Tommy Edman’s Failed SB Attempts

Tommy Edman is fast.

Like, really fast.

He has been 97th and 95th percentile in Sprint Speed over his two MLB seasons. In that time, he has posted a healthy 77% SB success rate with 17 SBs in 22 attempts. But that rate took a big hit in 2020 as he was just 2-for-6 in the shortened season (15-for-16 in 2019). Before you hit the comments letting me know that Sprint Speed isn’t as well correlated to SBs as home-to-first time, I will point out that Edman did slip there from 4.12 to 4.20, but that’s still firmly a plus runner per Jeff’s chart in the linked article.

I found it so weird that such a speedy guy with sharp base running acumen (84% SB% in MiLB) had such a dreadful rate so I had to investigate the four times he was caught to see what happened. I do wonder how much of his 2020 numbers is holding down his SB projections for 2021 as virtually all systems have him with a teens total despite an obvious role and gobs of speed. So let’s see what happened.

#1 – July 24th v. PIT | Joe Musgrove & Jacob Stallings

Edman got a base hit in the bottom of the 3rd and then was caught on a 1-1 count to Paul Goldschmidt:

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He ran on a great pitch, a slider outside that Stallings had to reach for, but it is who he ran on that might have been the problem. Stallings is a strong defensive catcher with a 36% CS% over the last two seasons, tied with Mike Zunino for 3rd behind only Roberto Perez (48%, keep that in mind) and J.T. Realmuto (46%) among catchers with at least 800 innings played.

It seems like a perfect throw because he looked safe to the naked eye, but there wasn’t a challenge of any kind.

#2 – August 30th v. CLE | Aaron Civale & Roberto Pérez

Oh look, it’s Perez. He of the aforementioned near-50% caught stealing rate. Edman goes for a delayed steal of third:

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He was originally called safe before it gets overturned thanks to a miraculous tag by Jose Ramirez. Obviously, Perez’s brilliant arm and prowess behind the dish gives Ramirez a chance, but this is pretty unlucky for Edman. Of course, when you run on two of the very best catcher arms in the league, you are inherently cutting your margin for error on the bases.

#3 – September 10th v. DET | Jordan Zimmermann & Grayson Greiner

Edman runs first pitch here on an 84-mph slider and seems to get a good jump when trying to take second, but once again gets stopped:

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While the first two CS have Edman challenging the league’s best and getting the wrong end of some 50/50 plays, but Greiner isn’t anywhere near the caliber of Stallings and Perez with just a 24% CS% in his 905 MLB innings (league average is 26%) so this one really stings for Edman.

#4 – September 16th at MIL | Brandon Woodruff pick off at 3B

This is just Edman getting straight up beaten to the punch by Woodruff as he mistimes his steal completely:

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Even though he is indeed outclassed by Woodruff here, it still takes a pretty nutty tag by Jace Peterson to get him as Woodruff’s throw is a little off. I am not fully excusing Edman, but rather pointing out that even when he is beaten, it was still really close and required a bit of good fortune for the opposition.

My main purpose for this was to see exactly what happened to Edman. A premium runner getting caught in 4 of 6 steals, even in a two-month sample, is intriguing to me given how great he was in both the minors and majors coming into 2020. I wanted to see if he was making bad decisions and getting bad jumps, challenging elite catchers, getting unlucky, or a just mix of all these factors.

He challenged elite catchers in the first two and while there was a bit of bad luck with both, he was still lowering his potential success rate by even challenging them. The one below average catcher he challenged made a great throw that required a brilliant tag that I’m still not sure connected. And while he does catch a full L against Woodruff, that still took some bad luck to get caught.

After reviewing the four times Edman was caught stealing, I remain undeterred that he can steal 25+ bags in a full-time role. Maybe run a little less against the league’s best catchers, but otherwise I just don’t see enough here to be concerned. The dip in home-to-1st time isn’t concerning and his sprint speed remains brilliant. Consider Edman a quality speed option with quad eligibility (2B/3B/SS/OF) in the 9th-12th round range.

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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1 year ago

The slider that Greiner had to throw on gave him time to pop up and get his feet set, too. If it had been low, as intended, and as Edman read from the sign, that’s likely a sure steal. These were all so close, totally a small sample misrepresentation of what to expect

1 year ago
Reply to  idkayeff

also, the throw was placed perfectly for the tag

1 year ago
Reply to  idkayeff

Yeah the Greiner one was basically a pitch-out at that point.