It may seem like irrelevant minutia, losing the forest for the trees. I believe that such minutia can be the difference between standing in the winner’s circle or heading home with your pockets empty. I’ve had $40,000 come down to a handful of stats in the last set of games on the last day of the season. More times than I can count, where I would place in a money finish was determined at the last hour. That extra base hit, home run or stolen base can make all the difference in the world. Those events that occur near the finish line in September seem amplified, but it matters not whether you get that marginal stat in April, July or on the last day of the season.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia has thrown out just 18.6 percent of runners. The Red Sox have games against the Orioles, Mariners, Diamondbacks and Astros in the coming weeks. Waiver fodder such as Justin Maxwell, Brandon Barnes or A.J. Pollock might be worth a buck for a spot play if you have a weak outfield.
Whether it happens this year or next, it may be just a matter of time before the Indians wise up and give up on Carlos Santana donning the tools of ignorance. He’s throwing out just 11.4 percent of base thieves while backup Yan Gomes has cut down 11 of 20. If Gomes can maintain just a mediocre stick, the Indians’ brass may make a change. Until that time, fantasy owners can relish when their assets get the opportunity to challenge the ‘Black Magic Backstop.’*
Chris Iannetta has lost a few at-bats to Hank Conger, but he is still seeing at least 50% of the playing time. When he does get the start, he’s only gunning down 9.8% of opposing runners. Alex Avila is throwing out 18.5% of stealers in Motown. In a couple of weeks, the Royals will visit the Motor City and Elliot Johnson may be worth a desperation play in AL-only formats or even mixed formats if the baseball gods work out more playing time for him. Alternatively, Chris Getz, who twice has logged 20+ SB campaigns, may be worth a play.
Obviously, there’s more to a lineup decision than just the opposing catcher’s arm strength, but when faced with flip of the coin plays between two similar players, caught stealing percentage might be the tiebreaker. Injuries inevitably strike. When you look to the wire and are sifting through the Eric Sogards and Chris Denorfias of the fantasy world, just being mindful of speed matchups could get you that extra swipe or two that could be the difference when it comes time to cash.
The catcher’s arm strength and release time are only half of the equation. A pitcher’s ability to hold runners at first base and their time delivering the ball to home plate, those factors play into it as well. A.J. Burnett gave up 38 steals and caught only two baserunners in 2012. This year, 16 of 17 have reached safely. Tim Lincecum has seen 40 of 42 make it over the last two years. On the flip side, it’s best just to stay away from Matt Wieters, Yadier Molina, Russell Martin and A.J. Ellis as they are all throwing out over 42% of opposing runners. ESPN has a great statistical resource to use when scouting upcoming matchups.