In Tuesday's Brewer Advent Calendar, we took a look at the career stolen base percentage of Rickie Weeks, the highest in Brewer franchise history among basestealers with at least 92 attempts. But the question about how much those stolen bases helped the Brewers, or how much stolen bases help teams in general, is more complicated than you'd think.
The generally accepted rule of thumb is that a 66% success rate for basestealers is about the break-even point, and that's more or less correct, but it's possible to do better. Without going too far into the math, Tangotiger gives us a formula for breakeven percentage that makes it possible to use a team's runs scored to adjust the breakeven percentage from season to season and team by team. Using that formula, here are the five seasons in Brewer history where the Brewers scored the fewest runs per game, and the resulting breakeven percentage:
And here are the five seasons with the highest breakeven percentage:
As you can see, the two-thirds guidleline is usually pretty close, with the occasional exception. Thirty-five of the Brewers' forty seasons have fallen somewhere between .62 and .70. But, having the exact percentages for every season means we can effectively measure how many bases were gained (or lost) by the best (and worst) base stealers in Brewer history with a degree of certainty. A player has stolen ten bases in a season exactly 150 times in franchise history, but only 107 of them have actually finished above the breakeven point. Here are the top ten:
It's worth noting that Molitor has the 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th best seasons in franchise history, and if the list went on he would also have the 11th and 12th.
And, for balance, here are the worst ten:
Now, for the career numbers. These figures are a little sketchy, as I only calculated gain or loss for seasons where players had more than ten stolen bases, since 256 lines of Excel spreadsheet work seemed like enough for one day. With that said, here are the top and bottom five Brewer careers in terms of bases gained via stolen base:
Of the 64 Brewers who have stolen ten bases in at least one season, only seven successfully gained more than ten bases in their careers (Mike Felder and Pat Listach are the others). In fact, 17 of them didn't even break even. Here are the bottom five: