An Easy Way to Stream for Steals

With the end of the season looming, it could be time for you to stream for steals. After all, a directed, focused attack on the leaderboard is all that’s going to work right now. There are categories that you won’t make any headway in. And if steals is one of the categories that is ripe with opportunity, picking the best matchups could net you what you need.

But there’s an easy way and a hard way. As there usually is. But in this case, the easy way may be just as good or better.

The hard way is to look at the matchups on a day-by-day basis. Look at our defensive leaderboards to find the most stolen-on catcher, and then find an available speedster that’s going to face him. Cross your finger that the catcher doesn’t take a foul ball off the thumb tonight, or that the manager doesn’t get tricky with the lineup. Oh, and maybe take a peak at who’s pitching that particular day, to get a sense of how many stolen bases that particular pitcher gives up.

So you’ll find yourself with a speedster facing A.J. Burnett, Tommy Hanson and Ubaldo Jimenez on days that Rod Barajas, Brian McCann and Lou Marson are catching. In fact, those are some good matchups to exploit. A.J. Burnett has given up the most stolen bases in baseball, and Rod Barajas has caught five basestealers in 68 attempts against him (!). So, you can go that way.

But there’s an easier way.

You can actually look at teams as monoliths, and thereby avoid the particular matchups of the day. This will save you from any lineup or matchup shenanigans, and it will also help keep your strategy under wraps. If you make a change every three or six days, it won’t be as noticeable to your leaguemates, and they might not make an effort to block you. So you can look at this team leaderboard, gauge the general talent of the batteries on the other team, and make a three-game selection from your waiver wire.

You could look even larger picture than that. At the end of the season schedule is predictable. In an effort to help divisional races stay exciting, the schedule makers pit teams against teams in their division down the stretch. The Padres, for example, only see six games outside of their division once they finish with Pittsburgh. That’s typical. Since this is true, you could look at each division as a whole, and even pick one speedster for the rest of the season based on his matchups in the final month-plus.

Here’s your divisional leaderboard, then:

SB CS CS% Best Team Worst Team
NL East 379 141 0.271 Philadelphia Washington
NL Central 512 155 0.232 St. Louis Pittsburgh
NL West 344 140 0.289 Arizona San Diego
AL East 349 132 0.274 Toronto Tampa Bay
AL Central 371 169 0.313 Kansas City Minnesota
AL West 336 142 0.297 Oakland Texas

Now you can easily see that the NL Central is the place to be, especially if you’re picking from a non-Pittsburgh team. That should give players like Jon Jay (especially since he’s on the best CS% team in his division), Justin Maxwell and Nyjer Morgan a tiny boost in your estimation. The NL East, and Philly players in particular, also get a leg up here. Juan Pierre and Donovan Solano, come on down, depending on your league depth.

There are plenty of different depths to which you can drill. The point is to do it. Then you can decide how minutely you want to look at the stats.

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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

12 Responses to “An Easy Way to Stream for Steals”

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  1. supershredder says:

    Hell yes. Been doing this for the last few years. Didn’t know there was a leaderboard here for catcher’s defense. Nice.

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  2. DavidJ says:

    What do you think about grabbing Billy Hamilton for September? If he played any position other than shortstop I’d never consider it, but that position has been a black hole for me all season anyway, and it seems like Hamilton could easily get double-digit steals in September even if he’s used exclusively off the bench. I could see him having a bunch of games where he comes in as a pinch-runner and steals second and third right out of the chute.

    My team is strong at every position but shortstop and in every category but steals, so I feel like I’m in the perfect position to take a gamble on Hamilton. Plus, since he’d be getting relatively few at-bats, he wouldn’t be in a position to hurt my batting average much, unlike most of the shortstop options I have at this point. What do you think?

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  3. jon says:

    Eno – I need to replace Bonifacio’s steals and I’m also dropping L. Cain so I need to add a 2B/SS and an OF. Maybin might finally be heating up, do you think he’s a good add to replace Boni? SBs is by far the closest cat in my Roto league but we also count OPS where Maybin is terrible. Would you add someone like Cozart at 2B/SS to balance Maybin’s OPS or go for broke and and Maybin and 2B/SS speedster like Everth Cabrera? SBs (As you suggest) could make or break my season!

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    • Eno Sarris says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      San Diego is about to face the best defensive catchers in the bigs when it comes to the running game. I’d look to another team. Any more FAs you looking at? Someone who will play Pittsburgh more would be great — look at how bad pitt was against the run last night vs SD.

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    • mkries says:

      He’s probably not available, but Aoki of Milwaukee could be a solid source of steals from here on out. Hits leadoff in the NL Central.

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  4. Sam says:

    I never had any trouble getting steals. That’s the one category I almost always lead in roto leagues.

    Then again, I’m only actually winning one of those leagues, so who knows what I know.

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  5. NBH says:

    I didn’t crunch the numbers, but I would be shocked if this strategy worked. The best correlations with SB (in my opinion) are speed, playing time, OBP and team philosophy. If I’m chasing steals, I take guys with speed, opportunities to steal (OBP plus playing time) whose teams allow them to steal. Even if there was a 10% CS differential between the AL and NL Central (there is only 8%) you’re only talking about a difference of 1 steal per 10 attempts. Maybe there’s a “deterrence” factor – guys won’t make attempts against good batteries – but I think the gains here are slim – especially since the September batteries have the potential to be drastically different the the batteries to this point (i.e. you’re working off of bad data).

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    • Eno Sarris says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      I think this is an argument to go after a specific catcher or two. I’ll agree with that. I thought giving a few levels deep would help people in different leagues. I absolutely think that someone who faces Rod Barajas gets an advantage. A few of his recent games have been stupendous.

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  6. Shaun Catron says:

    Ryan Doumit, Dunkin Doumit

    America Runs on Dunkin

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