Ichiro, High Leverage Base Stealer

Dave · April 9, 2008 at 9:51 am · Filed Under Mariners 

During one of the off-season threads, a commenter and I had a discussion about Ichiro’s base stealing. Among those who aren’t Ichiro fans, it’s a fairly often repeated claim that Ichiro doesn’t run enough in situations that matter, and he pads his SB totals by taking bases early in games when the impact on wins and losses isn’t that large.

Well, thanks to the amazing Baseball-Reference.com, we can now disprove that myth once and for all. Here’s Ichiro’s career splits, now with Leverage Index added. Look at the breakdown:

High Leverage: 826 PA, 349 times on base, 67 steals, 19 caught, 25% Steal Per On Base
Med Leverage: 2606 PA, 1006 times on base, 147 steals, 37 caught, 18% Steal Per On Base
Low Leverage: 1784 PA, 684 times on base, 58 steals, 10 caught, 10% Steal Per On Base

About a 1/4 of the time that Ichiro reaches base in a high leverage situation, he takes off, compared to 1/5 of the time in normal situations and 1/10 of the time in low leverage situations.

I think we can safely put that false critique to bed.

Comments

64 Responses to “Ichiro, High Leverage Base Stealer”

  1. Mere Tantalisers on April 9th, 2008 9:54 am

    Pretty remarkable what B-R and Fangraphs offer up these days.

    Now if only they kept track of diving catches…

  2. sass on April 9th, 2008 9:57 am

    Yeah, that site is awesome. What surprised me was the batting average in high leverage situations…since it is so frustrating when he hits into a fielder’s choice late in the game, it seems like much more often than it is. His numbers are pretty dang consistent across the board. Also, his GIDP is amazingly low, which people tend to forget as well.

  3. jimmylauderdale on April 9th, 2008 9:58 am

    Every season Ichiro proves he is one of the premier all-around players in the game. Unfortunately, it seems he does not often get mentioned in that class.

  4. PCW on April 9th, 2008 10:07 am

    His success rate decreases as the leverage increases (85%, 80%, 78%), perhaps because they’re expecting it more?

  5. arbeck on April 9th, 2008 10:11 am

    PCW,

    I’d guess that is some of it. But more of it is probably that Ichiro is doing mental calculations and taking off even though he knows he has a lower chance of succeeding. If the reward for succeeding is high enough (as it is in a high leverage situation) the trade off is worth it.

    What amazes me is that Ichiro seems to be doing this math in his head or intuitively knows what his chances are and what the leverage of the situation is.

  6. jzalman on April 9th, 2008 10:14 am

    PCW, arbeck,

    I think it’s likely mostly that the opponents expect it more. It’s high leverage for them too. Those are the situations where they’re more likely to pitch out, pick off, etc.

  7. Steve Nelson on April 9th, 2008 10:15 am

    #4:

    His success rate decreases as the leverage increases (85%, 80%, 78%), perhaps because they’re expecting it more?

    I think that reflect Ichiro’s awareness of the value of a stolen base in various situations. In high leverage situations, he’s more willing to attempt a steal because the potential payoff is higher. In low leverage situations he’s less inclined to steal, so he only steals when he’s more certain of succeeding.

  8. thewyrm on April 9th, 2008 10:16 am

    You know how old school players like Joe Jackson and Ty Cobb have all these wierd legends built up about them, most of which are total crap? I think Ichiro will be one of those players. 100 years from now some fans will be at a game and see some player ground into a double play and one fan will lean over to the other and say “Can you believe Ichiro Suzuki never hit into a double play his whole career!? I wish we had players with that kind of hustle.” As the other guy goes “Yeah, and just imagine how many hundreds more home runs that guy would have hit if he hadn’t thought singles and base stealing was more important!”

  9. AssumedName on April 9th, 2008 10:20 am

    The highlight of any Ichiro-on-base situation for me is listening to Blowers and that other tard wondering why he’s not going. Nothing like a little backseat driving from the homers.

  10. walkie83 on April 9th, 2008 10:22 am

    The fact is… Ichiro doesn’t steal enough! If the M’s weren’t lucky when Lopez bunted a ball foul… things could have been a lot different. I don’t know why they were even THINKING of bunting Ichiro to 2nd.. when he should just attempt a steal.. but thankfully the bunt didn’t work and the hit and run did. Lopez is being real patient this year at the plate .. and Ichiro needs to be a little more aggressive.

  11. Manzanillos Cup on April 9th, 2008 10:22 am

    I think we can safely put that false critique to bed.

    Have we studied this enough to know for sure? I’m absolutely not saying you’re wrong, but wouldn’t we have to look at some other players as well? What we know for sure is that Ichiro takes off more in high leverage situations. What if the average player with over 20 steals was stealing 35% of the time in high leverage situations?

  12. bakomariner on April 9th, 2008 10:23 am

    9-

    “Tard”? You in third grade? Come on…

  13. The Oaf on April 9th, 2008 10:24 am

    Speaking of homers, Dave & DMZ why don’t you just change the name of the site to “HMS Ichiro Fanboys”? We could get pony T-shirts and everything! :)

  14. Zero Gravitas on April 9th, 2008 10:27 am

    Too bad we don’t have a reporter in the clubhouse. I would love to hear Ichiro’s explanation of whether he consciously thinks about leverage in deciding whether to steal.

  15. Jar on April 9th, 2008 10:36 am

    Dave, you should know by now, statistical proof is not enough evidence to put any false critique to bed.

  16. Mariner Fan in CO Exile on April 9th, 2008 10:37 am

    Speaking of homers, Dave & DMZ why don’t you just change the name of the site to “HMS Ichiro Fanboys”? We could get pony T-shirts and everything!

    Oaf, if you aren’t an Ichiro fan, I am not sure why you pay attention to baseball. I’m not saying he should be your favorite player, but it is pretty much beyond dispute that he is great at what he does. Beyond dispute if you rely on anything more than unsupported feelings, that is (and I am not saying you don’t – you cleverly omitted any mention of your feelings about Ichiro in your comment).

    I’ll mention, too, that Dave has been on record about at least one thing he thinks is overrated about Ichrio (accuracy of his arm is one that comes to mind). So, I’m not sure they are homers any more than any other fan who enjoys watching somebody at the top of his game contribute enormously to the sport. I don’t think it is being a homer to think highly of a player who deserves it.

  17. Pete on April 9th, 2008 10:43 am

    How are we defining high-leverage?

    Ichiro rocks.

  18. LMF on April 9th, 2008 10:47 am

    14 – I’m guessing that if he saw himself consciously thinking about leverage he would punch himself in the face, but thats just me…

    11 – Other players might run more than Ichiro in high leverage situations, but the claim that he runs more when it doesn’t matter (or matters less) than when it does has been disproved. That he runs with less frequency than other players in high leverage situations seems like a different claim to me. How you come up with whether or not he runs “enough” is beyond me.

  19. joser on April 9th, 2008 10:57 am

    100 years from now some fans will be at a game and see some player ground into a double play and one fan will lean over to the other and say “Can you believe Ichiro Suzuki never hit into a double play his whole career!?”

    And the other fan will say “Pfft, what, did you get your cerebral implant removed? Just pull up any of the baseball sites on your retinal display and slice the data — you can have the timeline graph all of his GIDPs along with the game situation, temperature, humidity, and so on. Heck, since Major League Baseball belongs to Google, you can use their video search to see every time he hit into a double play, though that sometimes freaks me out when I’m actually at a game with it superimposed ove the live action. Heck, you could even dig through the contemporary accounts. The most interesting would’ve been that old USSMariner site, but it’s kind of hard to do since they blew the chance to sell out and had to move to Venezuela after all the… unpleasantness. I’ve only ever been able to find them by searching for “Bloomquist ponies” — though I’ve never understood what that means or why it works.”

    And then they’ll go back to wondering when the Mariners management will finally figure out the concept of “replacement level.”

  20. philosofool on April 9th, 2008 11:03 am

    I think that reflect Ichiro’s awareness of the value of a stolen base in various situations. In high leverage situations, he’s more willing to attempt a steal because the potential payoff is higher. In low leverage situations he’s less inclined to steal, so he only steals when he’s more certain of succeeding.

    Something like that may well be right. I recently took a look at stolen base attempts in the ninth inning, using WPA, to assess the value of various stolen base attempts in the ninth. It turns out that in the 9th inning of a close game, you don’t need to be nearly as good a base stealer as you do typically in order for get an advantage from attempting to steal. If Ichiro understands this, then he’s more likely to attempt a tough steal in the 9th, and hence more likely to be caught. Of course, he may just be stealing because someone tells him to…

    At the expense of shameless self-promotion, you can see my analysis here, and by the way, I’d love some criticisms and questions. This is my first published piece of work along these lines.

  21. Manzanillos Cup on April 9th, 2008 11:08 am

    #18 – Understood. I think I’m just interpreting the claim differently.

    Ichiro doesn’t run enough in situations that matter, and he pads his SB totals by taking bases early in games when the impact on wins and losses isn’t that large.

    I’m inferring from this that the Ichiro nay-sayers are trying to downplay Ichiro’s high steal success rate by claiming that his stolen bases don’t contribute enough to wins. Since we often use his high success rate to compare him favorably to other players, I would say that to properly place Ichiro on the right side of the “enough” and “large” in the claim you would have to bring other players and league averages into the discussion.

    Of course my gut tells me that the claim is totally false.

  22. joser on April 9th, 2008 11:09 am

    How are we defining high-leverage?

    See the works of Tom Tango (You could start here or here).

    Leverage Index (and WPA) are displayed for games on the Fangraphs site, more or less in realtime. I hate to revisit it, but this game shows it in starkly brutal terms — the LI is the bar graph along the bottom, and the aggregate for each of the hitters and pitchers is given in the box score below. (If you want an example of a high leverage situation that is less painful to look at, see the end of the April 8th Angels-Indians game).

  23. Karen on April 9th, 2008 11:32 am

    Pardon my ignorance, but who exactly has been delivering these false critiques of Ichiro’s base-stealing savvy? Anyone important (i.e., a broadcasted or documented opinion, an analyst), or someone whose analysis can be corrected?

  24. Karen on April 9th, 2008 11:38 am

    Also, maybe they were criticizing Ichiro last year, when his leverage splits were:

    High — 5 SB, 4 CS
    Medium — 20 SB, 3 CS
    Low — 12 SB, 1 CS

    The previous year, 2006, his numbers were MUCH better for high leverage situations.

  25. Mariner Fan in CO Exile on April 9th, 2008 11:40 am

    Karen, it came up, I believe, in the context of the McLaren quote that Ichiro could steal 80 bases if he wanted to. Derek had a post about why that was stupid, and that we should trust Ichiro’s instincts on when to steal. Basically, the return on Ichiro stealing less selectively would be outweighed by negative consequences of him getting caught more. A commenter then went off about how Ichiro doesn’t steal as much in important situations (and I think he used the innings chosen as his support). Dave and Derek argued with him, and Dave went to the data on LI to begin what he has now finished with this post.

    Others can correct me if I am wrong.

  26. joser on April 9th, 2008 11:41 am

    Well, I think the offseason discussion referred to in the post is here (see comment #12 and Dave’s response in 27, etc). Whether this is a meme going around in the more general media I don’t know. There was a lot made of McLaren’s “Ichiro could steal 80 bases if he wanted to” comment and I’m sure this came up in some form then.

  27. Mike Snow on April 9th, 2008 11:42 am

    This only puts to rest half of the critique, the part about Ichiro padding his totals. To deal with the question of whether he runs enough when it counts, you’d need more information than this. It would be interesting to see how his distribution compares to other players.

    For one data point, I did the same with his closest counterpart on the team currently facing the M’s, Carl Crawford. Since Crawford generally gets on base less and steals more than Ichiro, his percentages are naturally higher across the board. The distribution is 41% high, 38% medium, and 12.5% low. So Crawford distinguishes less between high and medium leverage, but cuts back more dramatically when the situation warrants.

  28. tg on April 9th, 2008 11:44 am

    I think leverage index is a red herring here (although it is relevant for the boneheaded critique of Ichiro that Dave is debunking). It isn’t clearly better to attempt steals in high leverage situations, since the penalty for being caught also goes up. The ratios depend on the situation and are not at all captured by LI. It seems to me that the best measure would be just to figure out his WPA per steal attempt and compare to other players. (It would still be interesting to see how this depends on LI.) Is this easy to extract from any of the sources of data?

  29. sass on April 9th, 2008 11:53 am

    19. Hilarious.

  30. Jar on April 9th, 2008 12:13 pm

    19 for the win.

  31. The Oaf on April 9th, 2008 12:17 pm

    16 – Apparently the cheesy smiley face didn’t adequately communicate my sarcasm…must work harder on that. I’m a huge Ichiro! fan and wanted to beat someone else to the punch on the inane argument that the site creators love Ichiro! for stathead reasons, but he’s no Raul (not a vocal enough leader) or Big Sexy (doesn’t hit for power) or some other such nonsense.

    Sarcasm: And how dare you insult his arm – Ichiro! is the embodiment of human perfection!

  32. Mariner Fan in CO Exile on April 9th, 2008 12:26 pm

    Oaf – Admittedly my sarcasm detector is on the blink. We’ll just pretend I pre-emptively responded to somebody who’d seriously comment that USSM is Ichiro homer-central. What do you say?

  33. The Oaf on April 9th, 2008 12:29 pm

    Hmmmm… I’ll go with your basic “I appreciate the pro-active approach”.

  34. msb on April 9th, 2008 1:27 pm

    HMS Ichiro Fanboys

    dude. HMS Ichiro! Fanpersons.

    from this spring:

    “Eyebrows were raised during the offseason when Mariners manager John McLaren mentioned that Ichiro Suzuki could steal 80 bases this season.
    But that is not to say McLaren expects his center fielder to steal 80 bases.

    “He has done everything so well in his career, winning batting battles and Gold Gloves, that the bar is set high for him,” McLaren said. “He’s a numbers guy, and I just like him and others to think, ‘I am capable of doing this.’ That was a number I pulled out of a hat.”"

  35. AQ on April 9th, 2008 2:00 pm

    “That was a number I pulled out of a hat.””

    That goes well with the lineups that he seemingly pulls out of a hat.

  36. strong silence on April 9th, 2008 2:14 pm

    Because he stills more often in high leverage situations (compared to low leverage) does not mean that he steals as frequently as he could or should.

    Perhaps there are other data to analyze: comparison with other players, opportunities in games of high importance games (e.g. in division, in September, etc.), or intangible (unquantifiable) factors.

  37. Dave on April 9th, 2008 2:15 pm

    And, for all of you claiming that he doesn’t steal enough when it matters, good luck with that study. Until then, the correct default hypothesis is that Ichiro knows more about when he should steal then you do.

  38. Oolon on April 9th, 2008 2:18 pm

    Wow. I’m honored that my comment about Ichiro (don’t get me wrong – I’m a great fan of his) not stealing bases late in tight games and instead taking most of his steals at what I consider less important spots (the first three innings) was worthy of an additional look and discussion.

    My argument was based on what I perceive (apparently incorrectly) as important situations – close games (2 run differential or less) in late innings. Here I stand by my previous observations on the 2007 season:

    “Of the attempts in innings 7 through 9 when the score differential was 2 runs or less – he attempted only 2 stolen bases – successful once and unsuccessful once. These are the situations that always caught my attention.

    “Of the 45 attempts (during the 2007 season) 8 came with a 4 run differential or more (one when down by 7 runs and another when ahead by 8). Many (18) of his attempts came with the score tied – all but one of them in the first three innings. Only 6 of the 20 attempts after the third inning came with a 2 run differential or less.”

    I agree that the Baseball-Reference.com numbers show that Ichiro attempts a higher percentage of his steals in “high leverage” situations.

    But I also think that if the score is close in innings 7-9 the pitcher and catcher don’t really have to worry about him dashing off to second (he only tried it twice in 2007). And only 6 times all year in innings 4-9 did he attempt to steal when the game was close.

    It appears to me that Ichiro’s motto is “Steal early and often”…

  39. strong silence on April 9th, 2008 2:19 pm

    So we should form a conclusion from imperfect data? How WMD of you!

  40. Graham on April 9th, 2008 2:21 pm

    So we should form a conclusion from imperfect data? How WMD of you!

    That’s a lot of snark coming from someone who apparently wants to analyse unquantifiable data.

  41. strong silence on April 9th, 2008 2:23 pm

    Oolon,

    Aren’t bases advanced while losing or winning by that large a margin classified as Indifference or something like that?

  42. strong silence on April 9th, 2008 2:25 pm

    Graham,

    It was a snark. But no offense intended.

    I do want to analyze qualitative data because I think it would be useful and relevant.

  43. Oolon on April 9th, 2008 2:33 pm

    #41 – apparently not always. They list the indifference as such – these were listed as stolen bases so I suppose the catcher threw to the base trying to catch him.

  44. Mike Snow on April 9th, 2008 2:41 pm

    But I also think that if the score is close in innings 7-9 the pitcher and catcher don’t really have to worry about him dashing off to second (he only tried it twice in 2007). And only 6 times all year in innings 4-9 did he attempt to steal when the game was close.

    Given the sample size and the limitations chosen, I don’t think 6 out of 45 is necessarily a small number, or particularly revealing of anything. Yes, over his career Ichiro has stolen more bases in innings 1-3 than in innings 4-6 or innings 7-9. That’s common if not routine, look at the splits for Carl Crawford or Jose Reyes and you see the same kind of pattern. I’d like to see counterexamples before concluding that this is even relevant to the issue of whether Ichiro steals enough.

  45. Oolon on April 9th, 2008 2:41 pm

    Case in point – from a few days ago (April 5th) in the top of the 7th when we trailed Baltimore by 1 run…

    - Y. Betancourt struck out looking
    - J. Walker relieved M. Albers
    - I. Suzuki singled to left center
    - J. Lopez flied out to left center
    - R. Ibanez grounded out to pitcher

    It seems to me that this is the ideal time for Ichiro to use his base stealing skills. If he can get to second with one out we have two chances for a single to score him. Otherwise it’ll probably take two hits to bring him around.

    With Ichiro’s success rate of about 78% in high leverage situations (this must be one), I think its a risk that would pay off more often than not.

  46. HamNasty on April 9th, 2008 2:42 pm

    In late situations if Ichiro is usually running or not does not matter to the defense. They know it is Ichiro and they will watch him closely. The reason he might not have taken off late in close games last year is because they kept his leads short and they pitched out a few times. If teams stopped thinking Ichiro would run and didn’t pay attention to him, then he would steal every time.

  47. galaxieboi on April 9th, 2008 2:45 pm

    apparently not always. They list the indifference as such – these were listed as stolen bases so I suppose the catcher threw to the base trying to catch him

    I’m looking for the answer to that in the official rules but havn’t run into anything yet.

  48. msb on April 9th, 2008 2:51 pm

    Case in point – from a few days ago (April 5th) in the top of the 7th when we trailed Baltimore by 1 run…

    well, he’s been on-base 5 times when Jamie Walker is pitching; do we assume he knows whether he can run on Walker and/or Ramon Hernandez?

  49. Oolon on April 9th, 2008 2:52 pm

    Mike Snow Says:

    Given the sample size and the limitations chosen, I don’t think 6 out of 45 is necessarily a small number, or particularly revealing of anything. Yes, over his career Ichiro has stolen more bases in innings 1-3 than in innings 4-6 or innings 7-9. That’s common if not routine, look at the splits for Carl Crawford or Jose Reyes and you see the same kind of pattern. I’d like to see counterexamples before concluding that this is even relevant to the issue of whether Ichiro steals enough.

    I did look at Carl Crawford the last time we had this discussion. Here’s what I wrote then:

    “It’s also interesting that Ichiro’s highest LI for a stolen base was 2.08 (stealing third base in the third inning with 1 out). Carl Crawford had 8 stolen bases with LIs greater than 2.08. His highest was 4.82 (stealing second in the bottom of the ninth when trailing by 1 run). 6 of his 8 2.08+ LIs were in the 7th through 9th innings (when the LI can grow to monstrous levels).”

    Crawford had an average LI of 1.40 for his successful stolen bases in 2007 (compared to Ichiro’s 1.02).

    It’s a very small sample size. Very small. But it does seem to support the impression that I’ve had that Ichiro isn’t going to give us a stolen base in a close game in the late innings.

  50. HamNasty on April 9th, 2008 2:59 pm

    I would point out that Carl Crawford is just faster then Ichiro and possibly a better base stealer. It makes sense for him to try more often.

  51. Grizz on April 9th, 2008 3:02 pm

    - J. Walker relieved M. Albers
    - I. Suzuki singled to left center

    You do realize that Jamie Walker is left-handed, right?

  52. Kunkoh on April 9th, 2008 3:02 pm

    I wonder how the people that think Ichiro should steal more, particularly in high leverage situations, would react if he started getting picked off more.

    It’s easy to say that if he tried more high leverage, late inning steals when the M’s are within 2 runs that he would maintain a 78% success rate; but I don’t think that we can accept that because of a few factors that are unknowable to us.

    How is he choosing? Is it when he believes he has a 75% chance of success? Whatever his method, attempting to steal more then would mean he would have to be less choosy. The more he steals the more risk there is involved. I think it’s a safe bet that his success rate may drop; even as fast as he is.

    All it takes then is for a few inning ending/shortening outs by him attempting to steal in close games, and the fans that are already saying he’s selfish because he only steals to pad his stats would be saying, “he’s selfish and only stealing to pad his stats and it’s costing the M’s games. He’s not a team player.”

    It’s a double edged sword, and with the people that aren’t happy with his production right now, will not be happy no matter what he does. Personally, I’m happy with the results.

  53. Oolon on April 9th, 2008 3:09 pm

    Grizz Says:

    - J. Walker relieved M. Albers
    - I. Suzuki singled to left center

    You do realize that Jamie Walker is left-handed, right?

    Yes, but I believe there are several reliably documented cases of bases being stolen on left handed pitchers – especially by the better base stealers.

    This is where Ichiro’s skills come into play. He’s a great base stealer and hopefully can steal on a left handed pitcher when the situation requires it.

  54. Jay R. on April 9th, 2008 3:22 pm

    “That was a number I pulled out of a hat.””

    Interesting. Most other people wear their hats on their heads.

  55. Grizz on April 9th, 2008 3:27 pm

    Yes, but I believe there are several reliably documented cases of bases being stolen on left handed pitchers – especially by the better base stealers.

    And there are reliably documented cases of more runners getting thrown out against left-handed pitchers. The chances for success go demonstrably down. Ichiro is well aware of this.

  56. MKT on April 9th, 2008 3:30 pm

    20.

    I recently took a look at stolen base attempts in the ninth inning, using WPA, to assess the value of various stolen base attempts in the ninth. It turns out that in the 9th inning of a close game, you don’t need to be nearly as good a base stealer as you do typically in order for get an advantage from attempting to steal

    Really nice stuff. I like how it takes a more detailed look at specific score/out/men on base situations, rather than doing what most analysis of stolen bases that I’ve seen does, namely treat all base stealing situations as if they’re the same.

    It’s similar to the overly blanket criticism of sacrifices. Somewhere I read something similar to your analysis except applied to bunts, exploring what are the situations when it does make sense to sacrifice — this might’ve been in Tango/Dolphin/Lichtman’s excellent “The Book”.

  57. NateDawgUS on April 9th, 2008 3:33 pm

    Whoa! I only recently started reading this blog but I’m just amazed at the fact that there are people who aren’t Ichiro fans. Is that even legal?

  58. msb on April 9th, 2008 3:44 pm

    looks like pretty much the same line-up as yesterday, with Burke tossed in at catcher.

  59. Jeff Nye on April 9th, 2008 3:45 pm

    There might be two or three people on the planet who know more about stealing bases than Ichiro.

    I’m pretty sure none of them post here.

  60. doededoe on April 9th, 2008 4:12 pm

    59- One of those people is Ricky Henderson, but if he posted here we would know because of the whole talking in the third person thing.

  61. skyking162 on April 9th, 2008 4:18 pm

    Also, maybe they were criticizing Ichiro last year, when his leverage splits were:

    High — 5 SB, 4 CS
    Medium — 20 SB, 3 CS
    Low — 12 SB, 1 CS

    For reference, the LI cutoffs at B-Ref are:
    High >1.5
    Medium .7 to 1.5
    Low <.7

    20% of PAs are in the High category and 40% are in each of Medium and Low. Since the categories aren’t equal, you need to use Dave’s approach of dividing stolen base attempts by opportunities. Here’s a shortcut, because i don’t have opportunities: just double the high-leverage SB attempts:

    High – 18 (9*2)
    Medium – 23
    Low – 13

    Ichiro didn’t steal when it didn’t matter. And it did hurt that he was only 5/9 in High LI situations.

    *****

    There are many high-leverage situations when the break-even SB-rate is very low, maybe 60%. In low-leverage situations, it might be more like 90%.

  62. walkie83 on April 9th, 2008 4:40 pm

    When I say he doesn’t steal “enough” … I guess I’m just unfairly comparing him to Ricky Henderson .. or .. well, any guy with speed back in the day. It just seems like with his speed, he should be able to swipe bases more often. I guess I miss those days where people were worried about fast guys on the base paths.

    You can make the claim that he does affect the game when he is on base … but he sure doesn’t the way some of the top base stealers do. I just think with all the singles he hits, he should be stealing more. Henderson used to turn a walk into a triple on a regular basis.. now I know Ichiro isn’t that fast.. but he’s fast enough.

  63. xeifrank on April 9th, 2008 4:57 pm

    Success rates SB/(SB+CS)
    HighLev: 77.9%
    Medlev: 79.9%
    LowLev: 85.3%

    vr, Xei

  64. Oolon on April 10th, 2008 9:02 am

    OK, as I’ve said repeatedly, my impression is that while Ichiro is a great player he doesn’t try to steal bases late in close games.

    Using the Baseball-Reference.com link Dave gave in the first posting on this discussion you can go up a few lines from the “Leverage Index” numbers and see Ichiro’s stats in “Late and Close” plate appearances. “Late and Close” is defined as: “Late and Close are PA in the 7th or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck.” We’re ahead by one, or tied, or behind by one or two runs.

    These are the exact situations that I was looking for.

    Here’s what the stats show. I took the total hits and subtracted triples and home runs (not much chance of a stolen base with either of those) and added in the base on balls, intentional base on balls, the hit by pitches, and the reached on errors to get an on-base total. Then I took the total number of stolen base attempts and divided by this number.

    Ichiro tries to steal a base 14% of the time in these “Late and Close” situations. That’s about midway between his “Medium Leverage” and “Low Leverage” averages.

    I wanted to compare him to other base stealers, so this morning (they don’t consider baseball statistics “work related” here, so I can’t see them at work…) I grabbed the stats for some of the leaders in the stolen base category from last year. I only had a few minutes before heading to work so I was only able to print out the stats for the 6 leaders and Ichiro. The names listed as last year’s stolen base leaders were Reyes, Ramirez (Hanley), Pierre, Roberts (Brian), Crawford, and Byrnes.

    I ran the same percentages for these players and here are their stolen base attempts per time on base in these “Late and Close” situations:

    Crawford – 35%
    Reyes – 26%
    Ramirez – 24%
    Pierre – 23%
    Roberts – 18%
    Ichiro – 14%
    Byrnes – 12%

    These are lifetime stats – not a single season.

    I think the numbers show that Ichiro is very conservative late in games. This very well might be a very good thing. I don’t know if he and Byrnes are the smart ones and the others are costing their teams runs instead of gaining runs by their impetuosity.

    Here are the success percentages in these “Late and Close” situations for the various players:

    Crawford – 87%
    Reyes – 89%
    Ramirez – 81%
    Pierre – 72%
    Roberts – 79%
    Ichiro – 81%
    Byrnes – 79%

    And combining the two we get the percentage of time they successfully steal a base when they get on in a “Late and Close” situation:

    Crawford – 30%
    Reyes – 23%
    Ramirez – 19%
    Pierre – 17%
    Roberts – 15%
    Ichiro – 12%
    Byrnes – 9%

    So the bottom line is that if Ichiro gets on base in the 7th through 9th innings during a “Late and Close” game – he’ll steal a base about 1 time in 8 whereas Hanley Ramirez will steal the base 1 time in 5, Reyes 1 time in 4 and Crawford almost 1 time in 3.

    I think these numbers support my observation that Ichiro is very conservative in close games in the late innings. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing would require additional research.

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