Sports

2011 World Series: The Cost of Stealing

| by David Berri

A great story from Stumbling on Wins is whether or not teams should attempt to steal a base in baseball. Breaking down the numbers says stealing a base is worth 0.24 runs.

Of course if a steal is unsuccessful it comes with a cost.

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In a game teams have a limited number of outs — 27 — so they are very valuable. The risk reward ratio for stealing is actually not that good. A player must succesfully steal 70% of the time just to break even!

While listening to the World Series last night I was surprised to hear of Craig’s failed steal attempt. I decided to do a quick breakdown of steals in the World Series to see if the teams understand the risks

  • Game 1 Kinsler (Texans) is caught stealing
  • Game 2 Kinsler (Texans) steals second base
  • Game 3 Jay (Cardinals) is caught stealing
  • Game 4 Kinsler (Texans) is caught stealing
  • Game 5 Craig (Cardinals) is caught stealing
  • Game 5 Craig (Cardinals) is caught stealing

In the World Series with the best teams and the best management we see that the stealing efficiency is no where close to have been worth it. What’s more in last night’s game Craig’s first failed steal attempt ended up allowed the Texans to pitch around Pujols. The managers’ decisions to attempt for extra bases in this series have simply not been very good.

Tony La Russa’s inability to talk to his bull pen is the explanation for last night’s loss. Playing the wrong pitcher in a key moment is certainly a good place to start pointing in a close game.

Something to point out though is that in Stumbling on Wins the value of an out as a result of a stolen base is estimated at 0.67 runs. In a game decided by 2 runs we can question if Craig’s two steal attempts were good ideas or not.