Cameron: The return of the thief

From Dave Cameron at FanGraphs on May 6, 2014:

The sport of baseball, at the major league level, is changing in many ways. The quickly escalating trend in strikeout rate has been well documented, and we’re now several years into a cycle where pitching and defense rule the day, but the league is evolving in other ways as well. Catchers are now hitting better than ever, for instance, and the lack of offense combined with the simultaneous shift in what teams value behind the plate may be leading to a renaissance of the stolen base.

As I noted in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, the success rate of stolen bases in 2014 is currently higher than it has ever been in MLB, and this isn’t simply a continuation of a shift towards conservative baserunning and the protection of precious outs. League caught stealing rates have been trending down for several decades as teams have learned that the hyper-aggressive running of the 1980s was likely counterproductive to run-scoring, but stolen base attempts are actually up this year relative to last year, even while the rate of runners getting thrown out continues to drop.

But even looking at league wide trends can obscure things a bit, as a large majority of players have no interest in attempting a stolen base no matter who the pitcher/catcher tandem might be, and changes in base stealing will be concentrated within a small subset of the player population. So, let’s just look at what we’ve seen among those who run the most.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: May 6, 2014. Last Updated: May 6, 2014.