Daily fantasy: stealing wins

As long time fantasy players know, the stolen base is one of the toughest of all categories to predict over a season. Needless to say, this task gets even more difficult when you try to predict who’s going to swipe a bag from day-to-day in the world of daily fantasy baseball.

What follows is a compilation of stats that I feel can be a big help in predicting when guys have a good chance of being on the move, as well as circumstances that should show us that its not worth taking the chance.

But before we get into that, it is important to emphasize the point-scoring significance of the SB. On your typical daily fantasy site, the stolen bag is worth two points or roughly the equivalent of a double. And at the infrequent rate at which the SB occurs, this high value of scoring for that stat is most certainly worthwhile and warranted. So therefore it is something we would love to see happen on our daily team on a regular basis.

So how can we as the player, figure out when a guy is going to steal? Well we have to review what are the FIVE most significant stats relating to prediction of the stolen base, as chosen by yours truly. They are as follows:

Here are the eight MLB teams that averaged more than .70 steals per game in 2010

Tampa Bay Rays – 1.06
Chicago White Sox – .99
Oakland A’s – .96
Seattle Mariners – .88
New York Mets – .80
Texas Rangers – .79
San Diego Padres – .77
Kansas City Royals – .71

Why this is important: It’s all about philosophy. Some teams don’t want to steal, while others need to if they want to have any chance at scoring runs. These 10 teams had running as a part of their offense in 2010 and, as you will see, these teams heavily correlate with some of the to top individual base stealers in the league. This is the first consideration I would like you to make when you are searching for the base stealer for your success. Is the team he plays on a team that runs?

Here are the nine MLB pitchers who allowed more than 25 SB against in 2010

A.J. Burnett – 37
Ervin Santana – 36
Fausto Carmona – 33
Tommy Hanson – 33
Carl Pavano – 31
Chris Volstad – 29
Jered Weaver – 27
Tim Lincecum – 27
John Lackey – 26

Why this is important: Some pitchers have absolutely devastating pickoff moves. Some do not. These are those guys. If the player you are considering is playing one of these pitchers who pays little attention to holding runners, there is a good chance he will take a shot at stealing a bag. Notice that all these guys are right-handed. Also notice that many of them have big strikeout numbers. These K masters often do not need to worry much about watching the runners. This is element two. How much attention will the night’s pitcher be giving to the basepaths?

Here are the eight MLB players who had 40+ SBs in 2010

Juan Pierre – 68
Michael Bourn – 52
Rajai Davis – 50
Carl Crawford – 47
Brett Gardner – 47
Chone Figgins – 42
Ichiro Suzuki – 42
B.J. Upton – 42

Why this is important: These are the guys who run. You would think this would be the most important thing, and essentially it is. But the point I am trying to make is that when evaluating the stolen base prospects of your daily fantasy team, it is important to consider other factors first. I would love for my readers to get in the habit of identifying conditions first, rather than just picking a fast guy. Your opponents will be the ones doing this. And they will be the ones running into a brick wall on the bases, simply because they didn’t evaluate all the factors related to stealing. Get a step ahead here, guys.

Four MLB catchers had a caught stealing percentage better than 30 percent in 2010

Yadier Molina – 49 percent
Miguel Olivo – 42 percent
Matt Wieters – 31 percent
Brian McCann – 30 percent

Why this is important: Guys do not run when they think they are going to get thrown out. These four catchers have shown over the long haul that they have the cannon needed to bust the speedsters. If a coach shuts down the basepaths because of a fabulous throwing catcher, than your guy has no shot of earning the bonus points the steals provide. So ask yourself, who’s behind the dish for the opposing squad?

Retroactive Review: Ace
Looking back at some of Justin Verlander's most interesting moments.

Five MLB catchers had a caught stealing percentage worse than 27 percent in 2010

Victor Martinez – 21 percent
Kurt Suzuki – 22 percent
Bengie Molina – 23 percent
Joe Mauer – 26 percent
A.J. Pierzynski – 26 percent

Why this is important: By the same token you need to know who can be run on. I’ve nicknamed this statistic the ‘Mike Piazza‘ factor. Everybody knew they could run on the Pizza Boy and teams would take off at will against him. This list identifies those modern catchers who can be run on. Learn them. Monitor them. Utilize them. The speedsters are gonna be moving when they know they have the advantage. You as a player, need to know when it exists.

So now you have what you need. Hopefully this will help you predict as accurately as possible when the stolen base is most likely to come into play on any given night. Use it wisely. Please do realize though, that in order to steal a base, the player must first get on base. There is simply no way around this. So picking B.J. Upton when he is mired in one of his seemingly endless slumps is probably NOT a good idea. But picking B.J. during one of his hotter streaks when he’s in a good ‘stolen base scenario’ probably is a good idea. A 2010 example isn’t difficult to identify. Say it’s one of the 18 divisional tilts against the Boston Red Sox. Combine the aforementioned battery of Victor Martinez and John Lackey with Upton’s base stealing ability and you have what shapes up to be a base stealer’s nearly ideal situation.

Keep these things in mind. Identify factors like the ones above that work in your favor. Don’t look for a reason to take a base stealer. Instead, identify a series of players you are interested in. Then review the statistics relevant to base stealing and see if there is something there that can help make up your mind on a certain player. Base stealers should not be counted on as your cornerstones of daily success. But they can help shift the score in your favor on many nights. And if you can use the guys that are apt to steal on the nights that they choose to run, you will be well on your way to stealing some wins from the stiff competition that exists in the world of daily fantasy.

See you all in two weeks, for our first in-season edition of the column.
(It just makes me excited to say that)

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Paul Singman
Paul Singman

Just curious, has anyone ever done a study on how consistent catcher caught stealing percentages are?