2020 Pod vs Steamer — SB Upside

Last week, I compared my Pod Projections to Steamer and calculated which hitters I was more bullish on and more bearish on for home runs. Today, I’ll do the same for stolen bases. Similarly to homers, I’m going to calculate a PA/SB rate first and then extrapolate that projection over 650 plate appearances so we’re only comparing stolen base projections and playing time forecasts don’t factor in.

SB Upside
Player Pod PA/SB Steamer PA/SB Pod SB – 650 PA Steamer SB – 650 PA 650 PA Diff
Jarrod Dyson 15.1 19.3 43 34 9
Jon Berti 19.2 24.3 34 27 7
Franchy Cordero 43.4 55.3 15 12 3
Starling Marte 22.4 25.0 29 26 3
Harrison Bader 37.0 43.6 18 15 3

The positive difference in stolen bases quickly declines toward 0, which isn’t too surprising as every season I’m a bit more bearish on steals than Steamer has been. Given that steals continues to decline each year, I have been right so far.

Amazingly, Steamer and I are projecting identical OBP marks for Jarrod Dyson. Even more amazing, perhaps, is that the OBP forecast range among all projection systems is super narrow, sitting between .313 and .317. That’s crazy! Anyhow, the stolen base difference here clearly isn’t because I’m more bullish than Steamer on Dyson’s OBP. So it’s most likely more aggressive aging effects than I applied. It’s worth noting that Steamer is easily the most bearish among projection systems for Dyson’s plate appearances per steal.

So apparently Pod is more bullish on Jon Berti’s OBP than Steamer, and actually the rest of the projection systems, but not by a significant amount. That probably accounts for a couple of steals of difference. I’m guessing the other is age, like Dyson, as Berti is already entering his age 30 season.

FRANCHY! I was a huge fan of Franchy Cordero heading into last season as he fought to win time in a crowded Padres outfield. Sadly, he got hurt and ended up with all of 20 plate appearances. While I’m a bit more bullish than the rest on his OBP (it’s still sub-.300), there’s a lot of guesswork here given the limited history and return from injury. He is definitely a classic sleeper though, so if he finds himself on the strong side of a platoon at the very least, he’s worth jumping in given his power and speed blend.

Any time a hitter switches teams, there’s an open question as to whether he’ll continue to attempt stealing bases at previous rates. Now that Starling Marte finds himself an Arizona Diamondback, will he steal more often, less often, or the same? Even though his steals fell off last year, his home plate to first base time has barely risen the last two years. Interestingly, my OBP projection is once again identical to Steamer.

Harrison Bader was a popular sleeper last year, but he only amassed 406 plate appearances. He once again finds himself in a crowded outfield, in addition to the possible future arrival of top prospect Dylan Carlson. But at least when he does play, I’m more bullish on his steals than Steamer. A lot of that is due to my much more optimistic OBP forecast.





Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Azizalmember
2 years ago

How do you account for batting order? Marte is going from hitting 3rd to hitting 1st which is a major change in steal opportunities. An article on FG from a few years ago showed that the difference in hitting first vs. third in the NL was about 40 opportunities.

Rotoholicmember
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

It’s anecdotal, but Ronald Acuna had a huge disparity in SB/PA between 1st and 4th in the lineup. 44 attempts in 557 PA batting leadoff, and only 2 attempts in 156 PA from the cleanup spot. And it was only Nick Markakis batting #5 behind him so it’s not like a big slugger that you don’t want to take a risk of being thrown out.

Looking at some comparable power/speed guys that have played in different lineup spots: Mike Trout for his career has attempted to steal about 2x as often when batting leadoff vs batting 3rd. Lindor about 1.5x more often at #1 vs #2/#3. Mookie Betts and Christian Yelich have been consistent in each lineup spot.

It’s a difficult thing to study, or to model. There are more opportunities to steal, especially in the NL where you’re hitting after the pitcher so the bases are more likely to be empty. Plus, you get more plate appearances. Those parts are relatively easy to quantify. The more difficult part is how less likely a guy is to attempt a steal when the #4 or #5 hitter are up, vs the #2 hitter. Could be a manager’s decision, not wanting to distract their #4/5 hitters and just wait for the long ball. I know that if I was an Acuna owner, I’d sure as hell be praying he stays at leadoff!

Azizalmember
2 years ago
Reply to  Rotoholic

yeah I have brought this up to a number of writers and almost all of them are missing this in their calculations. It’s a really big data point, too.

Azizalmember
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

The article I referred to specifically did say that hitting 1st vs. 3rd means more SB attempts, by *a lot*.

This is a big deal:

https://fantasy.fangraphs.com/stolen-bases-and-batting-order/

As I said, over the course of the season (for an NL team), it’s about 42(!) opportunities.

Even Marte’s career reflects this. He has run more when hitting 1st or 2nd when compared to 3rd, including last year.