Are O's stealing more runs this year?

Are O's stealing more runs this year?
June 11, 2013, 2:00 am
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Despite the sloggy footing on the base paths Monday night at Camden Yards, which would contraindicate any sort of running game, Nate McLouth swiped a base. That gave him 22 for the season (in 23 tries), which ranks third in the majors. The Orioles, too, rank third in the majors in team stolen bases.

Does this matter?

There are some steeped in the higher math of sabermetrics who have said the stolen base is way overvalued. This was part of the whole “Moneyball” approach. But it could be — as suggested here — that was a much more viable outlook when the ball was regularly flying out of the park in the steroid era.

So let’s do a little bit of lower math (the only kind I can do) to see how stealing lots of bases correlates with getting into the playoffs. I sort of updated — in a simpler way — what this fellow did here in 2006.

Looking back over the past five seasons, we find this: Among the top five major-league teams in stolen bases each season (that would be a total of 25, speaking of simple math),  nine of them reached the playoffs. Among the bottom five teams in stolen bases each year, eight of them made the postseason.

The most of either top or bottom five that reached in any one season was three, which happened twice each among the swift and the slow-footed. In fact, the Orioles last year had the fewest steals of any team in MLB, but that didn’t keep them out of the playoffs.

So, what do we conclude? Stolen bases aren’t a predictor of success either way. They are simply another tool in a team’s offense or they are a tool rarely used. The Orioles won last year without many of them, and they are winning this year with a lot more of them.

It’s like in those AT&T commercials with the kids about whether it’s better to be fast or slow. Sure, tape a cheetah to Grandma’s back. That doesn’t mean she’ll score more runs.