Miller: Billy Hamilton, Usain Bolt and whether 90 feet is still enough

From Sam Miller at Baseball Prospectus on March 6, 2014:

We all have radical ideas that we’d like to see implemented: the all-reliever pitching staff, the perfectly optimized lineup, the corner outfielders swapping based on batter handedness, etc. Until somebody puts them into play, they’re just ideas. What Charlie Finley did, then, was a favor to us all: He took one of those ideas and put it in play. And when it failed, we got to move on. We never had to talk about it again. For once, a crazy idea tried, tested, and settled.

But things change. Even settled matters eventually become unsettled. So, as we approach the 40th anniversary of Herb Washington’s major-league debut, it’s worth wondering whether the question of whether a world-class sprinter can justify a roster spot is still resolved.

Background: Washington was a world-class sprinter who held records in the 50- and 60-yard dash. Finley signed him to be a pinch-runner. He never held a bat or glove but pinch-ran for the A’s for a bit more than a year. It wasn’t particularly successful for a number of reasons, but the most notable one is this: He wasn’t very good at baserunning. He was about a half-run or a run worse than average, according to our metrics and those at Baseball-Reference.

So why revisit it? Well, there are six factors in a stolen base equation.

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Originally published: March 7, 2014. Last Updated: March 7, 2014.