Stolen Base Times

October 26, 2015

There is a new section in The Bill James Handbook 2016, coming out on November 1st, called Stolen Base Times. It features the average time it takes to get from first base to second base on an attempted steal for every player that had at least six stolen base attempts in 2015. With the World Series about to start, this data seems particularly relevant given the two teams that are about to face off: the Royals and Mets.

We are familiar with how dynamic the Royals can be with the likes of Jarrod Dyson, Lorenzo Cain, and Terrance Gore flying around the bases. Last year, the Royals led MLB with 189 stolen base attempts and 153 successful steals during the regular season, and they lapped their postseason counterparts with 18 stolen base attempts and 14 successful steals. The next highest total was the Giants, the other team that made it to the World Series, with eight stolen base attempts and only four successful steals. This year, in 2015, the Royals haven’t been quite as aggressive, but they still finished the regular season with the eighth most attempted steals (138) and the fifth most stolen bases (104) in MLB.

Here are the average stolen base times of second base for the Royals players that had at least six timed stolen base attempts in 2015:

Royals Stolen Base Times, 2015
Runner Timed Attempts Average Time (sec)
Jarrod Dyson 14 3.49
Alex Rios 6 3.66
Lorenzo Cain 14 3.74
Alcides Escobar 11 3.79
Alex Gordon 6 3.93

The Mets have generally been a far less aggressive team than the Royals when it comes to stealing bases. They ranked 29th in all of baseball in 2015 in both total stolen base attempts (76) and successful stolen bases (51), topping only the Orioles in each category. However, in the postseason, they have surprised everyone with their energized running game, leading all teams with 11 stolen base attempts and being tied for the lead in successful steals with 9.

Here are the average stolen base times of second base for the Mets players that had at least six timed stolen base attempts in 2015:

Mets Stolen Base Times, 2015
Runner Timed Attempts Average Time (sec)
Eric Young 8 3.52
Juan Lagares 9 3.71
Yoenis Cespedes 7 3.75
Curtis Granderson 12 3.86

For information on Stolen Base Times for other players in the league, as well as much more fun and interesting baseball data, The Bill James Handbook 2016 is available for pre-order by following this link.


COMMENTS (8 Comments, most recent shown first)

When I've looked at this I've used a bunch of numbers.
-I start at time 0 with the first move of the pitcher's front leg.
-the time that the runner starts (rarely before time 0)
-the time the pitcher releases the ball
-the time the ball arrives at the catcher
-the time the ball leaves the catchers hand
-the time the ball arrives at the fielder
-the time the fielder tags the runner (if applicable)
-the time the baserunner arrives at the base (or stops and is tagged if the runner does not arrive)
-I also record miscellaneous relevant events if they pop up, but they are don't allow for systematic analysis in my limited data set.
8:48 PM Oct 27th
This is interesting, but it doesn't factor in that Royals runners would have to run within fifteen feet of Daniel Murphy, causing their skin to melt from their face like the end of Raiders.
4:48 PM Oct 27th
Addendum to the post below: I'd say that not only is it unclear what was used as the initial point, but that it's not clear what should be used.

Whatever is used, we could argue over it. If the selected point is when the guy makes his first move toward second -- which is what I'd guess it is -- "jump" isn't being taken into account, and that's extremely important, especially because of the truism (which I think is at least half true) that you don't steal on the catcher, you steal on the pitcher. If the jump is somehow taken into account (which I'm doubting), we could say that it must be awfully hard to standardize that in any way to allow for meaningful measurements and comparisons.
11:52 AM Oct 27th
I wondered some of the same things as Jrickert. It's not clear what the criteria would be for when to start measuring. The reason I didn't ask it was I was afraid it would be considered a dumb question, and I've asked more than my share of those. :-) But seeing it 'in print' (and put as Jrickert did), clearly it isn't.
11:07 AM Oct 27th
What are the standard deviations of the times?
Is this the amount of time from when they start running until they hit the base? Is their average jump (say ... time from when the pitcher releases the pitch) recorded?
Did you record the average times against pitchers and see if having a good move slows a baserunners break? (A standard deviation here might also be interesting)
8:19 AM Oct 27th
Doncoffin's post would only be useful (and relevant) if he factored in the actual number of attempts, not just the number of timed ones. The Royals had three players (Cain, Dyson, and Escobar) who had more steals than the Mets' leader. Those three stole 71 bases and were caught 14 times. That's the difference.​
6:46 AM Oct 27th
John -- interesting data, and Don, nice job getting that data together!

About those weighted mean times, we ought to note:

Dyson, the quickest of the Royals, hasn't been starting and hasn't been playing much. He is likely at least to see some pinch running.

Eric Young, the quickest of the Mets, only had 3 of his 8 attempts while with the Mets (his first 5 were with the Braves), and anyway he probably won't be on the World Series roster.

Where does that leave everything, if we take account of those things??

Just about where Don said. :-)
9:40 PM Oct 26th
The (weighted by attempts) mean time for the Royals is 3.695 seconds per attempt. For the Mets, it's 3.726 seconds. The difference in means is 0.031 seconds. My immediate guess is that there is no meaningful difference between the Royals and the Mets on this measure...except that the Royals run about 40% more often.
7:57 PM Oct 26th
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