Steals might ain’t got no face, but team stolen base attempts definitely do got yes face. (Totally crushed this lede!)
Today we’re going to get into something that normally makes fantasy baseball FAR superior to fantasy football in my opinion: coaching decisions. You could have the best wide receiver in the game, but whoopsie daisy — Mike McCarthy decides he wants to run the ball a lot today. Now you’re out $500. At least with fantasy baseball, the manager will always put his best lineup on the field and it is completely up to the hitter to do his job. The coach isn’t telling him “Hey you, I don’t even want you to swing up there.”
Today’s article deals with managerial decisions on the basepath — specifically the stealing of second base. I’m going to let you in on some secrets on which managers have itchy trigger fingers when they have a runner on first with an empty base 90 feet away and those who are a bit gun shy when it comes to sending their runners. (Wow with all the violent imagery. What is this, CPAC?)
First, some alarming data — here are the average manager second base stolen base attempt percentages from the past 10 years. (Analytic nerds will soon refer to this stat as MASBSBAP.)
What you can see here is what you already knew: managers are attempting fewer stolen bases than they did 10 years ago. Which makes it even more important for you to keep an eye on your SB total as you progress through your draft. Something to keep in mind as you look through these numbers — players come and go. One year you’re sitting pretty with Mallex Smith stealing 40 bases with a .367 OBP for your team — the next year you’ve only got Tommy Pham. Managers like Rocco Baldelli might not attempting a lot of stolen bases, but it’s because they have no one who should be stealing bases. Don’t wear skinny jeans if you don’t have skinny genes. It’s all quite simple really.
2017 – 2020 Managerial Stolen Base Tendencies
|Manager||Team||2017 SBA||2017 SB%||2018 SBA||2018 SB%||2019 SBA||2019 SB%||2020 SBA||2020 SB%||Total SBA||# of Seasons||Average SBA|
- Scott Servais, SEA: The king of MASBSBAP! Of the 2020 managers, Servais is clearly a step-ahead as it pertains to letting his runners run. In 2020 he had a 12.5% stolen base attempt percentage. The next closest was Chris Woodward with a 10.6%. In 2019 he was tops with a 10.1%. Who could benefit: J.P Crawford, Dylan Moore, Kyle Lewis, Mitch Haniger. With a .222 batting average and 7 SBs in 532 ABs heading into 2020 it’s easy to forget that Baseball Prospectus had J.P. Crawford ranked as a top-5 prospect as recently 2016 and 2017. Last year Crawford had a mini breakout in 2020 with a .255 average and 6 SB. If Crawford can continue to cut his K% and improve his BB% — we could be talking about a sneaky 25-30 SB season for Crawford with Servais making the SB calls for the Mariners.
- Chris Woodward, TEX: If you read that first blurb — you know that Woodward is looking up at only Servais as it pertains to stolen base attempts finishing 2nd to him in back-to-back seasons. Who could benefit: Leody Taveras, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Nick Solak. Taveras had the 18th fastest sprint speed in 2020 leading to 8 SBs. Unfortunately he also had the 49th worst K% which limits the amount of true damage he can do on the base paths. However, a 10.4% BB% does help mitigate some of the damage his strikeouts can do. To be fair to Taveras — his K% was never this bad in the minors and he could’ve just been going through his typical rookie lumps.
- Kevin Cash, TB: In 2018, Scott Servais slipped to 5th in stolen base attempt percentage and Kevin Cash was top dog. In last year’s weird season he was 5th with a respectable 9.0%. Who could benefit: Austin Meadows, Brandon Lowe, Randy Arozarena, Manuel Margot, Joe Wendle, Kevin Kiermaier.
- Terry Francona, CLE: Last year Francona wasn’t the biggest speed fiend finishing below the league average with a 5.5% SBA percentage. However, in 2018 he finished second to Kevin Cash with a 9.7% and third behind the aforementioned Scott Servais and Chris Woodward with an 8.3%. Who could benefit: Andres Gimenez, Jose Ramirez, Oscar Mercado, Daniel Johnson. Gimenez broke onto the scene last season with the Mets stealing 8 bases in 118 ABs. Gimenez now goes from one of the managers with the lowest SB% to Francona who has shown he’s willing to let his fast guys go fast.
- Dave Martinez, WAS: Similarly to Francona, Martinez was middle-of-the-pack with a 6.8%, but in 2019 he was fourth behind Servais, Woodward, and Francona and in 2018 he was 4th. Who could benefit: Victor Robles, Trea Turner, Juan Soto.
- Rocco Baldelli, MIN: What’s Rocco Baldelli got against stolen bases? Doesn’t he remember the good old days when he stole 27 bases his rookie year? His first two seasons he’s finished dead last in SB%. To be fair to Baldelli — I think this might have more to do with the players on the Twins. It’s not really filled with burners — Miguel Sano, Nelson Cruz, and Josh Donaldson probably shouldn’t be running. Byron Buxton will be the one to watch on this team if he can stay — and this just in — he’s injured again.
- Brian Snitker, ATL: Snitker tied Baldelli for worst SB% last season, but he’s been about league average since 2017 with the Braves. Who could suffer: Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson. If 2020 was just a fluke for Snitker’s stolen base attempts then these 3 guys should be fine. However, it foretells a decline in stolen base attempts — that’s not good.
- Gabe Kapler, SF: 4th worst in 2018 with the Phillies. 11th worst in 2019 with the Phillies. 2nd worst in 2020 with the Giants. Similar to Baldelli, Kapler didn’t exactly have speedsters with the Phillies. Cesar Hernandez led the team in 2018 with 19 SBs, and Bryce Harper and Scott Kingery both had only 15 in 2020. For the 2021 Giants, only Mauricio Dubon is projected to even sniff double-digit steals. Who could suffer: Dubon maybe, but there isn’t a lot of speed on this team to begin with.
- Joe Maddon, LAA: Be it with the Cubs or with the Angels, Joe Maddon has been below the league average in SB% every year since 2017. Who could suffer: Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Jose Iglesias. The most interesting name to watch here is Trout. His SB totals have fallen off since he stole 30 in 2016 and he’s been pretty inconsistent with his speed throughout his career. As Trout bulks up and gets older he might be losing a step. Maddon’s low stolen base tendencies won’t help the cause either which was part of the reason I didn’t have Trout in my top tier of keepers in my Top 100 Keepers article last week.
- Dave Roberts, LAD: Another guy like Baldelli, Roberts seems to have forgotten how his bread was buttered as a player. He had five 30+ stolen base seasons in his career! Since 2017 Roberts has been below average in SB% – even finishing 4th worst in 2019. Who could suffer: Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, A.J. Pollock, Chris Taylor. Betts did steal 10 bases in only 55 games last season, so it will be interesting to see how Roberts’ SB% tracks in a full season with Betts. I always expected Bellinger’s stolen base total to slowly fade away, but Roberts has been here his whole career so it won’t exactly be his fault.
- Bob Melvin, OAK: Melvin hasn’t scored higher than a 6.0% SB% since 2012. Moneyball — amirite? Who could suffer: Ramon Laureano, Elvis Andrus. Laureano has been here with Melvin the whole time, but Andrus will be interesting to watch. Andrus hasn’t stolen less than 20 bases in any season he played over 100 games. This might be the year though now that he’s 31, getting on base less than he ever has, and has Melvin calling the shots.
|Manager||Team||2008 SBA||2008 SB%||2009 SBA||2009 SB%||2010 SBA||2010 SB%||2011 SBA||2011 SB%||Total SBA||# of Seasons||Average|
Tony LaRussa, CHW: The Roos hasn’t managed since 2011, but looking at his numbers you can see that La Russa was already following the trend of managers taking less stolen base chances. It’s a shame, because in his younger and more vulnerable years he regularly had double digit stolen base percentages. Who could suffer: Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal. To be fair, the White Sox manager last season, Rick Renteria, wasn’t exactly a daredevil on the basepaths having one of the lower SB% with a 5.0%. But if LaRussa gets even MORE conservative like all people in their 70’s, we could see fewer SBs for all 4 of these guys.