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Twins Tidbit: Where have the Stolen Bases Gone?


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The Twins are the most conservative base stealers in the league. But does that imply they should be more aggressive on the base paths?

The above graph shows stolen base attempts and successfully stolen bases for each major league team along with the MLB average. A few notes:

  • The Twins have the fewest stolen base attempts in the league with 20 and are tied for the fewest successful steals at 13.
  • 76 percent of steal attempts have been successful in the league in 2022. The Twins, in their limited attempts, have been successful in 65 percent of attempts.
  • The AL Central is not especially active on the base paths. Only the Royals and Guardians are more active than the average MLB team, and not by much.

So how much meat are the Twins leaving on the bone by being the most conservative MLB team on the base paths? If they were as aggressive as the average base-stealing team, they would have attempted an additional 25 steals. At their current success rate, they would have taken 16 additional bases with the increased aggressiveness (and ran into 9 more outs!).

Currently, the Twins are 7th in the majors in OPS at 0.733. Including walks, they have taken 1,160 bases offensively. Stolen bases are an exceedingly small fraction of any team's offensive output. If you added 16 bases to their Twins' output, their OPS would increase to 0.740, good enough for 6th in the majors. Is that worth the 9 additional outs from the additional runners who get caught?


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1 hour ago, TwinsData said:

The Twins are the most conservative base stealers in the league. But does that imply they should be more aggressive on the base paths?

The above graph shows stolen base attempts and successfully stolen bases for each major league team along with the MLB average. A few notes:

  • The Twins have the fewest stolen base attempts in the league with 20 and are tied for the fewest successful steals at 13.
  • 76 percent of steal attempts have been successful in the league in 2022. The Twins, in their limited attempts, have been successful in 65 percent of attempts.
  • The AL Central is not especially active on the base paths. Only the Royals and Guardians are more active than the average MLB team, and not by much.

So how much meat are the Twins leaving on the bone by being the most conservative MLB team on the base paths? If they were as aggressive as the average base-stealing team, they would have attempted an additional 25 steals. At their current success rate, they would have taken 16 additional bases with the increased aggressiveness (and ran into 9 more outs!).

Currently, the Twins are 7th in the majors in OPS at 0.733. Including walks, they have taken 1,160 bases offensively. Stolen bases are an exceedingly small fraction of any team's offensive output. If you added 16 bases to their Twins' output, their OPS would increase to 0.740, good enough for 6th in the majors. Is that worth the 9 additional outs from the additional runners who get caught?

 

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Paranoia strikes deep, into your game it will creep.

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The game evolves quickly.  In 2019 the balls traveled well making stealing of bases more risky in terms of ROI. However with fewer HR in 2022, the ability to work counts to take walks, and the stealing of bases has likely increased.  However, our top base stealer (Buxton) also risks injury every time he attempts to swap a bag.  Don't like seeing us last in stolen bases, and would prefer to be closer to middle of the pack so opposing pitchers and catchers had to at least worry about us trying to steal one.

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42 minutes ago, farmerguychris said:

The game evolves quickly.  In 2019 the balls traveled well making stealing of bases more risky in terms of ROI. However with fewer HR in 2022, the ability to work counts to take walks, and the stealing of bases has likely increased.  However, our top base stealer (Buxton) also risks injury every time he attempts to swap a bag.  Don't like seeing us last in stolen bases, and would prefer to be closer to middle of the pack so opposing pitchers and catchers had to at least worry about us trying to steal one.

Agree, injury is the top reason and 2nd is that it seems that maybe they aren't teaching them how to steal. I've seen too many times with runners on 3B & 1B with 0-1 outs and they don't send runner at 1B. In the past that was a given. 

To me that's really sad, we have fast runners. Why not teach & have our runners steal bases? IMO it makes the game more exciting and it shakes up the pitchers.

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I think one of the reasons the Twins don't run is that usually the fastest guys on the team play up the middle. Correa hasn't stole a base since 2019 and only 6 since 2016, Polanco has never really stolen bases and isn't really that great at it. Buxton has been hurt and hasn't really been a big running threat for the last 5 years or so (again injuries)

One of the biggest threats (Gordon) doesn't really get on base, and none of the other outfielders run really at all. Not expecting anything from 3B, 1B, and C. That is how you get the 2022 MN Twins running game (Steals).

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I completely understand adhering to the statistics when deciding whether to attempt base stealing.  But the enthusiasm for baseball I developed decades ago when seeing Lou Brock or Rickey Henderson swipe bases was irreplaceable.  Older me likes WAR and OPS+, but younger me needed the pizzazz to become a fan.  Perhaps this matters to today's "younger me's" as well...

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I love the stolen bases - I enjoyed the Go-go Sox of Fox and Aparicio, I loved the Cardinals under Whitey Herzog, It was great to have Billy Martin get Carew stealing home, Maury Wills led a Dodgers team that was not among the best hitters in baseball, Coleman, Henderson, and Brock could hit, score, drive the other team nuts.

With catchers forgetting how to throw out runners, or unable with on knee on the ground we are eliminating a spark that might eliminate one of our many shutouts or one or two run games.  The Piranha's Twins teams scored runs that we could never get with this team.

For all the good Bill James has done, he has really killed the joy of the SB with his statistics which do not measure disruption, morale, and other intangibles. 

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Base stealing has a lot of components to it.  Runner, pitcher, catcher, hitter.  Buck has been dealing with knee issue all year, so he has been not even attempting steals, but my guess he might in big situations if needed.  However, I would much rather keep him at 1st and not risk further injury for 90 feet.  The rest of the team no one is even been known as a great base stealer.  Maybe because we do not do it, or maybe because they are just no good at it. 

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3 hours ago, TwinsDr2021 said:

I think one of the reasons the Twins don't run is that usually the fastest guys on the team play up the middle. Correa hasn't stole a base since 2019 and only 6 since 2016, Polanco has never really stolen bases and isn't really that great at it. Buxton has been hurt and hasn't really been a big running threat for the last 5 years or so (again injuries)

One of the biggest threats (Gordon) doesn't really get on base, and none of the other outfielders run really at all. Not expecting anything from 3B, 1B, and C. That is how you get the 2022 MN Twins running game (Steals).

Kepler stole 10 bases last year without being caught; Polanco 11-6: 2017  Buxton 29-1, last year 9-1: last year Gordon 10-1

The can do it, they just do not.

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9 minutes ago, Trov said:

Base stealing has a lot of components to it.  Runner, pitcher, catcher, hitter.  Buck has been dealing with knee issue all year, so he has been not even attempting steals, but my guess he might in big situations if needed.  However, I would much rather keep him at 1st and not risk further injury for 90 feet.  The rest of the team no one is even been known as a great base stealer.  Maybe because we do not do it, or maybe because they are just no good at it. 

It seems Baldelli thinks so also and the Twins are dropping fast, while other teams put base stealers in scoring position because Jeffers/pitchers can or do nothing about it.

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Once I saw you tried to mislead by truncating you chart endpoints, I couldn't actually read.  That's a no-no.  Your charts implies far more variation than there is, and variation is what the argument is based on (always).

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Stealing is just one of multiple components that are lacking.  Bunting for hits, bunting runners along, the classic hit and run, and, as we are talking about stealing bases are all things Rocco doesn't believe are consistent elements of the game we need to incorporate.  Can't give up, or risk giving up, an out for a base.  Keeping the defense honest and going on the offensive in all aspects of the game is simply not his style.  We have been at or near the bottom of the league in all of those categories since Rocco stepped foot in the dugout.  Whether it be his analytics or simply his fear of injury every time a player makes a baseball move, he isn't going to change, so we better hope we hit a lot of home runs and throw a lot of low scoring games.  

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9 hours ago, twinstalker said:

Once I saw you tried to mislead by truncating you chart endpoints, I couldn't actually read.  That's a no-no.  Your charts implies far more variation than there is, and variation is what the argument is based on (always).

This is typically a bigger issue with something like a bar chart where a reader might infer something from the size of the bar. With a scatter plot, a reader should immediately jump to the axes to gauge the values at each point. But I take your point. There are tradeoffs in data visualization.

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Rocco tried stealing last night with Gordon who got caught.  Then a big hit which would have scored Gordon did not because he was not on base.

I also would like to see more stealing but we need coaches who can properly instruct runners the art of stealing a base in addition to coaches instructing pitchers in how to hold them on and catchers in throwing them out.  Maybe if we get the computer balls and strike calls it will get catchers to stop the one leg on the ground to help with framing pitches and allow them to be in a better position to throw out the runner.

I.e. we can't blame the players if they've not been coached up.

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2 hours ago, Bigfork Twins Guy said:

Rocco tried stealing last night with Gordon who got caught.  Then a big hit which would have scored Gordon did not because he was not on base.

I also would like to see more stealing but we need coaches who can properly instruct runners the art of stealing a base in addition to coaches instructing pitchers in how to hold them on and catchers in throwing them out.  Maybe if we get the computer balls and strike calls it will get catchers to stop the one leg on the ground to help with framing pitches and allow them to be in a better position to throw out the runner.

I.e. we can't blame the players if they've not been coached up.

Gordon failed to steal , so I doubt he would have scored on that hit, although an out at home is more palatable than a failed steal at that point.

I am surprised when Jeffers threw the ball into center field the runner did not keep going.

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There are times when they don't steal that make no sense... like when there are two outs and Arraez (who until recently is unlikely to hit anything but a single) is up. Get the guy on second and give Arraez the chance for an RBI. If they guy is caught stealing, Arraez leads off the next inning.  But in a lot of cases... with Buxton at least, I think they assume a good hit can score him from first. So there is no sense in risking his knees or getting him out at second. 

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