Ryan made the point that there are studies that seem to show that the stolen base is not as effective or important as people used to assume. Ryan will tell you he’s not especially a fan of some of these advanced statistics, but he’s also an open-minded guy and we have had some fun discussions and disagreements through the years. Anyway, I think he was simply making the fair point that while statistics may show that attempting steals is not necessarily a prudent play—and he concedes that this absolutely might be true—he wonders if maybe the statistics do not pick up on some of the psychological force of the stolen base and its threat, such as how it can distract a pitcher and stress out a defense.
This could make for a very interesting discussion. Unfortunately, Rex Hudler took it in kind of a different direction.
First, Rex asked if these studies about the stolen base not being as effective or important were “Sabermetrics.” I don’t know, I found that kind of funny. He said it as if “Sabermetrics” is actually a person. Ryan just said that there were such studies out there that questioned the value of the stolen base. At the time, I should add, the Royals had runners on first and third.
Then Rex Hudler basically said this: If the guy on first (Alcides Escobar) stole second base, he would be able to score on a single. If he stayed at first base, he would not be able to score on a single. But if he made it to second base, he would be able to score on a single. Which he would not be able to do if he stayed on first base. So it would be better if he was on second base. That way he would be able to score on a single. He couldn’t do that on first base. But he could on second base.
“What’s wrong with that?” he asked.
Thus endeth the dissection of stolen bases. ...
And the “stolen bases put runners in scoring position” is an argument against nothing. It is like saying the sacrifice bunt is good because it moves the runner to second and then the next guy singles him home. It is like saying the intentional walk is good because the next guy hits it into a double play. It’s like saying asking a woman out in a bar is good because you have a great date afterward and then get married and stay married for 50 years. The best case scenario isn’t an argument. It’s just the best case scenario.
So that’s my plea to Rex and some other baseball folks out there. Just learn a little something about Sabermetrics. Maybe it’s stupid, yucky math stuff figured by the pajama-wearing nerds and it sucks the heart and soul out to the game. Or maybe, just maybe, there’s something in there to talk about.