That’s what Moneyball said, but in 2008 that doesn’t appear to be reality. While doing some precursory research on Rajai Davis I stumbled upon his 35 stolen base attempts. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but Davis reached base only 61 times in 2008. That works out to Rajai attempting a steal 57% of his time on base. That doesn’t tell us how many times Davis was used as a pinch runner nor how many of those steals were with Oakland, but a quick glance at his gamelogs does.
31 of his attempts came with the A’s and only 10 attempts as a pinch runner. I took away those 10 pinch running attempts, and yet Davis still attempted a steal 41% of the time he got himself on base. That’s a lot, in fact, that’s the second highest percentage in baseball for those in the top 100 of stolen bases. Fluke, right?
Well, not too far below Davis name sat Eric Patterson, who attempted steals in 26% of his times on base. Eight of Patterson’s 11 steal attempts came with the Athletics, and three as a pinch runner. Impressively Patterson wasn’t caught in his eight Oakland tries. Even a little further down the list was Matt Holliday (12%), putting three somewhat recent Athletics acquisitions in the top 60.
After looking merely at team attempts, the legendary conservative Athletics ranked 19th in stolen base attempts, higher than “more athletic” (no pun intended) teams like Cleveland, Texas, Florida, and even Arizona. It’s worth noting the Athletics boasted the second best success rate just behind the Philadelphia Phillies. Not only did they run about as much an average team, but they chose their spots to maximize success.
Come draft day, keep this in mind. Just because Holliday is an Athletic, doesn’t mean his baserunning value is going to waste.