2017’s Least Aggressive Base Stealing Teams

If you have not read my former post, 2017’s Most Aggressive Base Stealing Teams, I would recommend doing so before moving forward.

2017’s Most Aggressive Base Stealing Teams

Much like the previous post, I am beginning my look at the least aggressive teams with a high-level inspection of their aggregate stolen base rates ((SB+CS)/SBO)). These figures were downloaded from Baseball Reference. Light red represents one standard deviation below average and dark red represents two STDs.

Team Att per SBO Not Aggressive

Baltimore was dead last each of the past three years! On its own that would not be worrisome, but in conjunction with their notorious aversion for foreign signees, it becomes a concern. The below link to Baseball America from last July sums it up. They were the only team to abstain from acquiring a single player during last year’s J2 International Singing Period. It has to make you question why are their practices are so abnormal relative to the other teams. This is a red flag.

Baseball America 2017 J2 Singings

Not Agressive 3 yr with ranks

Seeing Baltimore dead last three years in a row made me curious how the other four teams fared in previous seasons. It turns out the Mets, Athletics, and Blue Jays were fairly docile each year. I think it’s fair to expect the trend to continue going forward.

The Phillies, however, were average to aggressive in 2015-2016. Was 2017 an outlier? It’s hard to say. I took a look at how often individual players were sent the past three years to see if anything could be gleaned from it. For some reason the Phillies started running less with Galvis, Hernandez, Herrera, and Altherr. Hernandez had a poor success rate (56.67%) in 2016 so I can understand why his attempts were reduced. In my cursory, unthorough (is this even a word??) internet searches I found Herrera and Altherr both had leg injuries last year. Altherr’s was a hamstring tweak in mid-July, and Herrera went to the DL with a hamstring strain retroactive to mid-August. Alterr’s injury was pretty minor and Herrera didn’t miss time until the last six weeks of the season so neither of these seem explain the large declines in their attempt rates. I am stumped.

PHI 2015-2017

Att.SBO vs SS Rank Not AggressiveTo learn more about the team-level stolen base attempt rates, let’s see how they compare to each team’s weighted average sprint speed. (SS Weighted Avs) Not too surprisingly, the teams that attempted the least steals on a rate basis also were among the slowest in the league. The exception was the Phillies who ranked 13th. This chart begs the question, which came first: the stolen base attempt rate or the sprint speed? I think the answer is the sprint speed. If teams do not put a high value on stealing bases it would probably start with the GM and players they chose to acquire. Looking at the four teams in question, this appears to be the case. Either way having slow guys on the roster is not going to incentivize teams to run.

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Let’s take a look at each team’s stolen base attempt rates at a player-level to see if anything can be learned from them.

Baltimore Orioles – Whether right or wrong, Dan Duquette constructed their roster with a total apathy for speed. Only four players exceeded the average sprint speed mark of 27 ft/sec, although this is a bit deceiving because Machado, Mancini, Schoop, and Tejada were right around average. As a team, their weighted average sprint speed was third slowest in the majors. Adam Jones and Tim Beckham were probably capable of running more but were rarely sent. As long as the current regime is at the helm, don’t expect Orioles acquisitions to get many (or any) attempts unless they are burners. But it looks like Baltimore is averse to acquiring guys like that in the first place.

Oakland Athletics – Only Rajai Davis and Marcus Semien were sent at above average rates. The rest of the team didn’t steal. I was a bit surprised to see Matt Chapman highlighted as a plus runner (1 STD > AVE). He’s never been known as a base-stealer. It makes you wonder if he has a slow first step but fast max speed. Overall, it’s pretty clear Oakland does not place a high value on steals, but if they have a speed-oriented guy like Davis they will send him.

New York Mets – Four runners were sent less often than their sprint speeds might imply. If you are an Amed Rosario fantasy owner should you be concerned? At first glance his stolen base rate looks to be in line with his sprint speed. I wanted to check to see how his SB Att% compared to similar runners league-wide (within .2 ft/sec) and did so below. His SB Att% was smack in the middle of the seven player sample so I think it’s fair to say the Mets weren’t curtailing his attempts. Still, the Mets were non-aggressive as a whole.

Amed Rosario Speed Comps

Toronto Blue Jays – Another front office that does not care about speed, in fact, they were the slowest roster based on my weighted average sprint speed sheet. Richard Urena was the only player well above average. It’s worth noting, however, they were willing to send above average runners at rates in line with their speeds, they just didn’t employ many of them.

In totality, theses tables were not terribly enlightening. but if we can learn anything from them, non-aggressive teams are not a death knell for fast runners. Prolific base stealers will get their stolen bases regardless of organization.

11/02/17, 11/06/17 AFL Notes

11/06/17 AFL Notes

Sean Murphy (C) Oakland Athletics – Murphy has a well-rounded game with defensive skills that are likely to play at the highest level, not only giving him a high floor but also a good chance to be an everyday player. The arm is elite. Scout chatter is he threw out a runner by 10 feet with a 1.78 pop earlier in this fall. I have seen him around 1.85, but regardless it is a legitimate weapon and 70 grade tool. Today, I saw Murphy make a smooth back-handed stop and throw out Thairo Estrada from his knees. Murphy’s blocking ability is also quite good, earning plus grades. I can attest to his propensity for making quality blocks on pitches in the dirt. It is a regular occurrence. The jury is still out on the bat, but I am encouraged by what I have seen. Murphy swings really hard and has respectable contact skills. During the 11/02 game, he went oppo on a 98 mph offering from Jordan Hicks, and scouts in my vicinity asserted, “This kid does not get cheated.” Balls on the ground are normally pulled, and fly balls are hit to all fields. I think it is a potential 50 bat at maturity, which would make Murphy a first-division regular. Having said that, 2018 will be a big litmus test as he will have another crack at AA Midland. The struggle was real in AA last season, with a slash line of .209/.288/.309 in 217 PAs. Based on his AFL performance thus far, I am optimistic Murphy can figure out AA pitching and will find himself on the precipice of the majors next year.

11/02/17 AFL Notes

Jordan Hicks (RHP) St. Louis Cardinals – In 2015 the Cardinals used their third round pick on a high school pitcher from Houston, Texas who sat 92-93 and touched 96 with his fastball. That pitcher was Jordan Hicks. Now he’s a 21-year-old that sits 96-98 and can touch triple digits. I think we can throw that into the developmental success bucket! Today the velo did not disappoint, as my gun displayed one hundo. The velocity was sexy, but the pitch missed fewer bats than I expected (between today and my previous viewing). I think the underlying causes were pitch location and lack of movement (i.e. it’s a straight fastball). The secondary offering was a slider in the 83-87 range, which Hicks “played with” to vary velocity. It made sharp two-plane break and missed a fair amount of bats. I think it’s a potential plus pitch. Hitters looked to be geared up for the heat and swung over it. Also, I’m no expert but Hicks’ mechanics appear sub-optimal. Watching him in .25x speed, you can see the front leg and body move toward home well before the arm starts moving forward. I think the result is a disproportionately heavy burden on his arm (relative to many deliveries). Deliveries look more natural when the torso, legs, and arm all move toward home concurrently. The delivery combined with the stuff look like a golden ticket to the bullpen, which is not necessarily a negative. The Cardinals may have found themselves a future closer.

(11/9 Edit – The more I think about it, I wonder how much Hicks’ velocity gain is simply due to throwing shorter stints. I’ve read he was throwing roughly as hard as his HS velo in 2016 when he started games. He began relieving toward the end of 2017. Perhaps this is cause of the spike.)

10/19/17, 10/20/17 Arizona Fall League Notes

10/20/17 AFL Notes

Nolan Blackwood (RHP) Athletics – There is a lot to like about Blackwood. The 6’5” righty uses his frame to his advantage to achieve deception. He caught my eye in a previous outing when he made Francisco Mejia look ugly in a three-pitch strikeout. The fastball sits low 90s and is thrown from a sidearm angle. Hitters appear to struggle picking up the ball out of his hand, which helps everything play up. His change is in the low 80s, and both of the aforementioned pitches have quality sink. Today Blackwood also busted out a 75-77 mph curveball. It is a pitch he reserves for right-handed hitters. It was not used in his previous outing when he faced three lefties. I was muttering aloud trying to figure out who Blackwood reminds me of delivery-wise. A scout offered up Dan Otero as a comp.

10/19/17 AFL Notes

Yonathan Daza (OF) Rockies – I have seen Daza a few times this fall and have come away impressed each time. Daza is a plus runner posting home to first times around 4.2 from the right. He hits baseballs with authority, and I would love to see his Statcast exit velocity data. Looking at his Fangraphs page, I found he only hit three home runs in 569 plate appearances last year. His physique looks capable of more. Before the AFL ends I am shooting to catch a couple of his BP sessions and get a side look of his swing to gauge swing plane. Even if the home runs do not come, I think Daza is a high floor guy who should be at least a fourth outfielder. It is not hard to envision him launching gappers all over Coors Field.

 

10/16/17, 10/17/17 Arizona Fall League Notes

10/17/17 AFL Notes

Shedon Neuse (3B) Athletics – If the announcer at AFL games is correct, this guy’s name is pronounced “noisy”. Baseball Reference could neither confirm nor deny. Neuse has shown me a lot this fall. He makes frequent loud contact and tends to shoot baseballs opposite field into the right/center gap. He is capable of using all fields though. He has a good feel to hit and awareness of the zone. I think the power will play to average because the approach seems more contact-oriented than power-oriented. I have yet to see him in BP, but I suspect there is more raw in the bat than he has shown in games. Defensively, he lacks some agility and quickness of his peers. However, I think the industry consensus is he has enough to get the job done. I was thinking he has an above average arm. Then, a scout informed me Neuse used to touch mid 90s as a pitcher so it’s probably plus. This is a guy I am in on as a possible every day regular. (10/25 Edit – Today Neuse played shortstop and looked good there! He made a solid play on a tough grounder and showed quick hands getting it to first. The athleticism is better than I originally thought.)

Graphic From MLBFarm.com

Sheldon Neuse_HeatMap

10/16/17 AFL Notes

Nicky Lopez (SS) Royals – The Royals made a shrewd selection when they took Lopez in the 5th round of the 2016 draft. He has the look of a second division regular. There are a lot of average or better tools in his proverbial box. Offensively, he can control the zone and foul off pitches until he gets one that he likes. In today’s game he was able to take a Sheffield slider oppo for a double. The bat control is real. Ex post facto, I wasn’t surprised to look at his fangraphs page and discover he only struck out in 9% of his plate appearances this season. One fair criticism is his swing plane will not generate much power. On the bases, I have seen him in the 4.15-4.20 range from the left side, which grades above average. He looks to be a capable defender at short as well.

10/2/17 Instructs Notes

10/2/17 Diamondbacks at Athletics – Mesa, AZ – Fitch Field (1/2 Mile South of Hohokam Stadium)

Marcos Brito (2B) Oakland Athletics – The 17 year old has quick hands. At the plate, he will spit on breaking pitches out of the zone and wait for “his pitch”. He has an advanced approach for his age. There is room for growth on his slender frame, which could lead to more power down the line.

Miguel Mercedes (1B) Oakland Athletics – It’s no shit plus raw, but how much of it is playable in games? He appears to hunt fastballs.

Norge Ruiz (RHP) Oakland Athletics – He’s a 23-year-old Cuban signee. The stuff is not overpowering. As a result, a high percentage of pitches were offspeed, moving in various directions.

Rafael Kelly (RHP) Oakland Athletics – Hitters had a difficult time laying off his mid 70s curve. It induced a swing and miss from Chris Owings (who was on rehab assignment) and two other batters. The fastball was 90-91. I would like to see more of him.

Wilkin Ramos (RHP) Oakland Athletics – Ramos will not turn 17 until 10/31. He’s listed as 6’5” 165, and I overheard a scout body-comp him to CJ Edwards. He already sits 91-92 with a change in the mid 80s and a curve in the mid 70s. The frame is pretty lithe so I think projecting a large weight increase is a mistake, but there is still room for some more weight right now.

Matt Brill (RHP) Arizona Diamondbacks – It’s a relief profile but a high-leverage one. The fastball sits 95 touches 97. His change is in the mid 80s. I overheard a coach in attendance comparing his delivery to Jason Motte.

Andy Yerzy (C) Arizona Diamondbacks – He hit the ball hard in my looks and was especially deadly against fastballs. The strike zone awareness looked good, as he was able to lay off of breaking balls below the zone. He’s an “Off the Bus Guy” as Up and In used to say, meaning his physicality stands out.

9/30/17 Instructs Notes

Giants at Athletics – Mesa, AZ – Fitch Field (1/2 Mile South of Hohokam Stadium)

Athletics video crew had Trackman up and running today in Mesa. After every pitch a member of the A’s video crew would call out the pitch type and velocity. This was really helpful as it allowed me to put down my radar gun and focus more of my attention on the field. To my surprise, I even heard scouts calling out RPM numbers.

Athletics RHP Dakota Chalmers has a pretty impressive arsenal. His curveball featured sharp, tight spin and RPMs in the 2900-3000 range. To put this into perspective there were 236 major league pitchers who threw over 100 curveballs or knucklecurves this season (source Baseball Savant). Chalmers would have had the 6th highest spin rate in this group, putting him in the top 2.5%. The importance of spin rate has been well-documented. http://m.mlb.com/news/article/161770876/how-spin-rate-affects-curveball-outcomes/ Chalmers also sat 93-95 with his fastball and was able to touch 96. His change was in the 85-88 range. Chalmers strikes me as a fiery guy. He shouted an explative (at himself) after throwing a curve in the dirt a foot or two in front of the plate. (10/23 Edit -There have been rumors that Chalmers has undisclosed character issues.)

Another interesting Oakland arm was Brett Graves. He kept a fast tempo and pounded the zone. The four-seamer was his primary offering. It sat 94-95 and touched 96 . A cutter was his most used secondary pitch. He threw some nasty ones in the 91-93 range with late movement. This pitch should help him generate weak contact against LHHs. Graves rounded out his repertoire with a low 80s curve and a high 80s change. Each were thrown more sparingly. The curve moved 12 to 6 and was located below the zone as a chase pitch. Graves was a fun guy to watch. I loved how he challenged hitters. It wasn’t surprising to see he is 24 and pitched in AA Midland this past season. He looked more advanced than his competition this fall.