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SAGNOF refers to “saves/steals ain’t got no face”. In other words, they can come from unlikely sources throughout the season and us fantasy baseball folk shouldn’t sell the farm for them on draft day. Let me tell you, 2013 was no exception. When I received my series assignment from Grey earlier this year, I was excited to explore steals as a topic for my column, if only because I knew it would help a lot of people out there do better in the category. I also couldn’t recall many other fantasy sites hitting steals as a primary topic week-in and week out, so hats off to Razzball for being ahead of the game yet again.

It was fascinating to follow along as players rose and fell in value based on steals alone, and even more fascinating to watch match-ups against certain teams yield steals in bunches. This offseason, I’ll be posting every other week and sticking with the stolen base as my focus. We’ll start by taking a look back, but then we’ll shift our gaze forward to 2014 and see if we can get a leg up on the competition prior to our drafts next spring. Let’s get started with a look at the big picture when it comes to steals over the last five years…

YEAR  # SB (MLB)  # PLAYERS WITH 30+ SB 
2008 2,799 16
2009 2,970 17
2010 2,959 19
2011 3,279 20
2012 3,229 23
2013 2,693 16

 

If there’s anything to be gleaned from this table above, it’s that steals were suddenly more precious in fantasy baseball in 2013. After enjoying two straight years of over 3,000 steals around the Major Leagues, we suddenly saw a dropoff of almost 600 stolen bases. Seven players who were able to reach the 30-steal mark in 2012 vanished in 2013. Owners who were able to capitalize on the principle of SAGNOF and pick guys up who were great basestealers really helped their teams in a year where stolen bases where fewer and far between (er). For example, if you picked up Nate McLouth for the first half of the season, and Eric Young for the second half, you ended up with 54 stolen bases on the year from what was most likely your fourth or fifth outfield slot. Here’s a look at the 16 players who were able to hit 30 steals this past year (and Billy Hamilton for s’s and g’s).

PLAYER PA SB ADP
Jacoby Ellsbury 636 52 46
Eric Young 598 46 260+
Rajai Davis 360 45 260+
Jean Segura 623 44 228
Alex Rios 662 42 84
Elvis Andrus 698 42 89
Starling Marte 566 41 224
Carlos Gomez 590 40 117
Everth Cabrera 435 37 221
Leonys Martin 508 36 260+
Jose Altuve 672 35 95
Jarrod Dyson 239 34 260+
Mike Trout 716 33 3
Jason Kipnis 658 30 70
Alexei Ramirez 674 30 199
Nate McLouth 593 30 260+
Billy Hamilton * 22 13 260+

So this is SAGNOF in table form. Instead of drafting Jacoby Ellsbury and his 52 steals, picking up Nate McLouth and then Eric Young actually would have netted you 2 more stolen bases if you made the swap at the break.

I highlighted Davis and Dyson because of what they were able to accomplish in such limited playing time. If either were able to get a full season’s worth of playing time, I believe they could easily lead their respective leagues in stolen bases.

Looking at the table, 5-of-the-16 players in MLB this year who accumulated 30 steals or more were most likely available on the waiver wire at some point, and only six of them would have cost you a pick in the top-100 overall. Will those draft positions change for 2014? Of course. But there will also be a new crop of players who seem to come out of nowhere to provide stolen bases for your fantasy squads. Those are the guys we’re going to help you find, and those are the guys that can help you win your league. Oh, and then there is Billy Hamilton, who gets mentioned simply because of the ridiculousness of that ratio of plate appearances to stolen bases.

I’ll be back in two weeks with the best (and worst) pitchers at holding baserunners from 2013.

If you’re a Tweeter on Twitter, you can follow me @643ball

  1. Gregorious Chant says:
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    Fantastic work Mike I really learned a lot this year! Your research and insight definitely played a strong role in winning a championship this year! Tip of the Sir!

  2. Jay

    Jay says:
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    Great stuff Mike. To me, this post really drives home the point that Trout is *really really* valuable, as opposed to just really valuable.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      @Jay: thanks Jay! Yeah, the steals he provided were that much more precious when you think about the overall decline in steals this past year.

    • Elijah says:
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      @Jay:

      Exactly what I thought reading that chart.

  3. Wake Up says:
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    Where have all the steals gone? Along with cowboys, my first inclination is to check Paula Cole’s armpits…

      • Wake Up says:
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        @Mike: Where have they gone, though? Lineups are not getting any slower. Great defensive outfielders are being emphasized. So, why are steals down? I like using the net steals cat. over steals. Fast runners don’t necessarily equal good basestealers. Fast, bad, basestealers don’t equal runs. Even basestealers need to occasionally let the beat, drop. Outs equal don’t run.

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          @Wake Up: there are lots of factors, making base stealing more of an art than a science, but I agree that fast doesn’t equal steals. managers being more conservative or adjustments made by pitchers and catchers can make an impact obviously. there was a post I did earlier this year on McClouth that referenced a really interesting interview with Showalter. Running into outs is no good. it might be interesting to see what spikes in other statistics during the years that steals drop. My guess is that it is just kind of volatile and could bounce back up next year just as easily as it could continue to decline.

          • Simply Fred

            simply fred says:
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            @Mike: I grew up with Billy Ball. Sadly, baseball catching on to ‘not running into outs’. Think there are plenty of guys who could light it up (Bonifacio to KC a good example), but managers not willing to flip the switch.

            Appreciate your incite!

            Let’s see…will the new Cincy manager take a chance on letting Billy run?
            Thinking old school wins the day on that one… :-)

            • Mike

              Mike says:
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              @simply fred: thanks man! I think he will, not using that kind of speed would be just silly… but who knows. If he does get the green light, it could be really spectacular.

            • Wake Up says:
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              @simply fred: yep…this is what I was attempting to say…

              • goodfold2 says:
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                @Wake Up: it’s the >70% thing, basic sabremet. if anyone will beat the shit outta 70%, it’s billy. he was caught, what, once, when they knew he was stealing EVERY time.

  4. JoeyBelle says:
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    Do you think Mclouth tops 25 SBs next year? Alexei? McLouth is a FA right, i guess it depends where he lands.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      @JoeyBelle: yes, I think he does, if he can find himself at the top of a lineup again and is on a team that is at least somewhat aggressive on the base paths. I don’t see any reason why Alexei couldn’t either , but both guys are getting a little long in the tooth I think and speed can evaporate with age obviously.

      • Juan Lucky Pierre says:
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        @Mike: There was an interesting post from Grey or Rudy about McLouth’s drop off in steals, where McLouth said, he was going on certain moves and pitches and once the pitchers caught on and adjusted he couldnt’t get away with the easy steals anymore.

        He was at 24 steals through end of June and only stole 6 the rest of the way.

    • Juan Lucky Pierre says:
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      @Mike: Dat be da one!! Based on that, I wouldn’t draft McLouth as he is purely an opportunistic base stealer. I like my SAGNOFs to be fully transparent in their approach–see Rajai. I bet McLouth goes higher than he should because he is a legit 20/20 but I wouldn’t go after him for steals.

      • Mike

        Mike says:
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        @Juan Lucky Pierre: yeah, there’s a lot of truth in that. No reason to go hard after a guy like McClouth

      • Wake Up says:
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        @Juan Lucky Pierre: a legit 20/20? Haven’t seen that kinda power in 5 years from Mclouth?

    • Wake Up says:
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      @Mike: great article…I missed it the first time through…

      • Mike

        Mike says:
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        @Wake Up: thanks man! I appreciate that :)

  5. Farm Director says:
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    How many steals for Dyson or Davis next year?

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      @Farm Director: give either one 500 PA and they could swipe 50, but i would imagine its more realistic for Rajai to accomplish that, like he did with the A’s in 2010. As much as i like Dyson, its hard to see how he finds the necessary playing time to make him the same kind of impact as somebody like Rajai, who every year finds a way to get at bats . so il be more conservative with Dyson and say 30 steals.

  6. Dave says:
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    I’m curious to see where Everth goes in some mocks this winter. He was on a 60 steal pace and while there’s going to be questions surrounding him there could be good value there if he can maintain some of the gains he made last season, especially with how bad shortstop is.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      @Dave: me too. It will be interesting to see how people perceive his value. i waited on shortstop last year in a standard snake and it worked out really well.

      • goodfold2 says:
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        @Mike: depends on how much roids helped his speed too, though.

  7. Yager says:
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    SAGNOF trade that won me my league: Junior Lake for EY Jr. I will forever immortalize The Great Eric Young Jr.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      @Yager: thats an awesome trade. Congrats dude!

  8. Buzzdainer says:
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    I traded Ryan Raburn in June to get Rajai Davis. While both players performed admirably from then to end of the season, the 26 steals I got from Davis helped me win my extremely deep, highly competitive 20-team league–whereas keeping Raburn would have meant finishing third or fourth. All hail Rajai!

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      @Buzzdainer: sweet! congrats man! its amazing how quickly you can earn roto points when you get a huge steals boost like that. Good stuff

      • goodfold2 says:
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        @Mike: everybody traded raburn during that crazy 2 day weirdness. I got only ruiz in a 16 teamer where I badly needed catcher, waited for avila too long and barely missed castro.

  9. goodfold2 says:
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    unless one of king raj and prince dyson were traded, wouldn’t the league they would win steals for be the AL? both AL guys.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      @goodfold2: I think Davis is a free agent…

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