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  1. Great article, thanks. Since I own Jacoby Ellsbury in my league, I thought SBs were up, so it’s surprising. Perhaps the rise in HR has managers putting up the red light, looking for the 3-run HR? Maybe it’s a tribute to Earl?

    Comment by Fatbot — April 23, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

  2. Maybe I missed it, but is the actual number for SB/PA so far this year provided anywhere in the article? I can sort of get 2013′s SBA/SBO off the graph (though not very precisely) but I don’t see the 2013 numbers that I can compare to the table.

    Also, typo: “put on the breaks” should be “brakes.”

    Comment by joser — April 23, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

  3. And the fake pick-off to third now called a balk was supposed to let base runners run wild, according to some.

    Comment by PackBob — April 23, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

  4. as a Choo owner, seeing him leadoff and getting on base like crazy would lead me to believe he’d be at the top of the sb leaderboards, or at least the sb attempts leaderboard….

    nope.

    Comment by attgig — April 23, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

  5. Not sure I follow the argument. Stolen bases (or in any case steals of second) gain value when followed by singles (runner in scoring position) or infield groundouts (no DP). How much has the game really shifted in this direction? HRs haven’t disappeared, and Ks work the other way – fewer groundouts, and it’s harder to steal on these power pitchers. Plus, of course, sabermetric influence has grown.

    Comment by Mr Punch — April 23, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

  6. Wild-ass speculation: given that shitty weather conditions have prevailed in several ballparks in the early going of 2013, it’s possible that baserunners are reacting to softer/more torn-up infields. If so, we would expect to see the SB/PA rate regress to normal levels as the weather gets nicer.

    Comment by Anon21 — April 23, 2013 @ 2:05 pm

  7. Fear of injuries? Wider concern about concussions? It’s just one base after all…

    Comment by BillyBeaned — April 23, 2013 @ 2:10 pm

  8. Looks to me that SB success rate was lower in April 2012 than the rest of the year. If that trend holds this year, maybe teams see that and are running less early in the season. Perhaps spring training drills lead pitchers to pay more attention to holding runners. Who knows why. But more CS could be the answer, reducing SBA.

    Comment by GoGiants — April 23, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

  9. I read the title of this article in my best Paula Cole voice

    Comment by Colin — April 23, 2013 @ 2:12 pm

  10. Reyes, Pierre, D. Gordon, Campana, Bonifacio, Revere, Kipnis, BJ Upton, and Ichiro were all in their league’s top 10 for SB last year, and they’re either injured, in the minors, or just off to a slow start. Could it be that the base-stealers just aren’t doing well in a small sample size?

    Comment by Rags — April 23, 2013 @ 2:12 pm

  11. Was coming in to say the same thing. I think the cold rainy weather is a factor here. I don’t have any science to back that up other than common sense. Thus, could be wrong.

    Comment by Jarrett — April 23, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

  12. Have you considered weather. It’s been a cold spring in many areas and it seems like there have been a lot of rainouts.

    Comment by Dave Scott — April 23, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

  13. I can buy that to a certain extent. Unlike, say, home runs, which tend to be distributed throughout the lineup, stolen bases tend to come primarily from 2-3 guys on each team. Injuries or slumps for those players could have a big impact.

    Comment by Ian R. — April 23, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

  14. What about the increasing rate of strikeouts? Would teams run less with an increased risk of the strike’em out/throw’em out double play? I honestly have no way to know if there is any correlation, or if the effect would be strong enough to be relevant.

    Comment by 300ZXNA — April 23, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

  15. This was my first thought as well.

    Comment by Justin — April 23, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

  16. It would help if they counted steals in both directions.

    Comment by Jean Segura — April 23, 2013 @ 2:29 pm

  17. Whether weather has stolen stolen bases is basis for further thought.

    Comment by Brazen Reader — April 23, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

  18. Add in:

    Brett Gardner (1 for 3)
    Peter Bourjos (0 for 0)

    Of course, this doesn’t really address the underlying issue as much as provide context to it. When SB are down, players aren’t going have many SB.

    Comment by Denard — April 23, 2013 @ 2:33 pm

  19. You missed Michael Bourn as well.

    I was thinking the same thing — lots of injuries and slumps from guys who normally run wild.

    Comment by Slackerjack — April 23, 2013 @ 2:33 pm

  20. Basically I wanted to ask this.

    Any reason why you reference 2012 SB/PA numbers without including the 2013 one? It seems you were looking to demonstrate the consistency of the number on a month to month basis but why not use one statistic throughout?

    Comment by Luke — April 23, 2013 @ 2:41 pm

  21. Would teams run less with an increased risk of the strike’em out/throw’em out double play?

    If you are the Atlanta Braves’ Fredi Gonzalez: no. He managed to send Ramiro Pena into two strike-em-out, throw-em-out double plays with Justin Upton batting in Sunday’s game. And many Braves caps were hurled across rooms in frustration.

    Comment by Anon21 — April 23, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

  22. Maybe changes in managers has something to do with it? I’d say John Gibbons of the Jays is noticeably more conservative with the running game, but as the Jays are sitting 4th in the majors with 15 steals, the data doesn’t really bear out my impression.

    Comment by Gabriel — April 23, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

  23. I’m Jose Constanza part 2 bitches

    Comment by Ramiro Pena — April 23, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

  24. Maybe a newb question but, what exactly defines a “Stolen Base Opportunity”? Any time a runner is on base with the base ahead of him open?

    Comment by PearlDrumBum — April 23, 2013 @ 3:05 pm

  25. I’d love to know if the distribution of stolen bases has changed. Are the top guys stealing just as much, but the guys who only steal ~10 bags / season not running?

    Comment by Travis L — April 23, 2013 @ 3:12 pm

  26. I attempted to look at individual player stats from 2012 to 2013. Of the top 73 players in number of attempts last year (everyone 20 attempts or more), 53 were attempting the same or fewer SB’s per PA (this includes guys like Quinton Berry and Dee Gordon, who haven’t played this year in the majors). Guys like Ichiro, Bourn (even before the injury), Trout, and Juan Pierre are all down. Jose Reyes was up until he got hurt, but almost no one else was up signicantly in those 71 outside of part-timers like Jordan Schafer and Jarrod Dyson. McCutchen is up, but only a tiny bit.

    Segura and Crawford are the only guys with 5 attempts this year that didn’t do much of anything last year, so the newcomers are also lacking.

    It’s early, but it’s league wide.

    Where have you gone, Billy Hamilton? Fangraphs turns its lonely eyes to you.

    Comment by Brian — April 23, 2013 @ 3:14 pm

  27. Not sure why anyone would make that argument. I’ve seen that pick-off move work maybe twice in my entire life between growing up playing the game and watching MLB televised for about 20 years. I’m not sure how someone could possibly make that argument.

    Comment by Mat — April 23, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

  28. An idea: Admittedly I haven’t looked it up, but what’s the OBP of the current SB leaders? Could it be sample size noise due to the base stealers not having reached base as often as usual in the first month?

    Comment by Gomez — April 23, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

  29. Just out of curiosity, I haven’t looked, are DPs up as well?

    Comment by channelclemente — April 23, 2013 @ 3:24 pm

  30. bourne and reyes are hurt
    revere + escobar + jennings + bj upton + kipnis + stubbs + ichiro + de aza + maybin can’t get on base
    HR are up; maybe the bases are being cleared before guys in general even have a chance to run
    it’s cold as heck! i wouldn’t want to be sliding in colorado right now!

    Comment by hildebeast21 — April 23, 2013 @ 3:26 pm

  31. woo-hoo-hoo

    Comment by Spit Ball — April 23, 2013 @ 3:31 pm

  32. > it’s cold as heck! i wouldn’t want to be sliding in colorado right now!

    Good point, except Colorado is surprisingly 3rd in MLB in stolen bases behind Oakland and Boston, and 2nd in stolen base attempts behind only Boston.

    Comment by Trevor — April 23, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

  33. Well, although the pickoff move is rarely successful at actually fooling someone into leaving early and getting picked off, it is extremely successful at keeping runners close at 1b. The extra half second you need to wait to make sure the pitcher is going home makes all the difference in the world when attempting to steal a base at the major league level. I could see how the rule change will encourage more SB attempts in first and third situations.

    Comment by Matt — April 23, 2013 @ 3:47 pm

  34. That move was never only about recording outs on the basepaths. It was also used to keep the runners honest, so that they don’t take big leads and get good jumps. It allowed RHPs to, essentially, make pickoff throws to first after lifting their left foot, which is a balk with no one on.

    Now, in the same situation, a runner on first knows he can get a secondary lead, or steal, when that front foot leaves the ground. Theoretically, the new rule would allow for an increase in SBs (and SB success rate) in first-and-third situations, however small an increase it might be.

    Comment by Jay29 — April 23, 2013 @ 3:50 pm

  35. I believe PackBob’s comment was either snark or sarcasm, or possibly snarcasm.

    Comment by Trotter76 — April 23, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

  36. Are success rates related? Are teams being more judicious by picking better spots.

    Comment by Dr. Chaleeko — April 23, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

  37. You might be right for high-stakes play but it works like a charm against my team of 12 year-olds.

    Comment by Bryce Wilson Stucki — April 23, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

  38. Perhaps they have all been…stolen.

    Comment by Bad Joke Guy 32546 — April 23, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

  39. Lots of good ideas in the comments. What about Mark DeRosa? Has anyone looked into him, to see if he may have something to do with this? Wouldn’t be surprised if he was behind all this anti-stealing.

    Comment by JuanPierreDoesSteroids — April 23, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

  40. Too cold to run much – warmer weather will have attempts going up. Or, maybe too many base stealers watched Reyes’ injury and now have second thoughts on the long term value..

    Comment by Fergie348 — April 23, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

  41. It’s been freaking cold.

    Comment by CBG — April 23, 2013 @ 4:26 pm

  42. My theory is I drafted for speed this year and all my speedsters have not been running!

    Comment by Kiss my Go Nats — April 23, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

  43. Quintin Berry wasn’t called up until late May.

    Comment by gnomez — April 23, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

  44. As others say above, injuries, poor form and weather sound like the most plausible answers given that the rate was increasing last year. But if it isn’t the case and it is something that has genuinely changed, then the fact that the A’s and Red Sox are highest in steals isn’t surprising. Given the last decade+ you’d expect them to zig when everyone else was zagging, the A’s in particular.

    Comment by rjbiii — April 23, 2013 @ 4:44 pm

  45. We all know about the rising strikeout rates and whatnot. Perhaps some of the guys who, in the past, were in there because of their base stealing have just been so bad offensively that it’s no longer worth it?

    Or, another possible factor: basically, league offensive production has been dropping, while offense from catchers has been rising. If a higher percentage of people on base are catchers, a group that is, ahem, not particularly known for its collective speed, you’d expect lower base stealing rates. I can’t imagine that would explain a large portion of the effect, but it seems to me to be one reason among many. Perhaps a look at yearly change in obp or other rate for guys in different speed categories rather than positions would show something. Maybe calculate an expected steal percentage, which would be something like average career stolen base rates weighted by how often guys have got on base to see if it’s a between-the-lines change or if it’s tactical or organizational…

    Comment by jruby — April 23, 2013 @ 4:44 pm

  46. Back when the rule was proposed last year someone went through the records and found that this moved worked about 6 times per year, or about once per month, across all the games played in MLB. So it worked more often than most people think (though it’s understandable why they’d underestimate it: with 30 teams in baseball, you’d only expect it to happen for/against your team once every 2.5 years, and if you didn’t happen to be watching that game…)

    Comment by joser — April 23, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

  47. Good looking, easily read graph!

    Somebody get this man to edit a Jeff Zimmerman article stat

    Comment by Denard — April 23, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

  48. I am so far from Mr. You Must Caveat Everything, but the month is only 73% over. Like anything else that looks off, it could be at least somewhat more normal by May 1st.

    Also, maybe you should have looked at more Aprils than just last year? I’d do it, but I don’t know how.*

    *code for way too lazy and don’t really care enough

    Comment by TKDC — April 23, 2013 @ 5:06 pm

  49. I expected there to be more stolen bases after Obama took my guns

    Comment by Papelbon — April 23, 2013 @ 5:24 pm

  50. http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=0&type=8&season=2013&month=0&season1=2013&ind=0&team=0,ss&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0

    .0139 SB/PA

    Comment by philosofool — April 23, 2013 @ 6:21 pm

  51. What about using the hit-and-run more in tighter situations?

    With offense being down and avoiding to take the bats out of the hands of the better hitters, managers are instead using the hit and run at a more successful rate than usual. I don’t know if there’s a way to find that out, but could it be due to better situational managing?

    Comment by Dave in GB — April 23, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

  52. Base stealing is essentially a substitute good for power…

    Do you mean “Base stealing is essentially a good substitute for power…”?

    If not, I don’t know what you are trying to say.

    Comment by Hank G. — April 23, 2013 @ 6:55 pm

  53. How odd, since no new gun-control legislation has passed at the federal level. Maybe Obama sent Seals to your house.

    Comment by Baltar — April 23, 2013 @ 7:04 pm

  54. Whoosh

    Comment by CheeseWhiz — April 23, 2013 @ 7:37 pm

  55. That’s his econ classes talking — I had to re-parse as I was reading, but it does make sense (I would’ve made it “Substitute Good” just to be clear). Not sure it was necessary, though. Sometimes fancy-pants jargon is just a kind of vocabulary Veblen Good.

    Comment by joser — April 23, 2013 @ 8:23 pm

  56. Thanks for clearing that up. It makes sense now, but would have been easier to parse without the overloaded word “good”. What’s wrong with “alternative” or “replacement”?

    Comment by Hank G. — April 23, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

  57. Might be, but there is bad weather every April, though not as bad as this year. You’d think there would be some kind of April effect in 2012 if this were the case.

    Comment by Elias — April 23, 2013 @ 8:57 pm

  58. That’s fantastic, Brazen Reader.

    Comment by Ben — April 23, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

  59. I instantly thought of Where Have All the Good Times Gone by the Kinks…

    Comment by Ben — April 23, 2013 @ 9:04 pm

  60. I know I am more prone to laziness when the weather is chilly. Perhaps baserunners are as well.

    Comment by RollTribe — April 23, 2013 @ 9:54 pm

  61. Easy answer: Rod Barajas no longer plays for the Pirates.

    Comment by BUCN — April 23, 2013 @ 10:40 pm

  62. Something that may be worth studying further is the relationship between contract status and stolen base attempts. Common sense would dictate guys that are early in on a big contract will be sent less frequently than guys who aren’t owed much money or time. Conversely, players at the end of their contracts have incentive to attempt more steals, as the market rewards stolen bases.

    Comment by Ian — April 23, 2013 @ 10:44 pm

  63. Gone to Matt Wieters, every one.

    Comment by Bad Horse — April 24, 2013 @ 1:18 am

  64. The only way to stop a stolen base is a good guy with a stolen base. Wait, what?

    Comment by B N — April 24, 2013 @ 1:18 am

  65. No Ozzie Guillen this year either.

    Comment by bleh — April 24, 2013 @ 3:20 am

  66. Good article

    I have been wondering this myself, but perhaps this has something to do with the wild swinging weather we’ve been having of late? Or, as others have suggested, After witnessing Reyes’ horrid injury, maybe a lot of speedsters are more hesitant of running?

    the season is long though…the runners will be running soon enough.

    Comment by feslen — April 24, 2013 @ 8:29 am

  67. Brazen Reader is my long lost grandson. I met his grandma while she was selling sea shells by the sea shore.

    Comment by woodchuck chuck — April 24, 2013 @ 9:12 am

  68. How does the month of April 2013 compare to other Aprils.

    Many teams are playing cold weather games, and I don;t think managers really want to push the stolen base in cold weather, hammy health and all that.

    There could also be an aspect of “letting guys hit” to get their timing down for the rest of the year and see what they can do.

    I could be wrong.

    My guess is that as the season goes on, SBA/SBO goes up.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — April 24, 2013 @ 10:31 am

  69. “Where have all the flowers gone?” playing softly in the background…

    “Smithers, do you think maybe my power plant killed those ducks?”

    Comment by Monty B — April 24, 2013 @ 10:46 am

  70. There’s no ‘maybe’ about it, Sir.

    Comment by Waylon S — April 24, 2013 @ 10:47 am

  71. *Sniff* Excellent…

    Comment by Monty B — April 24, 2013 @ 10:47 am

  72. Yeah I would chalk it up to abnormally cold weather. Yeah it is cold every April but not this bad and not over this much of the country.

    Comment by Ender — April 24, 2013 @ 10:51 am

  73. hah this wins brilliant zinger award…makes me chuckle every time I read it. thank you.

    Comment by feslen — April 24, 2013 @ 11:00 am

  74. Today’s players are minus on the following skills baserunning,hitting the cut-off man,ability to hit the ball with 2 strikes and poor discpline also they take the easy way out—-better gms and managers might help—play the 50′s on tv more.

    Comment by Dave Silverwood — April 24, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

  75. Ellsbury is way up this year. He was 14 for 17 last year. He’s 9 for 9 already this year.

    Comment by Synovia — April 24, 2013 @ 12:50 pm

  76. GET OFF MY LAWN YOU DAMN KIDS

    Comment by Synovia — April 24, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

  77. Hey, who let those black guys on the field?!

    Comment by T Yawkey — April 24, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

  78. Nonsense.

    Comment by Major Major Major Major — April 24, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

  79. I think its partly due to some teams not trying to give away outs. But also its because of the advanced metrics and pitching motions. Teams have gotten so much better on when a guy should steal. What exact motion he should look for when he steals.

    Ken Maccha and Ron Roenkie had two different positions on this. Ken Maccha would never steal, ever. He said he hates giving up outs. Ron Roenkie is a risk taker. He loves to steal, he loves to put guys on the move. Does it work out all the time, no. But when you have a guy like Jean Segura or carlos gomez on first, trying to steal. Both have great speed. Your attention is not fully on the batter. So not only do you get an advantage with guys stealing to get in scoring position you have the pitcher distracted and more liekly to hang a curve or miss his location.
    I wish more teams would steal, its a very exciting part of the game. Most fans are kind of durish and believe all position players on defense just stand around with their thumb up their ass. IT couldn’t be futher from the truth. Esp. these days with the diffrent computerized spray charts, there are shifts for each player. Some are very very drastic.

    Comment by rarjake — April 24, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

  80. My two cents…
    Steals may be down for a number of reasons (said and/or unsaid here thus far).
    1. Premier stealers having slow starts, or not playing at majors, old, injured.
    2. Weather, not yet warm, not conducive to stealing.
    3. Not wanting to injure themselves – the marginal stealers (8-15 steals/yr) may just not want to and risk injury in this young season. Hamstrings tend to nag.
    4. Greed. HR is still what drives money up. Steals dont.. Why do them as a result.
    5. Complacency…
    6. New Season, slow on signs and other stuff

    Comment by Cidron — April 24, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

  81. Dave, the phrase is “speed never takes a day off”, not “never slumps”.

    Comment by bstar — April 24, 2013 @ 8:06 pm

  82. Premier stealers not playing at majors? I don’t know about that; Bourn, Reyes, Ellsbury, Trout, Ichiro, Bourjos, Carlos Gomez, BJ Upton, Dee Gordon, and Rajai Davis ALL played the Masters a couple of weeks back.

    If anything they skipped the RBC Heritage the following week, which still may have some small impact on YTD stolen base totals.

    Comment by Jason B — April 25, 2013 @ 10:10 am

  83. Bourn – DL with 1 steal for the year
    Reyes – DL with 5 for the year
    Ellsbury – ok (but brittle) 10 steals
    Trout – ok, with 3 steals
    Ichiro – old, with zero steals
    Bourjos – zero steals
    Gomez – 2 steals
    BJ Upton – 3 steals
    Gordon – zero
    Davis – 5 steals

    combined for less than 30 steals, and if not for Ellsbury, for less than 20. Not quite what I would call huge threats on the basepaths (yet). And, several of them sport very low averages (or similar stats). Cant steal first base (well, not from the batters box anyways).

    Comment by Cidron — April 25, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

  84. Re cold weather: check warm weather parks vs cold ones.
    If Coors and Target fields have like no steals but Rangers and Miami are at normal rates, then we can see a significant factor.

    I think its wrong to sweep and say better hitting catchers > worse throws to second.

    Is this article about SB attempts or the caught stealing %? Just because the caught % is low doesn’t necessarily mean the catchers are bad. It may just mean only the very best basestealers are trying, or attempts are only happening when a pitcher is slow to home and has weak moves.

    Comment by Jon Woo — May 8, 2013 @ 8:04 pm

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