Between the Numbers: The Big Caught Stealing

Jeff · June 29, 2005 at 11:53 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Beware: do not read this post.

It will remind of last year’s most gutwrenching losses. It contains positive comments about both Dave Henderson and Willie Bloomquist. As such, it such may be dangerously shocking to people with heart conditions, pregnant women or children. So if you’re a pregnant child with a heart condition, for the sake of all that’s decent, do not read on.

Those who have longed for an exhaustive treatise on Willie Bloomquist’s stolen bases, join me after the jump.

When the M’s played San Diego, Dave Henderson lauded Dave Roberts, and by proxy, the Pride of Port Orchard. In so doing, he offered a guiding principle.

Dave Roberts’ steals are a lot like Willie Bloomquist’s, Henderson said, because they’re “big steals” when you really need them, late in close games. Looking only at the quantity of steals and caught stealing statistics, Hendu opined, is misleading: you can’t just look at the numbers.

“Sometimes,” he said, “you’ve got to look between the numbers.”

At first, I sneered at Henderson for conflating two cliches (reading between the lines and going inside the numbers). When I looked closer, “between the numbers” actually seemed like a sensical, if awkward, way to get across what he was talking about.

Similarly, I assumed that his substantive point — the Bloomquist had some big stolen bases — had no basis in fact. Human memory is a tricky thing. Often, we remember what we want to. Surely, this what Henderson was doing.

In both cases, my gut impulse was wrong.

Looking at Bloomquist’s game logs from this year and from last year, I examined all the steals and caught stealings he amassed. I checked out the game situations in which they occurred. All of that data’s down at the bottom.

Guess what? Several of those steals happened in key situations, late in close games. (None as big as Roberts’ steal, of course, but that’s a pretty unfair standard).

It’s not just the big situations, either. Over the past three years, Bloomquist has gone 3-1 (so far), 13-2 and 4-1 in stealing success. That’s a solid rate of success, and the fact that Willie is overrated in general shouldn’t prevent us from acknowledging the parts of his game that have been useful.

What did I learn? Willie Bloomquist has actually had some big steals. In fact, you could even make the case that the majority of his 2004 steals occurred in important situations. I also learned that the stolen base is often a two-edged sword. A few times, Bloomquist did what he was asked to do — only to have the other team, predictably walk a good hitter. It’s also superfluous at times: a Bret Boone grand slam that follows a Bloomquist steal is a run-scoring club compared to the flyswatter of advancing a base.

Most importantly, I was reminded of some eye-poppingly bad stomach-punch losses from last year. April 14, the M’s rally to tie in the 9th … and the bullpen loses it. July 31: Ichiro! ties the game with a ninth inning homer! Bret Boone scores Ichiro with the go-ahead run in the 11th! Eddie comes in … and gives up the game with a two-run bomb. Man, that was a hard team to watch.

Now, saying Bloomquist has had some big steals isn’t to say that any type of specific clutch stealing skill exists. Many of these swiped bags were the result of opportunity — Bloomquist being put in to pinch run in the late innings.

Also, the larger point about human memory is valid. When an image is created of someone, that image tends to stick — and so you remember “the big steal” as opposed to “the big caught stealing.” Bloomquist being picked off of second in a tie game earlier this year really stung the M’s chances to win, and a less-beloved player might have borne scars as a result. He was caught in two 2004 situations that meet the key” criteria I applied above, too.

So go ahead and laugh when Dave Henderson lectures Rick Rizzs about the importance of the bunt. Go ahead and get steamed when anyone tells you that Willie Bloomquist just needs a few hundred more at-bats as a starter to prove he belongs.

Don’t laugh when Henderson tells you that Willie has stolen some important bases, though, because that’s actually true.

5/08: Stole second in the fifth inning with the M’s leading 2-1. Did not score. Mariners won 6-4 on a Richie Sexson grand slam.
6/17 (2): Stole second and third in the fourth inning with the M’s leading 4-0. Did not not score. Mariners won 5-0.

5/01: Picked off second in the fifth inning of a 1-1 tie. Oakland won this game 3-2.

4/11: Stole third in the 10th inning with the Mariners leading 6-4. Scored on an Ichiro groundout. Mariners won 9-4 afterBret Boone followed up the big steal with a two-run homer, scoring Randy Winn.
4/14: Stole second in the top of the ninth. Scored on a Dan Wilson single to tie the game. Mariners lost 6-5 when Mike Myers, Shigetoshi Hasegawa and Julio Mateo gave up a run in the bottom of the ninth.
5/25: Stole third in the 11th inning of a tie game — but was thrown out trying to score on a groundout. Mariners won 5-4 in the 12th on a Raul Ibanez single.
6/06: Stole third as part of a double-steal with Bret Boone in the bottom of the ninth of a 4-4 tie — resulting in an intentional walk being issued to Edgar Martinez. The Mariners won 5-4 after Billy Koch blew up for three runs in the bottom of the ninth, walking Jolbert Cabrera with the bases loaded (!) to give up the game-winner.
7/10: Stole second in the fifth inning with the M’s leading 2-1. Did not score. M’s lost 3-2.
7/19: Stole second in the eighth inning, down by two runs. M’s tied the game in the ninth on homers by Miguel Olivo (!) and Edgar Martinez off Keith Foulke, then won 8-4 in the 11th on a Boone grand slam.
7/20: Stole second in the fourth inning, trailing 1-0. Went to third on a wild pitch, but did not score. M’s lost 9-7.
7/27: Stole second in the 7th inning, trailing 4-3. Did not score. Mariners lost 5-3.
8/01: Stole second in the ninth inning of a tie game — but that just resulted in an intentional walk to Raul Ibanez. After Ichiro tied the game with a ninth inning homer, and Boone put the M’s ahead with a single scoring Ichiro in the top of the 11th, Eddie Guardado served up a two-run homer without getting an out in the bottom half for a gut-wrenching 9-8 loss.
8/03: Stole second in the eighth trailing 4-3. Scored on a double-error by Miguel Tejada error to tie the score. But (stop me if you’ve heard this) Tejada doubled off George Sherrill in the bottom half to beat the M’s 5-4.
8/11: Stole third and scored on Henry Blanco’s throwing error to score the winning run in the ninth, 4-3.
8/21: Stole second in the third inning of a 3-3 tie. Did not score. M’s lost 11-10. Some guy named “Guillen” who plays for the Tigers had six RBI.
8/31: Stole third as part of a double-steal with Jolbert Cabrera in the eighth. Scored go-ahead run on Dan Wilson’s single. M’s won 5-3.

7/22: Picked off first in the seventh inning of a tie game. M’s won 4-2 after getting two in the bottom of the eighth.
8/22: Caught stealing third in the third inning, down 3-1. Did hit a game-winning home run later, his first tater in 13 months.


37 Responses to “Between the Numbers: The Big Caught Stealing”

  1. Jeremy on June 29th, 2005 12:05 pm

    Thank you for calling him the “pride of Port Ochard” not Bremerton, Jeff. Yes, he was born in Bremerton, but was raised in Port Orchard.

    The real pride of Bremerton is me. No, I’m kidding. It’s Marvin Williams. (No more basketball talk after this comment, this isn’t my site, dammit.)

  2. Jeremy on June 29th, 2005 12:11 pm

    I may get banned from this site because I forgot the “r” in Orchard.


  3. Jeff on June 29th, 2005 12:13 pm

    Jeremy, you know I represent for Kitsap. I’ll even put in a good word with DMZ before he brandishes the banhammer.

  4. Sirmixalot on June 29th, 2005 12:29 pm

    Here’s a gory kinda story, ’bout an obese freak
    With a forty inch waist and a ten inch beak,
    Overweight and out of shape with a triple chin,
    Her brassiere strikes fear in the hearts of men,

    The Girls a bremelo
    The Girls a bremelo

    Me and Terry hopped a ferry, we were lookin Swass
    When a dip hit the ship we were almost tossed
    It was a big bremelo standing on my toe,
    An enormous jelly-belly tryin’ to say hello
    I was really kinda frightened as she looked my way,
    I tried to run because here buns made the ferry sway
    To be blunt she was fat and ready for combat
    On the way to Bremerton where the fat is at,
    The Girls a bremelo.

    Let’s Go!

    I’m not fakin’ or mistaken’ ’bout the big ol’ duck,
    She had hairy underarms and a whoppin’ gut,
    Her hair was short and wavy, drove my pit bull crazy,
    A Bremerton beast chasin’ fella’s in the Navy,
    At the movie she’s the feature, the Bremerton creature,
    Ya’ wear a life jacket if ya ever try and freak her
    Look at her physique, she ain’t my kinda freak,
    The floor creaks when the beast starts reaching her peak
    The Girls a bremelo.
    She’s just a bremelo.

    Change the beat!

    You can’t ignore the way she snores ‘cuz she blows down doors,
    Baby’s got the kinda face only a mother adores,
    A big basket ball head, with her ten inch feet,
    Big lips, No hips, with the smell of a beast,
    I couldn’t put her in my Caddy or my tranny would break,
    I’ve heard of dirt because of poverty, but she took the cake,
    When it comes to Cool-Aid, the girl would drink it in pints,
    Ya go to school for twenty years and ya still in the ninth?
    Ya just a bremelo.
    Just a bremelo.

    You big, triple chinned, unattractive duck,
    Yer boyfriend beats freaks up to make a buck,
    Hangin’ ’round Third & Pike on a ten speed bike,
    you could say that I’m a liar, but ya know I’m right
    Ya talk behind my back because I dropped you flat,
    And ya never take a shower ‘cuz ya too damn fat
    So ya man was smart when he broke your heart
    Because if Mix-A-Lot’d cut cha youd’a fell apart
    Wearing Polyester slacks with elastic in the back
    You could flat’n squash a nigga in a wrestling match
    Ya got lips like a character in some cartoon
    With a pink posterior ya big baboon
    Yer just a (Elephant)

    Now Bremerton’s a city right outside of mine,
    Most girls there are ducks but a few are fine
    But the ones that I speak about, use their faces catching trout,
    Vacuum cleaners for a mouth, You know what I’m talkin’ ’bout
    Mud Ducks, Hocky Pucks, Drivers of Mack© trucks,
    Lame brains, Deisel Trains, to pick them up you have to strain,
    Big Butt, Crew Cut, Extra-Ordinary Gut,
    Big Mamma, kinda buff, facial hairs kinda rough
    The Girls a Bremelo

  5. Paul Covert on June 29th, 2005 1:04 pm

    Thanks– interesting (Jeff’s original post, I mean, not… well, never mind). Can anyone (hello, Lookout Landing guys) generate Win Probability values for his SB/CS?

  6. Vince on June 29th, 2005 1:17 pm

    Ooh, I haven’t listened to that song in far too long.

  7. Nate on June 29th, 2005 1:21 pm

    I count three instances where Bloomquist’s steal ended up being the turning point that gave the M’s a lead or kept them alive. Most of these steals were either followed by several runs or didn’t result in any runs. Not that it’s his fault that people didn’t drive him in, but I’m not sure how these count as “big steals,” Jeff.

    How does Billy Koch give up three runs in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game? (6/6/04) Doesn’t the first run scored break the tie and end the game?

  8. Eric on June 29th, 2005 1:24 pm

    #7, I was wondering that too, it must be that the Ms scored two of the runs to tie, then Willie stole, eventually scoring the 3rd run

  9. strong silence on June 29th, 2005 1:29 pm

    The 3rd run won the game.

    Two arguments against a clutch ability:
    a) Nothing which happens on a last place team is clutch because nothing significant is at stake.
    b) It’s likely that he was ordered to steal. If he had come back to the dugout without an attempt he would have been read the riot act.

  10. strong silence on June 29th, 2005 1:30 pm

    Forgot to add that I enjoyed the article. Jeff, I like your style.

  11. Jeff on June 29th, 2005 1:33 pm

    I should have probably explained my methodology better, but I figured I’d already expended enough time on research. Nate, you’re right about your count, but a) three out of 14 isn’t bad, and b) many of the other factors were really outside of Bloomquist’s control.

    If someone puts you into a tie game, and you steal, and a single scores you, you’ve done really all you can. Those are the circumstances where it’s undeniably a big steal. If you do the same thing, but it’s a game where you’re down one run, then you can’t really help it if the bullpen gives it up in the next half inning.

    Again, I’m not trying to overclaim the significance of this, just point out that my gut reaction was incorrect.

  12. strong silence on June 29th, 2005 1:35 pm

    I count 10 times in which a steal attempt occurred after the 5th inning and 7 times in which a steal attempt occurred in the 5th inning or earlier.

    I’m sure the manager orders him to go in the late and close situations. WB can’t have enough clout, despite the distinction of being Port Orchards’s best, to have the green light, can he?

  13. strong silence on June 29th, 2005 1:38 pm

    Again, I’m not trying to overclaim the significance of this, just point out that my gut reaction was incorrect.

    And it’s precisely that quality of honesty that made your essay refreshing.

  14. strong silence on June 29th, 2005 1:40 pm

    Again, I’m not trying to overclaim the significance of this, just point out that my gut reaction was incorrect.

    And it’s precisely that quality of honesty that made your essay refreshing.

  15. strong silence on June 29th, 2005 1:41 pm

    Speaking of Port Orchard’s best, is there a local brew known throughout that fair land? Is it well crafted and worthy of valorous and noble men?

  16. strong silence on June 29th, 2005 1:44 pm

    It is not a beer foul to start drinking before your 7th post of the day is it?

    Are there rules about this issue posted somewhere on USSM?

  17. roger tang on June 29th, 2005 2:02 pm

    Now, saying Bloomquist has had some big steals isn’t to say that any type of specific clutch stealing skill exists. Many of these swiped bags were the result of opportunity — Bloomquist being put in to pinch run in the late innings.

    Well, yeah. Willie’s had the hard part (getting on base) done FOR him….

    But you’re right in that this is something that he can legitimately claim as a skill that’s useful to the team.

  18. Brett Farve on June 29th, 2005 2:13 pm

    Willie also has skills that are useful to the other team, like generating outs.

  19. strong silence on June 29th, 2005 2:14 pm

    I don’t think you can conclude that it is a skill, Roger.

    He is 10 up and 1 down in steals attempted after the 5th inning. Despite the results, that is a small sample size. Therefore, just as one should not conclude that a player has a hitting ability after 11 at bats, it would be improper to conclude that a player has a skill for stealing after 11 tries.

  20. roger tang on June 29th, 2005 2:20 pm

    Well, maybe not conclude….but it would certainly justify using him that role again (or at least it doesn’t argue against using him in that role).

  21. strong silence on June 29th, 2005 2:21 pm

    Roger Tang!!!!!!

    I agree.

  22. firova on June 29th, 2005 2:23 pm

    #9 I agree that no such thing as pressure ability exists (please, please can we bury the word “clutch”?) but I don’t think the standings should any bearing on whether an action taken to win a game is significant. When in the middle of a competitive situation, the standings don’t have much to do with it. If they do, we shoudn’t be paying attention at all right now.

  23. strong silence on June 29th, 2005 2:23 pm

    And now it occurs to me that if Theo wanted a SB King to use in the playoffs last year why didn’t he call Bavasi and make an offer for WFB???!??!


  24. Adam M on June 29th, 2005 2:24 pm

    This is a fantastic reason why Willie should get more playing time…in the National League. The M’s are denying him the chance to become the next Joe McEwing or Kevin McReynolds. It’s unconscionable.

  25. strong silence on June 29th, 2005 2:31 pm

    #22 Firova,

    would you argue that Willie’s achievement is equal to Robert’s stolen base against the Yankees in the playoff last season?

  26. strong silence on June 29th, 2005 2:34 pm

    Then, would you argue that the Yankees would play with the same intensity against the last place M’s in the regular season as they would against their arch rival Red Sox in the playoffs?

    The intensity and LEVEL of competition matters.

  27. Grizz on June 29th, 2005 2:36 pm

    Kevin McReynolds? The 20/20 Club member?

  28. RL on June 29th, 2005 2:41 pm

    When I meet a special girl
    She always lives somewhere else in the world
    I don’t want to call her on the phone
    I wanna talk to her when I’m at home

    Move to Bremerton – we’ll hang out
    Move to Bremerton – we’ll go all out
    Move to Bremerton – will you be mine?
    (Move to Bremerton til’ the end of time)

    I’ll change the street signs you drive down
    So you end up in my town
    I’ll re-draw the maps all one by one
    So they all lead to Bremerton

    Drop out of school and run away
    Quit your job, you got a place to stay
    Pack your bags and hitch a ride
    Bremerton’s a good place to reside

    If you owned a brain and use it too
    You gotta know that I’d have a crush on you
    I’m a sucker for a short haired girl with a pretty smile
    She gotz to have ideas, yeah, and she gotz to have style

  29. Phil Stubblefield on June 29th, 2005 3:04 pm

    Does she gotz to have the ability to spell?


  30. Evan on June 29th, 2005 3:24 pm

    Willie could go 20/20.

    He just needs the season to be 512 games long.

  31. jaketrash on June 29th, 2005 4:13 pm

    If a team was looking to improve or be in contention, how much value is there for a high probability base stealing PR? Is he worth the roster spot?
    (Let’s assume for sake of discussion he is replacement level in all other categories.)

  32. Shawn on June 29th, 2005 4:35 pm

    True Evan but you are forgetting one major thing: Willie would need 7 at bats a game too. Which is possible — bat him leadoff and have every game go 15 innings!

  33. LB on June 29th, 2005 4:35 pm

    The Red Sox do not have a base stealer on the bench this year. What’s WFB worth to Theo?

  34. Tom on June 29th, 2005 6:47 pm

    For the sake of discussion, isn’t it easier to steal later in the game? Relief pitchers generally do not concentrate on keeping runners honest as much as starters do, and often have slower deliveries aimed at producing more power and hence more strikeouts. So… is it surprising that a bench player is good at stealing bases?

  35. Colm on June 29th, 2005 9:29 pm

    Re30 Evan. Nah, Willie hit one home-run about every 200 ABs. He’d need the season to be as long as a year on Pluto before he’d reach 20 homers.

    He is a good base stealer though. Let’s just damn him with faint praise.

  36. Pilots fan on June 29th, 2005 10:43 pm

    I am not going to argue that Willie needs a few hundred at bats as a starter to prove he belongs (I can’t believe I even thought I needed to type that). However, I would argue that a well placed bunt late in a tied game can be very important. That, of course, is assuming your bullpen can hold a one-run lead.

  37. Matt Williams on June 30th, 2005 9:07 am

    However, I would argue that a well placed bunt late in a tied game can be very important. That, of course, is assuming your bullpen can hold a one-run lead.

    And depending upon the offensive abilities of the players at bat and coming up. If you’re asking Albert Pujols to bunt in that situation…well, you should be chased out of baseball. Having Olivo bunt to get to Ichiro is a no brainer. But, even then, they’re probably just going to walk Ichiro.