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MLB DFS: Catchers/Pitchers to Target for Stolen Base Upside

Tyson Ross on the bump Photo Credit: Eric Gorski under Creative Commons 2.0
MLB DFS: Catchers/Pitchers to Target for Stolen Base Upside
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MLB DFS: Catchers and Pitchers to Target for Stolen Base Upside

You know that feeling when someone comes along and steals your fanny pack right off your waist? Hold on a tick……..mm hmm………yes……..okay…………I’m being told by editor Mike Leone that people do not wear fanny packs these days. Sucks for you guys, I get all kinds of storage capacity that normal pockets just can’t handle.

Okay starting over, do you know that feeling when you find a 10 dollar bill on the ground that someone clearly lost? To you, it’s an adrenaline rush as you look around to see if anyone is there to claim it. Once you realize they are not, you no longer feel bad and your day is temporarily made. Well to some unfortunate fellow (or fellette – is that a word?), they later realize something of theirs has been misplaced….or even stolen. This phenomenon produces similar feelings to different parties in DFS baseball.

When you start a player who swipes a base, it’s like you found a $10 bill just lying around because the player getting on-base in itself was an accomplishment. For the opposing pitcher, or even your opponent in a head-to-head game, it feels like something was taken from them. Stolen bases really are the most under-appreciated and under-researched aspect of Daily Fantasy baseball. While most setting lineups go searching for best dong bets of the day, stolen base threats fly under the radar and ultimately win cash games and even tournaments.

Okay, so where is the place to start when it comes to stolen base research? Without knowing much about in-depth statistics, one assumes Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton are nightly threats to steal a base. Even for elites such as them, there are matchups more favorable than others similar to righty/lefty splits for power hitters. To begin research of when to deploy speed demons, I compiled a chart of every catcher with a stolen base attempt against them in 2015. The chart below is sorted in descending order by stolen base attempts to show what catchers players are attempting to run on. The second most important aspect of the chart is stolen base percentage. As the percentage gets higher, the more effective the catcher has been at throwing out runners this season:

Name SB ATT SB CS CS%
Derek Norris 46 31 15 33%
Francisco Cervelli 43 31 12 28%
Kurt Suzuki 31 23 8 26%
Russell Martin 30 16 14 47%
Jason Castro 29 18 11 38%
Mike Zunino 27 17 10 37%
Roberto Perez 27 19 8 30%
Tyler Flowers 27 20 7 26%
Nick Hundley 27 20 7 26%
Tuffy Gosewisch 26 17 9 35%
Salvador Perez 25 13 12 48%
Rene Rivera 24 17 7 29%
Stephen Vogt 24 17 7 29%
Chris Iannetta 24 19 5 21%
Yasmani Grandal 23 17 6 26%
Martin Maldonado 22 15 7 32%
Caleb Joseph 22 16 6 27%
A.J. Pierzynski 22 17 5 23%
Robinson Chirinos 21 15 6 29%
Miguel Montero 21 16 5 24%
Carlos Ruiz 20 17 3 15%
James McCann 18 10 8 44%
Brayan Pena 18 15 3 17%
David Ross 18 16 2 11%
Yadier Molina 17 10 7 41%
Bobby Wilson 17 14 3 18%
Wilson Ramos 16 10 6 38%
Chris Stewart 15 8 7 47%
Blake Swihart 15 12 3 20%
Cameron Rupp 14 7 7 50%
Buster Posey 14 8 6 43%
Carlos Corporan 14 10 4 29%
Michael McKenry 14 13 1 7%
Brian McCann 13 8 5 38%
J.T. Realmuto 13 9 4 31%
Ryan Hanigan 13 10 3 23%
Kevin Plawecki 13 11 2 15%
Alex Avila 12 8 4 33%
Andrew Susac 12 10 2 17%
Jhonatan Solano 12 11 1 8%
Jonathan Lucroy 11 7 4 36%
Drew Butera 11 8 3 27%
John Ryan Murphy 11 8 3 27%
Christian Bethancourt 10 6 4 40%
Josh Phegley 10 7 3 30%
A.J. Ellis 9 3 6 67%
Tucker Barnhart 9 6 3 33%
Brett Hayes 9 7 2 22%
Jordan Pacheco 9 7 2 22%
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 9 7 2 22%
Geovany Soto 9 8 1 11%
Jose Lobaton 8 7 1 13%
Carlos Perez 7 2 5 71%
Travis d’Arnaud 7 4 3 43%
Yan Gomes 7 5 2 29%
Chris Herrmann 6 3 3 50%
Ryan Lavarnway 5 3 2 40%
Hector Sanchez 5 4 1 20%
Hank Conger 5 5 0 0%
Wil Nieves 5 5 0 0%
Sandy Leon 4 1 3 75%
Austin Hedges 4 2 2 50%
Tony Cruz 3 2 1 33%
Tony Sanchez 3 2 1 33%
Devin Mesoraco 3 3 0 0%
Anthony Recker 2 1 1 50%
Jesus Sucre 2 1 1 50%
Welington Castillo 2 2 0 0%
Juan Centeno 2 2 0 0%
Bryan Holaday 2 2 0 0%
Erik Kratz 2 2 0 0%
Josh Thole 2 2 0 0%
Johnny Monell 1 1 0 0%

 

According to the chart, Derek Norris and Francisco Cervelli are by far the most run on catchers in baseball. Norris leads the two with a 33 percent CS rate which means 67 percent of base stealers are successful against him. With all the data, the question still remained which were the easiest to steal on as opposed to the most attempted (although both are important). I used 15 SB attempts as an arbitrary number to use as a minimum (because honestly it seemed like enough) and then sorted CS percentage in ascending order. In essence, below shows the best catchers to run on in terms of stolen base success rate:

Rank Name SB ATT SB CS CS%
1 David Ross 18 16 2 11%
2 Carlos Ruiz 20 17 3 15%
3 Brayan Pena 18 15 3 17%
4 Bobby Wilson 17 14 3 18%
5 Blake Swihart 15 12 3 20%
6 Chris Iannetta 24 19 5 21%
7 A.J. Pierzynski 22 17 5 23%
8 Miguel Montero 21 16 5 24%
9 Kurt Suzuki 31 23 8 26%
T-10 Tyler Flowers 27 20 7 26%
T-10 Nick Hundley 27 20 7 26%
T-10 Yasmani Grandal 23 17 6 26%

 

Anytime David Ross starts at catcher for the Chicago Cubs, the data would suggest Fantasy owners are likely going to want to take advantage. However, we’ll later find out this may be a little misleading. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Fantasy owners also need to know who to avoid in terms of opposing catchers. They need to know the backstops who likely will throw opposing runners out. FanGraphs compiles a statistic called “rSB” which they define as: “Calculated by The Fielding Bible, Stolen Base Runs Saved measures how many “runs” a catcher contributes to their team by throwing out runners and preventing runners from attempting steals in the first place.” Here is how the statistic is quantified:

Rating rSB
Excellent +5
Great +3
Above Average +1
Average 0
Below Average -1
Poor -3
Awful -5

 

I took a look over the past five MLB seasons (since there really was not enough data on the statistic so far this season) to determine which catchers ranked highest. Of all active catchers, these are the ones whose rSB ratings rank five or above (aka are quantified as excellent):

Name rSB
Russell Martin 24
Yadier Molina 22
Salvador Perez 18
Matt Wieters 17
Welington Castillo 11
Chris Stewart 11
Rene Rivera 10
Drew Butera 10
David Ross 9
Yan Gomes 9
Ryan Hanigan 6
Wilson Ramos 6
Jeff Mathis 6
Buster Posey 5
A.J. Ellis 5
Christian Vazquez 5

 

David Ross surprisingly shows up on the list once again. What gives? It turns out he is the personal catcher for someone who doesn’t give him much of a chance..but yet again, we will get to that. Now onto the pitching aspect of stolen bases; remember Norris had been run on quite a bit? Well pitcher Tyson Ross leads all of the majors in stolen bases against. While Norris may not be the best throwing catcher in baseball, Ross certainly does not help him out. Listed below are all in the pitchers with at least six SB attempts against them so far this season:

Name GS Inn SB ATT SB CS CS%
Tyson Ross 9 52.2 18 15 3 17%
Jon Lester 9 55.2 17 15 2 12%
A.J. Burnett 9 59 14 9 5 36%
Corey Kluber 10 69.2 11 7 4 36%
Jered Weaver 9 57.2 11 8 3 27%
Gerrit Cole 9 57 10 6 4 40%
Jake Arrieta 9 58 10 7 3 30%
Jeff Locke 8 46 9 5 4 44%
Alfredo Simon 9 57.1 9 5 4 44%
Mat Latos 9 42.2 9 6 3 33%
James Shields 9 55.1 9 6 3 33%
Anthony DeSclafani 9 52 9 8 1 11%
Jeff Samardzija 9 61 9 8 1 11%
Chris Archer 10 60 8 5 3 38%
Carlos Carrasco 9 49.1 8 5 3 38%
Jose Quintana 8 48 8 5 3 38%
Mike Foltynewicz 4 22 8 6 2 25%
Cole Hamels 10 66.1 8 6 2 25%
Jordan Lyles 9 47.2 8 6 2 25%
Jimmy Nelson 8 50.2 8 6 2 25%
Ubaldo Jimenez 8 44.2 8 7 1 13%
Rick Porcello 9 55 8 7 1 13%
C.J. Wilson 9 59 7 3 4 57%
Clayton Kershaw 9 58.1 7 4 3 43%
Aaron Sanchez 8 45.1 7 4 3 43%
Hector Santiago 8 48 7 5 2 29%
Mike Fiers 9 46.2 7 6 1 14%
Roberto Hernandez 8 49.2 7 6 1 14%
Tim Lincecum 8 47.2 7 6 1 14%
Tyler Matzek 5 22 7 6 1 14%
Antonio Bastardo 0 11.1 7 7 0 0%
J.A. Happ 8 47.1 6 3 3 50%
Trevor Bauer 8 49 6 4 2 33%
Eddie Butler 8 37 6 4 2 33%
Ross Detwiler 7 33.2 6 4 2 33%
Matt Harvey 9 58.2 6 4 2 33%
Edinson Volquez 9 55.1 6 4 2 33%
Jordan Zimmermann 9 53.2 6 4 2 33%
Drew Pomeranz 8 43 6 5 1 17%
Anibal Sanchez 9 54.2 6 5 1 17%

 

Of the pitchers with at least six SB attempts against them, here are the ones with the lowest CS percentages:

Rk Name GS Inn SB ATT SB CS CS%
1 Antonio Bastardo 0 11.1 7 7 0 0%
2 Anthony DeSclafani 9 52 9 8 1 11%
T-2 Jeff Samardzija 9 61 9 8 1 11%
4 Jon Lester 9 55.2 17 15 2 12%
T-5 Ubaldo Jimenez 8 44.2 8 7 1 13%
T-5 Rick Porcello 9 55 8 7 1 13%
T-7 Mike Fiers 9 46.2 7 6 1 14%
T-7 Roberto Hernandez 8 49.2 7 6 1 14%
T-7 Tim Lincecum 8 47.2 7 6 1 14%
T-7 Tyler Matzek 5 22 7 6 1 14%

 

…and these have the highest CS percentages against:

Rk Name GS Inn SB ATT SB CS CS%
1 C.J. Wilson 9 59 7 3 4 57%
2 J.A. Happ 8 47.1 6 3 3 50%
3 Jeff Locke 8 46 9 5 4 44%
4 Alfredo Simon 9 57.1 9 5 4 44%
5 Clayton Kershaw 9 58.1 7 4 3 43%
6 Aaron Sanchez 8 45.1 7 4 3 43%
7 Gerrit Cole 9 57 10 6 4 40%
8 Chris Archer 10 60 8 5 3 38%
9 Carlos Carrasco 9 49.1 8 5 3 38%
10 Jose Quintana 8 48 8 5 3 38%

 

Conclusion:

Catchers to Target – Carlos Ruiz, Blake Swihart, Chris Iannetta, A.J. Pierzynski, Francisco Cervelli

Catchers to Avoid – Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, Salvador Perez, Matt Weiters

Pitchers to Target – Tyson Ross, Anthony DeSclafani, Jeff Samardzija, Jon Lester (does not attempt pick off throws and hangs his catchers out to dry)

Pitchers to Avoid – C.J. Wilson, J.A. Happ, Jeff Locke, Clayton Kershaw

Bonus Pitcher to Avoid: Mark Buehrle – Has only allowed 59 steals in 16 seasons or approximately 3.69 steals per season. He’s probably the best in the game at holding on runners so not very many attempt to run on him.

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