On Carlos Gomez and Base Stealing

In the comments of yesterday's post on Brewers on pace, we had the start of an interesting conversation about Carlos Gomez and stolen bases. I wanted to see if I could take that a step further today.

Opportunity

One argument for Gomez's lack of steals is that he's rarely on base, which is true. But that's not the whole story. There are 12 players in the majors who have stolen at least 20 bases this season. As you might imagine, all 12 have been on first base more often than Gomez, but all but one also attempt steals a higher percentage of the time once they get there:

Player SB CS On 1st* Attempt %
Rajai Davis 26 5 66 47%
B.J. Upton 24 6 69 43.5%
Carl Crawford 29 8 96 38.5%
Juan Pierre 32 9 107 38,3%
Alex Rios 22 8 80 37.5%
Michael Bourn 26 7 93 35.5%
Scott Podsednik 24 10 110 30.9%
Brett Gardner 24 5 102 28.4%
Elvis Andrus 22 10 119 26.9%
Chone Figgins 23 4 106 25.5%
Andrew McCutchen 20 6 103 25.2%
Carlos Gomez 9 1 41 24.4%
Ichiro Suzuki 22 7 119 24.4%
Ryan Braun** 11 1 75 16%

 

* - Times on 1st in this case includes singles, walks and HBP. It does not include fielder's choices or reaching on errors. Both omissions are notable but likely wouldn't lead to a significant change in the findings.

** - Just for fun, I tossed Brewer SB leader Ryan Braun into the charts as well.

Follow the jump for more of my findings.

Bases Gained

So, we've established that Carlos Gomez is running less often than the stolen base leaders. What you might also have noticed above, though, is that he's been very successful when he runs, taking the base 90% of the time.

It's been widely said that the break-even point for base stealers is roughly two-thirds. If you can make it more often than that you're helping your team - anything less and you're hurting them. If you accept that notion you can create a relatively simple formula for bases gained via steal:

Bases gained = SB - (CS*2)

This is where it starts to get interesting. Using that formula, we can show that Braun (9 bases gained) and Gomez (7 bases gained) have actually helped their teams more than some of the stolen base leaders:

Player SB CS Bases gained
Rajai Davis 26 5 16
Chone Figgins 23 4 15
Brett Gardner 24 5 14
Juan Pierre 32 9 14
Carl Crawford 29 8 13
B.J. Upton 24 6 12
Michael Bourn 26 7 12
Ryan Braun 11 1 9
Andrew McCutchen 20 6 8
Ichiro Suzuki 22 7 8
Carlos Gomez 9 1 7
Alex Rios 22 8 6
Scott Podsednik 24 10 4
Elvis Andrus 22 10 2

 

Average Contribution

There's more, though: Most of the stolen base leaders have significantly more trips to the plate than Gomez, who has made just 206 plate appearances, compared to 374 for Ichiro and 300+ for many of the others.

If you divide bases gained via steal by plate appearances, Gomez actually starts to drift within shouting distance of the most prolific base stealers in the game:

Player Bases Gained PA Gain/PA
Rajai Davis 16 279 .057
Brett Gardner 14 299 .047
Chone Figgins 15 357 .042
B.J. Upton 12 309 .039
Juan Pierre 14 363 .039
Carl Crawford 13 346 .038
Michael Bourn 12 338 .036
Carlos Gomez 7 206 .034
Ryan Braun 9 365 .025
Andrew McCutchen 8 347 .023
Ichiro Suzuki 8 374 .021
Alex Rios 6 321 .019
Scott Podsednik 4 361 .011
Elvis Andrus 2 361 .006

 

Conclusions

Take away from this what you will, but here's what I'm seeing:

  • After crunching the numbers, I'm not convinced that Gomez's lack of stolen base attempts is a problem. By stealing less often but more effectively, he's actually had a comparable positive outcome to many of the game's most prolific swipers.
  • I didn't think stolen bases were all that relevant before, but I'm coming away from this thinking they're even less important. There are only a handful of guys in all of baseball using them to make more than a marginal contribution.
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