As MLB Steals Increase, The Orioles Cutback

The stolen base is a fascinating aspect of baseball. Some may argue that it can be a hindrance at times. However, we all know that a true “base-threat” can completely alter the outcome of a game. In 2012 we saw the likes of Mike Trout (90.7 SB%), Michael Bourn (76.0 SB%) and others speed around the bases and provide superb value for their respective team.

While there was not one player that stole over 50 bases, it was the second time in the past 10 years that the MLB had over 3000 SB. Below is a chart showing the SB, CS, and SB% from the past 10 years. I also calculated the average SB from each year:

As shown above, it is obvious that the attempts at stealing have gradually increased over the past ten years. While the SB% has stayed relatively the same, it is clear that the SB has been given an increased role this decade. Much of this has to do with better pitching and less home runs, but some teams seem to have reverted back to a “small-ball” type of game too. With all this said, how have the Orioles matched up?

Obviously the Orioles live and die by the long ball. They were second in home runs, and last in SB in 2012. This chart below shows the Orioles’ SB success over the past ten years:

It is fairly easy to guess what years Brian Roberts was healthy and Corey Patterson was a fixture in the OF. The interesting part of the Orioles SB plan is that they have not been over 100 SB in the past five years. I think some of that has do with the personnel that they have on the field, but it does seem that they have taken a passive approach when it comes to potentially giving up runs. This probably ties in with the Orioles seemingly bunting less-than others too.

It is interesting to see the Orioles almost going in the opposite direction as the rest of the MLB. While the SB totals increase for the rest of the league, the Orioles seemingly are regressing in this aspect. In 2012 there were only 11 teams that did not hit the 100 SB mark. There were only five teams that did not hit the 90 SB mark (Tigers, Reds, Pirates, Mets, Orioles). Only the Orioles and Tigers did not reach 60 SB on the year.

The Orioles have also been below the average SB mark the past five years, as shown above on the charts. Only in 2011 was their SB% above the average in those past five years. So either way this is looked at, the Orioles are simply a team that does not (or can’t) run.

This leads us into 2013. Clearly the Orioles are one-dimensional in the aspect that they essentially have the minimal amount of team speed. While they can certainly get by hitting 200 home runs in 2013, it would definitely be comforting if they had someone whom can spark the top of the lineup. While my goal is not to turn this into a hot-stove piece, I do think the Orioles should look into getting someone with a little speed into the lineup. Maybe Nate McLouth can be that player, or maybe someone else. Regardless, the Orioles are behind the pack when it comes to speed. It may not be the worst thing, but I do think the team will only get better with a little more balance.

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About the author

Tucker Blair  

Tucker Blair was born and raised in the Baltimore area and currently lives in Elkridge, Maryland. He graduated from York College of Pennsylvania with a B.S in Entrepreneurial Studies and is currently a Project Analyst for a Management Consulting Firm in Federal Hill, Baltimore. Tucker was previously the Managing Editor at Orioles Nation, where he worked on prospect lists, reports, and analysis on the Orioles minor league system. He also previously wrote his personal blog, The EntreprenOriole.

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2 Responses to As MLB Steals Increase, The Orioles Cutback

  1. Bob Lessick says:

    A couple of things:

    Stolen base percentage is very important because a caught stealing is far more devastating than a stolen base is effective. Total Baseball developed “Stolen Base Runs,” which is SB * (.3) – CS * (.6). Others use a matrix based approach to estimate the same. For simplicity, let’s look at Trout and Bourn.

    Trout: 49 SB, 5CS = 49(.3) – 5(.6) = 11.8 runs
    Bourn: 42 SB, 13 CS = 42(.3) – 13(.6) = 4.8 runs

    Trout is FAR more valuable, but Bourn is still very good. So it’s not just getting a player with good speed; it’s getting effective base runners and that’s harder to find.

    You mention that Detroit was the only other team with less than 60SB. I think the 2012 season suggests that both teams had pretty good years anyway.

  2. Tucker Blair says:

    I agree that SB% is very important to look at. I wrote a piece last season that the Orioles were conservative yet productive on the bases (as their 76.42 SB% indicated).

    Trout is one of a kind this year. I could have certainly used a better example than Bourn (Coco Crisp comes to mind).

    I think the goal of this was not really to knock the Orioles (or Tigers for that matter), but to show there are areas they can certainly improve on. I am not begging the Orioles to go out and find someone whom can steal 40 bases, although that would be nice. I like the conservative approach, but thought it was interesting that they have declined so much in the past couple years in all aspects.

    Thanks for the comment, very solid points.

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