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Early Season League Leading Basestealers
by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
May 4, 2009
Power-Speed Number has never been an important statistic to me, so I have never bothered to look up how it is calculated. So it is that I also have not done so for the purposes of this comment either. However, I can only assume that Power-Speed Number is a statistic designed to measure a player’s combination of power and speed.
Not surprisingly, one of the all time best Power-Speed Number guys has been Bobby Abreu, who currently ranks 4th on the active list and 31st on the all time list. Abreu has twice led his league in this category, and has finished in the top three six times.
All of this is a lead-in to say: what the hell has happened to Bobby Abreu? As of this writing, Abreu has 11 stolen bases (on pace to obliterate his career best of 40 in 2004), but has failed to hit a single homerun yet (which puts him on pace for a career low of zero). Abreu has always been an idiosyncratic player, and in his years with the Yankees became a low-HR/high-RBI specialist, but this is absurd. Not surprisingly, he is on pace for a career low in slugging percentage, but he has yet to be caught stealing yet this season, which is pretty remarkable for a guy with a 76% stolen base percentage lifetime.
Just as Bobby Abreu appears to be becoming a one-dimensional (okay, two dimensional) base-stealer, Carl Crawford spent this weekend announcing that reports of his demise had been greatly exaggerated. After tying the major league record for stolen bases in a game with six on Sunday (and later acknowledging that he didn’t know about the record and would have tried to break if he had), Crawford now has 17 stolen bases, and zero caught stealings, in 26 games in 2009. Not only does he lead the league in steals for Tampa Bay by a mile (and have more stolen bases than 20 of the 29 other major league teams), but he is on pace to steal more bases by June 1st than he did all of last year and to set a career high in steals by the end of the season. Indeed, at his current rate he would be the first person in over 20 years to steal 100 bases (my God, has it been that long?).
What is surprising about the seasons Abreu and Crawford are having is that neither of them has managed to hit either a homerun or a triple. This is happening despite the fact that Abreu is on pace to tie a career high with a .424 OBP plus set a career high with a .356 average, and also despite the fact that Crawford on pace to annihilate his career OBP of .355 and set a career mark for walks by the All-Star Break. As noted above, Abreu is one of the all time great power-speed guys, and Crawford, at just 27 years of age, is already third on the active list in triples for his career.
At the other end of the base stealing spectrum, we have Jacoby Ellsbury. Remember when Isiah Thomas and Dennis Rodman got into trouble for saying that if Larry Bird were black he’d be just another good guy? I think they were wrong – the problem wasn’t that Larry was white, it was that he was a Celtic. Boston, like New York, has a tendency to launch into the Land of Sports Mythology professional athletes whom, if they were playing in any other sports market in the country, would merely be considered good players.
Enter Ellsbury, the Jackie Robinson of the 21st Century. The electrifying sparkplug at the top of the Red Sox lineup. The man and the myth. The next great Boston Red Sock.
Only in Boston could Jacoby Ellsbury be a hero. In Florida, he’d be Emilio Bonafacio. In Houston he’d be Kaz Matsui. On any other team in baseball, he’d be what he is – a light hitting speedster who doesn’t get on base and doesn’t hit the ball very hard and, overall, isn’t particularly valuable. Here is a guy who is currently posting a .282/.310/.336/.647, with a 64 OPS+. He leads the AL in caught stealing. Despite batting leadoff for a team that has a high octane offense, he currently ranks higher in ground into double plays (tied for eighth) than he does in runs scored (tied for 39th). Abreu and Crawford have, between them, have a grand total of zero GIDP and zero caught stealings.
But the Boston media market isn’t the only reason Ellsbury could only be a star in Boston – the guy can literally only hit in Boston. As bad as his OPS is overall (.647), he is brain-dead on the road (.512). It seems to me that Ellsbury would put up unearthly stolen base numbers if he could get on base at an adequate clip. If he could hit on the road, the sky could be the limit.
Ironically, at present Jacoby Ellsbury has a Power-Speed Number of 1.9, which is pretty awful, but better than the Power-Speed Number of 0.0 that both Crawford and Abreu have put up so far.
Wow, look at that. Looks like I was right to not care anything about Power-Speed Number.
Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at email@example.com.
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