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Daily Fantasy Baseball: Predicting Stolen Bases

On DraftKings and FanDuel, stolen bases are incredibly highly valued in their scoring systems, worth 5 and 2 points respectively, each as valuable as a double. Most baseball players steal bases a negligible amount, so there’s not much reason to care. But for some hitters like Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton, who steal over 50 bases a year, the majority of their fantasy value comes from stolen bases. With that said, predicting when they will steal those bases is incredibly valuable. Thankfully, there are only a few indicators you need to look at to get a full picture of when a SB matchup is great and when it isn’t. Those factors are the park the player is in, the SB/SBO ratio of the pitcher, and the rSB of the catcher.

Park Factors

95% or more stolen bases are stealing 2nd base. Therefore, it’s important the target player is in a park where a player can hit singles. You can find this data in the park factors spreadsheet in the tools tab on the home page, Look at the 1B Ave tab, and look for parks where singles are more easily hit. Coors Field and the Royals park are the two best.

Pitcher SB/SBO Ratio

Pitcher’s are actually just as important if not more important than catchers in the stolen base allowed equation. Pitchers can have long deliveries or very slow pick-off maneuvers that can give players the ability to get big leads or jumps. Left handed pitchers can normally look at 1st for an extra long period of time before throwing to freeze the runner.

For rookie or 2nd year pitchers, the best way to tell if a pitcher will give up a lot of stolen bases is by height. Anyone, left handed or right, who is 6’5″ or above, is on average going to be bad against base stealers. Why? It’s not entirely clear, but it probably has a lot to do with tall players being less athletic, having a longer delivery, and a bad pick-off move.

For more experienced pitchers, use baseball-reference.com. What you want to look at is the SB/SBO ratio, SB being stolen bases allowed and SBO being a stat called Stolen Base Opportunities. An SBO is a situation where a player is at bat and there is a player on first base with no one on second or a player on second base with no one on third. You can also use the rSB pitcher tool on our homepage, but it may be a less accurate indicator than SB/SBO for fantasy purposes.

rSB Catchers

Fangraphs has a wonderful stat called rSB, which is stolen bases run saved. Negative numbers mean the catcher is poor against base stealers, positive numbers mean they are good against base stealers. The stronger the positive or negative numbers, the worse or better the player is. We’ve organized the spreadsheet by rSB divided by innings because rSB is not a per inning number and therefore has an experience bias. rSB/Innings gives a better idea of who the truly best and worst catchers are against stolen bases. Look for the spreadsheet rSB Catchers.

Teams often have a regular catcher and a backup catcher who will see action once every 4 or 5 days. Sometimes, the backup can be much worse than the starter. For example, Wilin Rosario is an above average catcher for the Rockies, but his backup Michael McKenry is one of the worst catchers in the league. Yadier Molina, one of the best catchers in the league,  is currently injured. He’s been replaced by Tony Cruz, an extremely poor catcher. Catchers can change often, so make sure to check lineups to see who is catching that day.

Summary

  • Some players derive a majority of their value from stolen bases, so their matchup in terms of stolen bases is much more important than their matchup in terms of opposing pitcher or over/under line.
  • Parks that are single friendly tend to be the best parks for guys who steal bases, because they need to get on first to get a good base stealing opportunity.
  • rSB for pitchers and catchers, as well as the SB/SBO ratio for pitchers, are very useful indicators on how good or bad a pitcher/catcher combination is against base stealers.
  • Check lineups to see who is catcher that day because catcher is one of the most often rested positions in baseball.

View all posts by Daniel Steinberg
Daniel Steinberg

About the Author

Daniel Steinberg Daniel Steinberg is a former bond trader at a multi-billion dollar proprietary trading firm in Chicago. He uses his knowledge of statistics and his creativity from his career as a poker professional to create the most advanced Daily Fantasy statistical analysis that you will find anywhere. Follow him on twitter @DanielSingerS

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