Streaming SBs by Opposing Pitcher, April 10-12

I’m really not privy to the whole daily fantasy baseball thing, as proctored by FanDuel or DraftKings. It’s probably good that I’m not because I’m 98 percent certain I would immediately fall in love with it.

Still, I’m intrigued, mostly because it takes streaming to the extreme. And I love streaming. It’s a tedious, somewhat painstaking process, what with combing through splits, looking for the juiciest matchups that are also cost-effective.

Yesterday, I wrote about the Cardinals’ thievery of four bases on five attempts on Opening Day, which elicited comments about Jon Lester and his refusal to hold guys on at first base. Allegedly (because I didn’t hear it for myself), the game’s broadcasters announced that Lester hasn’t thrown to first in more than two years. Two years! Naturally, the Cardinals didn’t steal any bases last night, although, in their defense, they only had six baserunners all night. (Maybe that wasn’t really in their defense.)

Lester’s incompetence inspired me to look ahead to the weekend series to see if there are any matchups particularly conducive to speedsters for the purpose of streaming and one-offs. Full disclosure: I have no idea how daily leagues tally scores — whether they’re points-based or modeled after roto categories. Regardless, I know that streaming for steals is especially difficult. They occur with such infrequency that even with the fastest guys you’re more rolling a die than flipping a coin.

Regardless, I compiled three above-average and below-average pitcher options for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Let me be clear that when I say target and avoid, I mean strictly in regard to stolen bases. By no means do I think you should entirely avoid a Mookie Betts play if it seems like the right one.

I think this data is ripe for rigorous statistical analysis — for example, I haven’t considered quality of catcher, but Lester proved at having an above-average catcher behind the dish doesn’t mean anything if baserunners feel comfortable — but for now I’ve taken a simpler approach. “SB +/- stdev” represents the number of standard deviations above average* (a negative score) or below average (positive) a pitcher ranks at preventing stolen bases. “PO +/- stdev” represents the number of standard deviations above average (positive) or below average (negative) a pitcher ranks at picking off runners. *”Average” based on 2010-14 data.


Good Matchups
Name Opp SB +/- stdev PO +/- stdev
Tim Lincecum SD 0.562 -0.747
Trevor Cahill NYM 0.471 -0.046
John Lackey CIN 0.410 -0.693
Bad Matchups
Nathan Eovaldi BOS -0.747 0.294
Mark Buehrle BAL -0.721 2.120
Wade Miley NYY -0.658 1.332

Target: Billy Hamilton, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, Juan Lagares. Lincecum allows stolen bases at a rate more than half a standard deviation above average and has picked off only four runners lifetime. The added probability, slight as it may be, that a Padres outfielder steals a base makes it more intriguing. Cahill hasn’t fared much better than the Freak, although he boasts an above-average pick-off rate for active pitchers. Lagares is really the only Met who runs, and it’s not often, but hey, maybe you’re feeling frisky. Lackey permits stolen bases about 41 percent more often than average and went to the Lincecum School of Picking Off Runners. This sets up B-Hams for one of the more optimal matchups he’ll see this year.

Avoid: Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Alejandro De Aza, Adam Jones, Shane Victorino, Betts. Can we please take a moment to marvel at the fact that Buehrle, during his entire career, has picked off more runners than he has allowed stolen bases? And it’s not even close. That blows my mind. He, Miley and Eovaldi all have above-average pick-off rates, and they are the best among active pitchers at preventing stolen bases. Again, avoiding these guys doesn’t mean they’re bad plays — none of these “bad matchups” are particularly special in the way of opposition quality. But if you’re mining for steals, you may want to look elsewhere.


Good Matchups
Name Opp SB +/- stdev PO +/- stdev
Ubaldo Jimenez TOR 0.612 -0.363
Jeff Samardzija MIN 0.469 -0.747
Roberto Hernandez TEX 0.464 -0.529
Bad Matchups
Sonny Gray SEA -0.599 -0.318
Johnny Cueto STL -0.736 0.633
Doug Fister PHI -0.763 -0.394

Target… Dalton Pompey, Kevin Pillar, Jose Reyes, Leonys Martin, Elvis Andrus. When Samardzija is on, he’s on, so a Logan Schafer or Danny Santana play comes with its own caveats. Ubaldo, however, is pretty bad at 1) preventing steals and 2) pitching, setting up a variety of Blue Jays for big days. And a post-Fausto Roberto Hernandez matchup is always enticing.

Avoid: Austin Jackson, Kolten Wong, Jason Heyward, all Phillies always. Gray’s career, like his person, is short, but he has demonstrated an above-average ability of preventing steals during it. Cueto is two pick-offs away from joining the coveted Buehrle Club of At Least As Many Pick-offs as Stolen Bases Allowed; that’s to say he ought to give the rejuvenated Cardinals fits. And Fister is perhaps the best to prevent stolen bases of all active pitchers, allowing them less than one-fourth the time the average pitcher does.


Good Matchups
Name Opp SB +/- stdev PO +/- stdev
Tyson Ross SF 0.717 -0.165
Drew Hutchison BAL 0.579 -1.000
Chris Archer MIA 0.261 -0.446
Bad Matchups
Chris Tillman TOR -0.682 -0.711
Bartolo Colon ATL -0.656 -0.538
Zack Greinke ARI -0.511 -0.208

Target: Nori Aoki, Angel Pagan, De Aza, Jones, Christian Yelich, Dee Gordon. Yeah, yeah, avoid the Orioles one day, target them the next. Where Buehrle is excellent, his young rotation counterpart Hutchison is miserable. Teams run on him a lot, and he has nary a successful pick-off to his name; whether those together are correlated or cause-and-effect is a topic for another day. Ross actually has the worst track record of any pitcher listed in this space, so I could get behind a Giants outfield play, but only if you think Ross is due for one of his infrequent bad starts. Same goes for streaming against Hutchison and Archer, too.

Avoid: Ender Inciarte, Eric Young Jr., Pompey, Pillar, Reyes. That Toronto-Baltimore matchup is all sorts of volatile. Greinke and Tillman are both steadfast in preventing runners from advancing despite below-average pickoff rates, and Colon is, well… he’s Colon. Embrace the enigma rather than try to understand it. I think Tillman is pretty overrated, and I think you could probably still get Pompey, whom Eno Sarris tabbed as his AL Rookie of the Year prediction, or Pillar pretty cheaply given their relative anonymity outside the prospecting world.

Good luck with your streaming and daily leagues!

Currently investigating the relationship between pitcher effectiveness and beard density. Two-time FSWA award winner, including 2018 Baseball Writer of the Year, and 8-time award finalist. Previously featured in Lindy's Sports' Fantasy Baseball magazine (2018, 2019). Tout Wars competitor. Biased toward a nicely rolled baseball pant.

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I. Love. This.
Thank you and hope to see more of these.


you wouldn’t happen to want to share your full spreadsheet would you? I often try to think about these match ups when I’m behind in SB but have a decent lead in HR/RBI but find a hard way to quantify the opp pitchers. any suggestions if you (understandably) don’t want to pull back the curtain?