FanPost

The Value of a Stolen Base aka Coco Crisp

Ezra Shaw

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Editors' Note: This is another in a series of FanPosts from those AN members looking towards a weekly front page writing gig. This note will appear above every FanPost for this purpose. Community: please provide feedback and/or recs where you see appropriate.

Thanks! - cuppingmaster

Being an A's fan throughout the Moneyball, Billy Bean era has revealed to me the wonders of baseball through walks, home runs and excellent young pitching. Base stealing though, had been a secondary and even non-existent part of the A's way of baseball, much like the sacrifice-bunt. This all changed after the A's acquired Coco Crisp in 2010. 3 years later the A's are leading the league in steals.

So what gives?

Well, a long, long time ago the A's did also have a certain player who stole bases and stuff. This guy named Ricky Henderson put up incredible steals numbers and would often finish the season with a WAR ranging from 5-8 whilst playing with the A's (Baseball Reference). But this was before Moneyball and WAR was not really a thing back then.

So is it just a coincidence that steals were ignored for a better part of Billy Beans tenure up until 2010?

Often times Moneyball was described as a way to build a baseball team around one super duper valuable stat, OBP. I often had this misconception as well. But since the popularity of this stat went up (mind you this is just a very under-researched theory of mine) other teams started to build their team around this concept. An action causes a reaction and people were quick to jump on this band-wagon. What they didn't understand was that Moneyball's value of a stat closely resembles that of the stock market. As investors place money into valuing a certain aspect of baseball that aspect becomes more and more expensive. Thus when other teams start investing in walk hoarding power machines, speedsters such as Crisp become less valued. This is moneyball. We can now invest in the undervalued stat such as the stolen base.

So are teams gonna be investing in stolen bases now and then we can go back to home runs and walks?

Its definitely not that simple. To be honest, the A's only have one true "speedster" in Crisp. It might just be the lack of sample size that has led the A's to have so many steals (I mean seriously, Derrick Norris has 2 already). But my theory about undervalued stats do have some basis and I do believe teams are always now looking for any kind of statistical indicator that is on the up and up. Often times its not going to be some new stat that some one comes up with but rather a stat that has been overlooked and undervalued within the 30 team community.

So are we getting a good deal on Coco?

Last year the A's paid Coco $6millio for 3 WAR (Baseball Reference). To compare to a player who represented moneyball 4 years ago, such as Adam Dunn and Ben Zobrist who draw a ton of walks and have a high OBP, shows 2 sides of that coin. Dunn who puts up decent OBP, Home run and walk numbers (although very inconsistently) gets paid like a super star at $14 million. Yet his WAR was only at 1.3 last season (Baseball Reference). Then again Ben Zobrist who was second in the league in walks last year with 97 walks to Dunns 105 gets paid $4.5million to put up 5.9 WAR (Baseball Reference). Even with this small sample you can see what teams overvalued OBP and what teams understood the bigger picture of Sabermetrics. Dunn is a great example of a player who has only put up a WAR above 3 once in his career yet gets paid like a super star because of the lack of understanding of his statistical analysis. According to FanGraphs the cost of 1 WAR at the CF position is $8.5million so I would say we getting a super deal indeed (http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/positional-differences-in-the-price-of-war-2/).



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