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Pick-offs and Stolen Base Attempts

Last week, I looked at which teams were most likely to have players thrown out while running the bases (e.g caught stealing, picked-off, throw out while trying to take extra base, etc). In the comments of the article, it was discussed that the more aggressive base running teams are more likely to be thrown out on the bases. I am working toward a better solution for those base running numbers, but in the meantime I found some nice information on players getting picked-off.

The more aggressive a team is at attempting a stolen base, the more likely they are of getting picked-off. It seems like common sense to me, but I have had too many incorrect ideas to leave it only to instinct. The following graph looks at the attempted steals versus pick-offs for all teams from 2005 to 2009:

As it can be seen, the more aggressive a team is attempting to steal, the more likely they are of getting picked-off. Using the equation of the best fit line, it can be determined that for every 12.5 stolen base a team attempts, one player is likely to get picked off (12.5 attempts * 0.080 = 1).

Note: The relationship between the two values, doesn’t mean that one directly caused the other. There could be other factors at work on the two values.

I took this examination one step further and compared the times caught stealing versus time picked-off. I was looking to see if teams that were bad at stealing bases were also bad at getting picked-off:

My hunch was correct in that the r-squared (how closed one set of values correlates to another sets of values) is a bit higher (0.37 vs 0.32) for the caught stealing data. Using the values from the equation, it can be shown that for every 3 times a player is caught stealing, they are likely to be picked-off once (0.32 * 3 = ~1).

So far this season the numbers are similar to the previous 5 seasons as seen in the following two graphs:

Aggressive base stealing teams are more likely to be picked-off thereby removing a base runner. Rich Lederer proposed back in 2006 that the caught stealing value should include both caught stealing and picked-off numbers. I am not sure how the baseball community would accept that change, but if someone does include picked-off outs into caught stealing values, I could understand the reason why. For now it seems that teams looking to get an extra jump for a stolen base seem get thrown before they have the chance than those that are less likely to attempt the steal in the first place.