Chicks Dig the Stolen Base

By JCMcLaughlin
Jan. 06, 2018

Speed. It's scarce and may be for a long time to come. I write all of these posts with keeper/dynasty in mind. Because of that I tend to prefer sluggers over speedsters. Speed doesn't age well generally. Some exceptions aside, obviously. That doesn't mean power ages well either. I think of the current Albert Pujols hobbling around the bases 25 times per year. Really, I guess nothing ages well. Ok, depressing start. Let's move along. In dynasty we play for the long haul but we often, maybe most of the time, play for the current season. That means that in most formats, you don't want to ignore SBs.

If you are going to punt a category, I can understand why it might be SBs. They don't really directly impact any other category. A 30 SB player gets you just that; 30 SBs. A 30 home run hitter gets you 30 home runs, 30 runs, 30 rbis, 30 hits, etc. But, providing you aren't planning on punting SBs there is something you need to know: They are more valuable than gold. They are more valuable than platinum. They are way more valuable than home runs.

Why do I say this? Well, things have changed in MLB over the last 10-15 years. Obviously we aren't going to look back at the 80s. That was the height of the SB and parks and teams were built for the track. But even 10-15 years ago you had more running. And you had more players who put up legitimate SB numbers. That might be all they contributed (I see you Scott Podseknik, Juan Pierre, Ryan Freel, Endy Chavez, Willy Taveras), but they filled up the SB category. This past season, there were a couple of players that only filled the SB category, but they didn't do it as well. I am looking at Cameron Maybin, Raji Davis, and Jarrod Dyson. If you want steals + in 2018, you need to buy the elite. And it will cost you. Trea Turner. 1st rd. Jose Altuve. 1st Rd. Charlie Blackmon. 1st rd. Heck, Blackmon doesn't really even run anymore. He has 31 steals the last two years, combined. He has been thrown out 19 times over the same period. With those ratios Colorado should, and will pull the plug on Charlie swiping second. But that's the reality on steals today. You probably thought he was still a SB threat. I considered him one until I wrote this piece. In reality he is not going to help much there.

We often talk about dual threat players. 20/20 guys. They are great. They help everywhere. They just don't help equally everywhere. To me, 20/20 implies that the stats are of similar value, somewhat equal. That couldn't be further from the truth. Last year in MLB there were 6105 home runs. There were 2527 stolen bases. The break down is 2.42 home runs per stolen base. If home runs and stolen bases were mathematically equal it wouldn't be 20/20, it would be 20/8.26.

So I took this into consideration when looking at free agents in one league recently. Let's say I only wanted to look at HR and SB to make my decision on which players to roster. To be honest, those often are the predominate stats I look at. How would I weigh a Raji Davis against an Albert Pujols? In this scenario both will be owned. I think both will land a similar contract at auction. But should they?

I decided to change up my evaluation process and add the total number of home runs and stolen bases together. The higher the number the higher I would rank the player. If the totals are high the player is obviously getting ABs and hits. Here's who I got:

Billy Hamilton 63

Dee Gordon 62

Giancarlo Stanton 61

Aaron Judge 61

Trea Turner 57

Jose Altuve 56

Mike Trout 55

Paul Goldschmidt 54

Whit Merrifield 53

Charlie Blackmon 51

Mookie Betts 50

Brian Dozier 50

Wil Meyers 50

JD Martinez 49

Cody Bellinger 49

Justin Upton 49

Tommy Pham 48

Fransico Lindor 48

Joey Gallo 48

Khris Davis 47

Steven Souza 46

Jose Ramirez 46

Byron Buxton 45

Elvis Andrus 45

Rougned Odor 45

Domingo Santana 45

Brett Gardner 44

Cameron Maybin 43

Yasiel Puig 43

29 players combined for at least 43 hr/sb. I was actually surprised it was that many. The positional breakdown is:

C 0

1b 4

2b 6

SS 3

3b 2

OF 21

I was curious what the list would look like, if we gave equal weight to hr and sbs. So I multiplied All of these players sb totals by 2.42 and added that to their hr total. Here's what that looked like:

Gordon 147.2

Hamilton 146.78

Turner 122.32

Altuve 101.44

Merrifield 101.28

Maybin 89.86

Betts 86.92

Trout 86.24

Buxton 86.18

Pham 83.5

Andrus 80.5

Goldschmidt 79.56

Myers 78.4

Gardner 76.66

Judge 73.78

Dozier 72.72

Blackmon 70.88

Ramirez 70.14

Lindor 69.3

Upton 68.88

Souza 68.72

Odor 66.3

Santana 66.3

Puig 64.3

Stanton 63.84

Bellingner 63.2

Gallo 57.94

Martinez 54.68

Davis 52.68

So here you go. If home runs and stolen bases were really even, if chicks dug stealing second like they do the long ball then this is how these 29 players would stack up. This goes without saying but I will say it anyway. If you land Gordon or Hamilton, shoot even Turner, you will at least compete for the sb title. Gordon and Hamilton each accounted for over 2% of all stolen bases last year.

I think where this list has value is the low adp players. That's almost always were the value is found, I know, but stay with me. Let's say you end up with a player like Merrifield, Betts, or Trout to anchor your steals. Great. You managed to get a guy that has a shot at 25-30 bags. Those are not too common. But they don't win the category by themselves. You can now look for a player like Andrus, like Gardner, like Souza, like Puig. Heck you could even look for a player like Jose Peraza or Jacoby Ellsbury. By the 2.42 method they scored 60.66 and 60.24. Both are back of the draft pieces that won't cost you much. And you probably won't play either everyday. But, they do have more value than their ADP. Because steals are not as common as HR. Ellsbury was 20th in sbs and has nothing else going for him fantasy wise. The player with 20 Hrs? Tim Beckham, 95th in baseball. Also tied with 9 other players.

Don't punt steals. I am not advocating reaching for Hamilton and Gordon. I would advocate reaching for Altuve if that is even possible. But, steals are rare. Be aware of that going into the draft. Be aware of who will contribute in multiple categories; they will stay in your lineup everyday. Be aware that you can be more than competitive in the category by grabbing a handful of the guys above. With one of your last picks, grab an Ellsbury, or a Kevin Pillar, or a Tim Anderson. I bet they all find their way to your lineup more often than you think. Even getting 10 of their 17 steals on the year in your lineup is likely good for one or two spots in that category. Don't punt steals. Don't reach for them, but grab them when others are looking at 20 home run hitters.