The Mariners finally scored some runs!!!
How did they do it? Please don’t say “small ball and stealing bases.” A quick look at the box score might deceive you, as they stole four bases, but not a one had much influence on producing runs. Early on in the third, with two outs Ichiro Suzuki took second before being stranded there. In the fifth, Ichiro singled and stole second. Two batters later Franklin Gutierrez hit a double, which probably would have scored Ichiro anyway, and then Jose Lopez followed it up with a single just to make sure. Later in the seventh, Ichiro singled and then stole second after a Chone Figgins popup. Guti promptly walked, negating any benefits of the steal. And finally, in the 8th, Langerhans swiped second to get into scoring position, only to move another 90 feet by a wild pitch that would have gotten him there anyway. Josh Wilson then walked, followed by singles from Michael Saunders and Adam Moore, once again negating any potential benefits of the steal.
None of these steals were individually bad decisions by any means. Ichiro has a career success rate in the 80s, and putting a runner into scoring position for a singles-hitting ball club could potentially help to score runs. However, base-stealing overall has been shown to have very little effect on run scoring in the long term due to the times players are gunned down, costing his team both a runner and an out simultaneously. During tonight’s game, not a single one of those four steals allowed to Mariners to score more runs that they would have anyway, yet in a few cases getting caught would have cost them at least a run.
On the season, Seattle has stolen 2nd and 3rd successfully at 70% and 75% respectively. Neither figures are particularly impressive and probably have added up to a net gain of at most 0 runs, if not negative (due to getting caught). There’s no doubt this team has offensive problems bigger than a few stolen bases and caught stealings here and there, but while we’re waiting for that big bat, there no reason to foolishly squander runs on stolen base attempts. Even the speed demons at the top, Ichiro and Figgins, have combined to go 17/23, just 74%. This team has already played in 11 one-run or extra-inning games, losing 8 of them. Obviously preserving runs is important.
The best stolen base attempt statistically in terms of improving run scoring potential is swiping second with two down, while the worst is going for third with two down. This follows the golden rule of not making the last out at third, since you’re already in scoring position anyway. In fact, to make hay stealing third, a player must steal over 85% in most scenarios. Very few base stealers are that efficient. All I ask, Wak, is that steals are utilized intelligently. In other words, when Milton Bradley comes back, don’t send him.