I have a confession to make. I once drafted Angel Berroa. Yes, it’s true. In the first year of the NFBC, back in 2004, I drafted the Royals anti-slugging shortstop as my starting middle infielder. Coming off a Rookie of the Year effort (.287/17/21) it seemed logical at the time, albeit a little insane in retrospect. I was counting on him for 20-plus thefts. Berroa struggled and only ended up with 14. Even more problematic was that fact that he was on my bench for a healthy chunk of those. Particularly joyous was watching him swipe four bags Saturday June 19th at Citizens Bank Park, all while riding the pine of my fantasy roster. We all know that stolen bases are the scarcest of all offensive counting stats, and 28% of my middle infielder’s speed production for the season had just evaporated in one evening. Could this tragedy have been avoided? In this case, yes.
I failed to consider the opposing catcher’s caught stealing percentage. Mike Leiberthal was the Phillies starting catcher that year. He was coming off a season in which he threw out just 18% of all base stealers, which ranked last in 2003 by an 8% margin! He ended up throwing out just 21% in 2004. Good for next to last. With the competition of the NFBC one cannot afford these types of oversights. Whether you are considering benching a regular (for example Dee Gordon in a slump or facing a tough matchup) or starting a marginal Judy hitter with some speed, the opposing catcher’s arm should always be part of the equation.
You aren’t going to bag cheap steals against the Diamondbacks this year. Miguel Montero has gunned down an eye popping 59% of would be base stealers. It doesn’t get much easier against the Dodgers either as A.J. Ellis is tossing out 46%. Yadier Molina, JP Arencibia, and Matt Wieters are all at approximately 38%. Nick Hundley and Carlos Ruiz round out the sharpshooters at about 37%. It’s going to be tough sledding against the Cardinals, Padres, Orioles, Blue Jays, and Phillies.
Entering the season, Buster Posey had never posted a caught stealing percentage below 37%. In 2012 he’s been successful throwing out just 24% of those on the base paths. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has thrown out just 16%. If you have anyone with even a modicum of speed headed to Fenway, get him in your lineup. Rod Barajas used to be solid, but his arm has weakened as he enters the twilight of his career. Opposing base stealers have been successful 91% of the time this year. It’s a small sample size, but if I’m looking for an edge when deciding a flip of the coin play I’m riding that wave. In 23 games behind the plate Joe Mauer is eliminating just 13% of opposing base thieves. Other ‘targets’ include Devin Mesoraco 17% and Bobby Wilson 21%.
Boston travels to Toronto this weekend. I own Rajai Davis in more than one league and I am starting him this weekend even though he’s merely a platoon player at this point. In June Toronto has six total on tap vs. the Red Sox and three more against the Angels. Davis makes for a sneaky half-week play here and there if you can afford the roster spot and need a speed boost.
The second week of June, Xavier Avery is a must start as the Red Sox host the Orioles for a three game set. Baltimore’s leadoff hitter also faces the Pirates thrice and Angels twice in June.
If Jarrod Dyson was dropped in your league, he’s worth a look next week if he’s no longer limited by his hamstring injury. Dyson has three games against the Twins and another three against the Pirates. Japanese rookie Norichika Aoki faces the Pirates this weekend and is worth consideration as a spot play as well.
Of course the pitcher’s ability to hold runners and their time to home plate are huge factors in this as well, but that’s a topic for another day. Knuckleballers are great to run on because catchers have such difficulty handling their offerings. Unfortunately Tim Wakefield retired, but at least R.A. Dickey is still around.