Major league teams stole 360 bases and were caught stealing 171 times in the first month of the 2016 season. By the end of April last year, there were 382 swipes and 152 unsuccessful attempts. Roughly the same number of attempts, but when adjusted for games played we notice that we’re seeing about .51 SB’s per game, down from .57 per game out of the gates in 2015. Attempts per game are down as well from .80 to .75 stolen base attempts per game, though over the course of the full season, we saw .73 steals per contest. Using more economical language, we could summarize by saying SB’s are still scarce and eliminating Dee Gordon from the equation makes them scarcer. In 15-team mixed leagues, it is difficult to find much help, and if you do, it might be at the wrong position. Let’s say you found that 25 HR hitter on the wire, but what good does that do you if you have to bench Billy Burns to fit those HR’s into your lineup?
This is why you need to pay attention to bi-weekly lineup moves and scrutinize matchups to maximize your production, squeezing more power and speed from a couple of lineup spots via mixing and matching.
Billy Hamilton isn’t running much this year. The Redlegs’ speed demon attempted more thefts in the first three games of last season than through his first 23 games this year, in which we’ve seen only five attempts, this despite nearly identical batting averages and on- base percentages. Bryan Price has removed the mystery behind these numbers on multiple occasions when he’s talked about pitchers' time to home plate as a key factor determining whether or not Cincinnati is aggressive on the base paths. Now, I don’t know of a database available to the public that lists time to home plate. I do know that Noah Syndergaard is notoriously slow to home. Guess what? Two of Hamilton’s five stolen bases came in the same game versus Syndergaard. The only other three swipes came against pitchers that ranked in the top 43 in stolen bases allowed in 2015. Click here for the full chart.
Jon Lester leads the pack in stolen bases allowed because he has a fear of throwing over to first base. He gets the yips, so runners can take as big of a lead as they like. Lester will not hold the runner. Why more teams don’t exploit this glaring weakness boggles the mind, but opposing the Cubbies ace remains the best source of streaming steals in your hitting lineup. As one would target hitters facing weak pitchers, developing a short list of pitchers slow to the plate can help with your mid-week lineup decisions.
Waiver Wire Nuggets
Alex Meyer has a knuckle curve he serves up around 83-85 mph that locks hitters up, and a blazing fastball with lots of movement that he dials up to 97-98 mph. The rookie has the tools to disrupt hitters' timing and rack up the K’s. The 6’9” right-hander will boost your K’s but blow up your WHIP until he gains better command. If you’re desperate for K’s, a $1 flier is warranted for his upside, but he should remain on your bench or even on the wire until the walks go down and the pitch location improves.
AJ Griffin may still be available in your Rotowire Championship Leagues. The former Athletic mixes speeds well, upsetting hitters' timing, generating solid ratios and a decent K rate. His fastball sits under 90 mph, so he needs to be on, but no reason not to ride this train while it lasts.
Adam Morgan was highlighted here during the preseason when he was finally showing increased velocity following shoulder surgery performed back in 2014. Charlie Morton’s injury has paved the way for the former top Phillies prospect to join the rotation. Every time I’ve seen the lefty pitch, all he’s done is induce weak contact. There won’t be many strikeouts here, so there will be nights when the BABIP dragons wreak their havoc, but this southpaw might be a serviceable fantasy asset in 15-team leagues.