If you’ve been reading my posts over the last eight months, you know I enjoy writing about quirky players, quirky stats and quirky stories. If you enjoy those too, read on. If not, read on anyway. You might find this one interesting.
Monday afternoon, Matthew Leach, a terrific national baseball writer for MLB.com, tweeted: “Starlin Castro: more CS than BB. Guessing not many guys have kept that up over a full season.” Good guess. Not many have.
Let’s look first at Castro’s numbers.
In his first 211 plate appearances of the season, Castro’s drawn only four walks. Four. That’s a 1.9 percent walk rate. Only Clint Barmes of the Pirates has a lower walk rate among qualified position players, at 1.3 percent.
Two years ago, during his rookie season, Castro had a 5.7 percent walk rate. That dropped to 4.9 percent in 2011. We would expect Castro’s walk rate to rise from 1.9 percent as the season progresses, in light of his career numbers and the fact that it is pretty hard to play everyday in 2012 and maintain a walk rate below two percent.
Castro’s stolen fourteen bases so far this season and been caught attempting to steal five times. That’s a 73.7 percent success rate, up from a 71.9 percent success rate in 2011, and a 55.5 percent success rate in 2012. We shouldn’t be surprised to see Castro end the season with a success rate somewhere in the range of 70-75 percent, given his career numbers and the likelihood that his base-stealing skills are improving.
That’s four walks and five caught stealing for Castro so far this season. If his walk rate increases just a bit — to, say 2.5 percent — and his stolen base percentage stays constant or improves, Castro is unlikely to join the short list of players who were caught stealing more times than walked over a full season. I’m defining “full season” as having at least 502 plate appearances.
Here’s the list:
The first thing you notice is the 55-year gap between Shano Collins, who was caught stealing more than he walked in 1922, and Garry Templeton, the next most recent player to accomplish the feat, in 1977.
Why the long gap? One possible explanation is the lower walk rate league-wide in the 1912-1922 period — only 7.6 percent on average — than in the period from 1923-1976. In those 54 seasons, the lowest league-wide walk rate was 7.6 percent in 1968 and the highest was 10.4 percent in 1948. From 1977 to this season, the league-wide walk rate has been between 8.1 (in 1988 and this season) and 9.6 percent (in 2000).
The second thing you notice is the stolen base rates. All of these players were successful in their steal attempts far less frequently than Starlin Castro has been this season. Only Ozzie Guillen’s 68 percent stolen base rate is close to Castro’s current clip of 73.7 percent.
The third thing you notice is the on-base percentages for the players. Only two players had OBP above .300. Sure, these players had low walk rates, but they also didn’t hit their way onto base much either. And yet, when they did get on base, they tried to make the most of it with steal attempts. After Tuesday’s action, Castro’s OBP is at .322.
More caught stealing than walks over a full season. An odd feat, accomplished by only ten players since 1901 and twice by Ozzie Guillen. The odds are low that Starlin Castro will become the eleventh player on the list but with quirky stats like these, you never know.