Thursday, March 27, 2008

Speed abundance?

Anyone else notice that stolen bases don't seem to be nearly as rare this year, as compared to years past? Looking at the raw Yahoo numbers, I'm seeing an uptick in available players (about 40 currently available players with more than 20 stolen bases in 2007, versus 32-ish in 2006), but it seems like there's an abundance of rookies set to make an impact as well. While stolen bases are only one category, it's a category that requires careful planning to succeed in. You can't just go acquire steals late in the year without decimating your overall offensive production. So, what does this phenomenon mean for fantasy owners?

Owners in years past have relied upon one super-speedster (if one is available). Most owners would love to have a premium guy in the first few rounds such as Reyes or Crawford, but settle for mid to late-round one-toolers if they must. I think too many owners this year ignored the 20+/20+ OFs thinking that Crawford, Reyes, Bourn, or Pierre is all they need. I don't think that's going to work. One burner and five to 20 stolen bases from four to six other players isn't going to get it done.

I think people are being fairly unrealistic about how well their draft is looking in terms of SBs. Consider this:

1. Reyes
2. H. Ramirez
3. C. Crawford
4. E. Byrnes (though I have my doubts)
5. Chone Figgins
6. Jimmy Rollins
7. Corey Patterson
8. Shane Victorino
9. Ichiro
10. David Wright
11. Willy Taveras
12. Grady Sizmore

I refuse to list Juan Pierre and his 64 steals. I also haven't even mentioned Michael Bourn, Rajai Davis, Jacoby Ellsbury, or Jerry Owens: four guys who may steal more than 35 this year even if they only get limited playing time.

All these players stole 33 bases or more (they're essentially in order). Their owners would probably be content that they have a solid foundation of stolen bases, right? Well, maybe not. With so many premier stolen base guys to go around -- and I'm not even listing the myriad 20 or 30 stolen base players -- you're basically treading water if you only have one 35+ speedster. Savvy owners this year grabbed those few CIs that contribute thefts or focused on 20/20 OFs while others were taking slow-footed sluggers or pitchers.

I don't think too many people have realized that they aren't going to finish in the top three in stolen bases this year with the same numbers their team put up in '05, '06, or even '07. We may see Rajai Davis leaping off the waiver wire in the next month or two. What does this mean for you? If you figured to sneak into the middle of the stolen base column with mostly big boppers and Crawford, you're in trouble. Do the math for your league and see where you stand.

Good planning this year requires that you have a stolen base producing MI and/or OF stashed on your bench. Rotate them in when guys have days off or really bad match-ups. Or when they're playing against San Diego's Chris Young -- who appears to have no concern for runners on base. Don't try to make up ground in stolen bases in one month late in the year; nibble away. You don't want to get hoodwinked on this issue and end up scrounging around for the likes of Nick Punto. Run the math for your league, and see if you underestimated how many stolen bases are needed to be competitive.

Players who are probably available on your waiver wire: at MI, Akinori Iwamura (soon to be 2B eligible) ... and that's about it. At OF, Dave Roberts, Rajai Davis, and Jerry Owens may all be floating around. At C and CI, forget it. All those guys went in the first round, or are named Russell Martin.


Anonymous said...

Note that the problem is Bard/Bennet as much as it is Young. Bard is absolutely horrible at preventing SBs. If you unlimited moves, just pick up a speedy scrub on whatever team is playing SD or Toronto and you likely get a steal if your guy gets on base. Or any player facing Wakefield.

Mike Bock said...

Very shrewd.