Pirates’ stolen base strategy baffling

If you have been following me on Twitter tonight, this may seem a bit repetitive. But I felt this deserved its own post. After Alex Presley was thrown out trying to steal second in tonight’s game, I decided to check out some of the Pirates’ stolen base stats. Consider the following numbers, which were current entering today’s games.

Pirates MLB Rank
Stolen Base Attempts 20 6th
Stolen Base Success 55.0% 28th
On-Base Percentage .269 30th

In other words, the Pirates are the worst team in baseball at reaching base, they are among the worst at stealing bases and they are among the most aggressive at trying to steal bases. How does that make sense?

These numbers come from a small sample size, of course. Maybe the Pirates feel that the team’s true ability to steal bases is much better than what they have shown so far. But while they are struggling to reach base, while they are struggling to steal bases, while they are gaining a reputation for running at every opportunity, maybe they should take the foot off the gas for a bit and stop giving away free outs.

  • Apparently it’s conventional baseball wisdom that you need to try to steal more bases when your hitters are slumping, I Heard Blass mumbling about this the other day: “The Pirates need to be more aggressive than normal on the bases right now. If guys are swinging the bats well and getting hits, you don’t want to run into a bunch of outs on the bases. But when the hits are hard to come by…” Of course, he didn’t finish the sentence because it doesn’t make any sense – When hits are hard to come by, you want to run into a bunch of outs on the bases? No! Of course not, but that’s kind of where his train of thought led him.

    • “When hits are hard to come by, you want to run into a bunch of outs on
      the bases? No! Of course not, but that’s kind of where his train of
      thought led him.”

      Yeah, no it didn’t.  It would have let him to, “you want to take all the extra bases you can.”  They aren’t *planning* to be caught, right?  You can argue that statistically that the success rate needs to be over 80% for stealing bases to be worthwhile, but that removes game context.

      Stealing bases is a viable, aggressive strategy within the game of baseball.  The issue is their lack of success, not the fact that they’re ever trying. 

      And as for the OP, SSS.  Like, crazy SSS.  And how about something less superficial than attempts/steals?  What pitches are they stealing on?  What counts?

      • Matt, I know you admitted SSS, and re-reading my post I sound more confrontational than I meant.  I’m *asking* for something with more depth, but then, I’m pro-SB and moreso HnR.  I think there’s a reason some base stealers have a wildly high success rate, and it’s more than just speed or stealing in meaningless game situations.  Utley, Werth, Weeks, and even guys that run a lot (or did) like Beltran and Victorino are successful guys.  Even a guy like Gardner on the Yankees, who CAN stand around waiting for someone to knock him in, is effective on the bases.  Technique, pitcher, catcher, and pitch selection all go into it.

      • Yeah, stealing bases is a viable strategy in the right circumstances – I’m not questioning that or suggesting that that the ideal number of SB attempts is 0.

        However, the Pirates are clearly overdoing it, trying to steal in situations where it isn’t appropriate or likely to succeeed. For instance, with two outs, runners on first and second, McCutchen at the plate and Yadier Molina catching. It is just stupid to try to steal in a situation like that.

        The fact is, none of our “fast guys” is a particularly good base stealer, as evidenced by the percentages posted above. They need to pick their spots carefully, not run as a default strategy, as they appear to be doing right now.

    • my pirates team are not the worst team at all