7

Cedric Mullins

30

9

Tommy Edman

30

7

Myles Straw

30

3

Jose Ramirez

27

10

Shohei Ohtani

26

3

Fernando Tatis

25

NA

Bo Bichette

25

1

Now, compare that to the leaderboard of the top stolen-base attempts over the past 30 days:

Player

SBA

SB

CS

Jon Berti

16

It has been just over a month since I last wrote about what I was observing in the stolen-base department and a couple of weeks since I saw Top Gun: Maverick in the theater, so the title of this week's installment was an easy one. I've enjoyed the return of steals this season, but not nearly as much as I enjoyed the movie.

The league is pacing ahead of last season's steals pace. I have updated the chart below to show how that trend continues:

As you can see, we are indeed ahead of the pace of steals at this point last season. I don't know about you, but I've missed stolen bases, so it is nice to see them back en vogue in the league as a whole. The crazy thing about steals this year is that the spike has been as much the new faces on the leaderboard as the guys who pushed the totals last year. Below is the top 10 base thieves from 2021 and how many steals they have attempted over the past 30 days:

Player

2021 Steals

Attempts Last 30 Days

Starling Marte

47

4

Whit Merrifield

40

3

Trea Turner

32

7

Cedric Mullins

30

9

Tommy Edman

30

7

Myles Straw

30

3

Jose Ramirez

27

10

Shohei Ohtani

26

3

Fernando Tatis

25

NA

Bo Bichette

25

1

Now, compare that to the leaderboard of the top stolen-base attempts over the past 30 days:

Player

SBA

SB

CS

Jon Berti

16

16

0

Ronald Acuna

7

4

3

Marcus Semien

10

9

1

Trea Turner

7

6

1

Randy Arozarena

8

6

2

Harrison Bader

6

4

2

Christopher Morel

8

6

2

Julio Rodriguez

7

7

0

Jose Ramirez

10

8

2

Cedric Mullins

9

8

1

Dansby Swanson

9

7

2

Tommy Edman

7

6

1

Hello Jon Berti! The man is on the move, but believe it or not, he could have even more steals. Baseball-Reference gives us the Stolen Base Opportunity (SBO) stat to help us see who has the most chances to steal bases. SBO is defined as any time a runner is on first or second and the next base is unoccupied. So far this season, 225 players have attempted at least one steal, and the SBO% for that entire group is 8%. Keep that figure in mind when you look at the leaderboard below for the players who have SBO percentages 20% or above:

Player

SBOpp

SBA

SB

CS

SBOppAtt

Eli White

12

5

4

1

42%

Jon Berti

44

16

16

0

36%

Jazz Chisholm

21

7

5

2

33%

Jose Siri

12

4

4

0

33%

Dairon Blanco

3

1

1

0

33%

Jorge Mateo

25

8

6

2

32%

Luke Williams

13

4

3

1

31%

Dylan Moore

23

7

6

1

30%

Rodolfo Castro

10

3

1

2

30%

Sergio Alcantara

7

2

0

2

29%

Erik Gonzalez

4

1

1

0

25%

Jose Ramirez

41

10

8

2

24%

Tyler Wade

28

6

4

2

21%

Jonathan Villar

14

3

3

0

21%

Matt Vierling

14

3

1

2

21%

Dee Strange-Gordon

19

4

3

1

21%

Adolis Garcia

39

8

7

1

21%

Victor Robles

25

5

5

0

20%

Aristides Aquino

15

3

2

1

20%

Mark Mathias

5

1

1

0

20%

Randy Arozarena

41

8

6

2

20%

The now-injured Eli White was a cheap steals godsend this year as he was frequently on the move when he managed to get on base, but the fractured wrist he suffered Sunday afternoon in the field ends that fun for quite some time. There are several other low-OBP types on this list who limit their chances by their poor OBP skills, so when they do get on base, their respective managers are attempting to put these players on the move. The key takeaway here is that while some players may not have the steals totals you are hoping for, they are getting the opportunities. The league average for converting steals is currently 76%, so players falling below that threshold such as Chisholm, Castro, Wade, O'Neill, Aquino and Arozarena could see their green lights become caution lights. I would be more concerned about the players on contending teams than I would be with those playing on second-division clubs. 

So, when can these players best take advantage of their opportunities? Enter the pitcher/catcher battery numbers. Stolen base prevention is not a 50/50 split between the pitcher and the catcher, but even the best catcher is going to be limited by a pitcher who is too slow to the plate. Pitcher delivery numbers are often cited on broadcasts, but are not publicly available. We do, however, have brand new catcher pop times as BaseballSavant just this week published numbers for the first time in three seasons. That report comes in handy when looking for daily lineup opportunities to find some steals, but if you combine that report with the Pitcher Baserunning Report from Baseball-Reference, things really get fun.

Here is the complete list of pitchers who have allowed five or more stolen bases while pitching in 2022:

Pitcher

SB

CS

SB%

Noah Syndergaard

15

0

100%

Sandy Alcantara

11

3

79%

Carlos Rodon

10

1

91%

Cal Quantrill

9

2

82%

Adam Ottavino

8

0

100%

Erick Fedde

8

1

89%

Patrick Corbin

8

4

67%

Merrill Kelly

8

2

80%

Art Warren

8

1

89%

Reid Detmers

8

1

89%

Kevin Gausman

7

2

78%

Kyle Hendricks

7

1

88%

Jon Gray

7

0

100%

Matt Moore

7

2

78%

Madison Bumgarner

7

1

88%

Robbie Ray

7

3

70%

Alex Faedo

7

2

78%

Glenn Otto

7

0

100%

Logan Webb

7

1

88%

Heath Hembree

6

1

86%

Walker Buehler

6

2

75%

Ross Stripling

6

0

100%

Marcus Stroman

6

0

100%

Diego Castillo

6

1

86%

Drew Smyly

6

0

100%

Zach Thompson

6

1

86%

Dane Dunning

6

0

100%

Dylan Cease

6

2

75%

Trevor Stephan

6

0

100%

Josh Winder

6

1

86%

German Marquez

5

1

83%

Liam Hendriks

5

0

100%

Marco Gonzales

5

0

100%

Austin Gomber

5

3

63%

Tyler Mahle

5

3

63%

Tyler Kinley

5

0

100%

Alex Cobb

5

0

100%

Dylan Bundy

5

0

100%

Joe Jimenez

5

1

83%

Jose Ruiz

5

1

83%

Nick Pivetta

5

4

56%

Jason Adam

5

0

100%

Adrian Houser

5

2

71%

Luke Bard

5

0

100%

Taijuan Walker

5

0

100%

Rafael Montero

5

0

100%

Josh Sborz

5

0

100%

Mitch Keller

5

1

83%

Tommy Nance

5

0

100%

Trevor Rogers

5

0

100%

Aaron Ashby

5

0

100%

Nick Sandlin

5

0

100%

We can take that data and then cross-reference it with catcher pop time data and look for matchups in daily or weekly leagues to find steals. For example, if Syndergaard is pitching to Kurt Suzuki, it will be a track meet as Suzuki has thrown out four of 18 runners all season. The trio of Texas catchers have pop times of 2.0 or higher, so it really does not matter which one of them is behind the plate if one of the names above is on the mound. Quantrill has thrown nine of his 11 starts to Austin Hedges, but if he is ever throwing to Luke Maile, stolen bases could get ugly in a hurry. As it were, we saw all of this come to a head in a single game when Gray squared off against Quantrill on June 7. Texas swiped two bases off the Cleveland battery of Quantrill and Hedges while Cleveland swiped six off Texas pitchers throwing to Sam Huff.

We can also look at the numbers to see which teams are controlling running games and which teams struggle to keep the opposition from stealing bases. The league as a whole attempts steals 4.7% of the time and is actually more successful stealing third base (77.2%) than it is second (75.8%.) The image below shows the 30 clubs and their respective figures in catching potential base thieves:

Oakland is not doing much well this season, but they have thrown out 13 of 33 attempted steals. Conversely, Texas has nabbed just six of the 57 attempts against their trio of catchers in Jonah Heim, Sam Huff and Mitch Garver this season, with their pitchers certainly contributing to those problems. Now, let us look at a table showing the attempts against each team next to that percentage:

Team

SBOpp

SBA

SB%

SBOppAtt%

NYY

792

25

64%

3%

STL

888

28

68%

3%

BAL

919

30

63%

3%

PHI

863

32

63%

4%

PIT

890

32

84%

4%

OAK

891

33

61%

4%

HOU

832

34

74%

4%

NYM

869

35

77%

4%

KC

969

35

77%

4%

LAD

767

35

80%

5%

TB

787

35

80%

4%

CHC

861

36

75%

4%

SF

881

36

81%

4%

TOR

814

37

70%

5%

SD

825

37

81%

4%

ATL

913

42

69%

5%

BOS

811

42

81%

5%

MIN

858

43

88%

5%

MIL

838

44

66%

5%

DET

786

46

72%

6%

CLE

685

46

80%

7%

COL

920

47

79%

5%

ARI

923

50

70%

5%

MIA

810

50

80%

6%

CIN

913

51

73%

6%

SEA

841

52

77%

6%

WSH

983

53

72%

5%

CWS

924

53

74%

6%

LAA

863

54

82%

6%

TEX

894

57

90%

6%

Here we see three clubs – New York, St. Louis and Baltimore – leading the league in deterring stolen bases. Neither club has a high total of attempts and the ones who do try are not very successful against the league average. Yankee fans can appreciate the work of Jose Trevino replacing Gary Sanchez as opponents were successful on 84% of their stolen base attempts last season. Baltimore, for all its faults, has actually been quite good at this for two years running as they have done a fantastic job of controlling the running game with a variety of catchers and pitchers involved.

Before you get terribly excited about these rates, let's honor the great Rickey Henderson, who attempted steals 76% of the time the year he stole 130 bases, and that doesn't even take into account his five attempted steals of home that season. Long live The King!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast on iTunes. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls.
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