Originally posted on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/30/12

Much of the deliberation over whether or not Russell Martin deserves the two-year, $17.5 million contract he pulled in from the Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday will hinge on how his defense is viewed. Martin has been measured as a tremendous pitch framer, and for many that will be enough to put a notch in the team-friendly side for this contract. But what about his arm Martin threw out just 24 percent of basestealers last season, down from 30 percent last year. The league rate also fell, from 28 percent to 25 percent — 2012 was the best year for basestealers since 2007, when they also accomplished a 75 percent success rate. Still, it was a disappointing year for the 29-year-old backstop, his first below average since 2008. In today’s pitcher-friendly environment, the equation on the basepaths has shifted towards more and more stolen bases. Observe: On a rate basis, there are now far more stolen base attempts (SBA) per stolen base opportunity (SBO, from Baseball-Reference: plate appearances through which a runner was on first or second with the next base open). The relationship is clear: the league took a year to catch up, but as run production goes down, stolen bases go up (For the record, the coefficient of determination between OPS and SBA/SBO is 0.78.). It might seem counter-intuitive — the more run scoring drops, the more we hear about the sanctity of the out. Each of the 27 is hugely valuable, yes, but as run scoring drops each plate appearance is also more likely to produce an out. The league on-base percentage has fallen from .336 in 2007 to .319 in 2012, and therefore the marginal out — the out risked by the stolen base — is less valuable. That’s why the “runCS” value in the Guts section — the cost in runs of a caught stealing — has lessened from minus-.433 in 2007 to minus-.398 in 2012. Put another way, the stolen base becomes a less risky proposition because there is less to lose. The hitter at the plate is now less likely to get on base or hit a run-scoring extra base hit, and the chances of two hitters singling in an inning to knock a runner home drops in a compound fashion. Conversely, making the hitter’s job easier becomes more valuable now that the “wait for a three-run homer” strategy isn’t as viable. The break-even rate on steals has fallen from 68 percent to 66 percent, down from 70 percent at the height of the steroids era in 2000. A player that stole 75 bases and was caught 25 times would have gained 4.2 runs of value in 2007. In 2012, that number rises to 5.1, and the player likely would have been running 10-20 percent more often; a routinely successful basestealer’s value in the running game therefore increases by some 30-40 percent. The Pirates allowed 154 of 173 basestealers (89 percent) to successfully steal last season. The mark falls partly on the arms of Rod Barajas and Mike McKenry, but Pirates pitchers were also painfully slow to the plate. Opposing baserunners racked up over 23 runs of value against Pirates’ catchers; the average MLB team (27 percent caught stealing) would have given up just six runs. The Pirates will still have A.J. Burnett, James McDonald and Wandy Rodriguez in the rotation as holdovers, and Jeff Karstens may be back as well. If Russell Martin really did get worse at throwing out baserunners in 2012, it’s an issue that could be exacerbated by the starting rotation’s problems with holding runners on. And in this brave new pitcher-dominated era, the attempts will be fast and furious, and each successful one allowed more costly.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Osweiler: Film from last two years proves I should be starter

Daughter of Bucks owner burns Bill Simmons on Twitter

Tiger Woods tells golf world to try and kick this football he’s holding

Tyronn Lue: Gameplanning to defend Celtics harder than Warriors

How the Senators can upset the Penguins in Game 7

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Paxton Lynch cutting out early while other QBs stay late

Michael Jordan unique 1984 Converse shoes could fetch up to $100K at auction

Joe Girardi has interesting reason why no medical scans for Masahiro Tanaka

Ezekiel Elliott’s mom fires back after son criticized for being in car accident

Browns make Ryan Grigson senior personnel executive

Potential No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz looks positively jacked in recent photo

The 'Farewell to the Manu, the Myth, the Legend' quiz

Box Score 5/24: Craig Anderson saves the Senators

The 'Walk on home, boy' quiz

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Dejounte Murray gets his calls blocked twice

It's reality check time for the Texas Rangers

Box Score 5/23: Preds, Warriors move on to respective Finals

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

NBA Weekend Awards: Who will take a bite of the Snow White Crystal Apple?

The 'How two award snubs might shake up the NBA' quiz

Preparing for the BIG3: Q&A with BIG3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz

Two months in and Nintendo's Switch dominates 2017 video game market

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Why the Indianapolis 500 is called 'the greatest spectacle in racing'

The 'Farewell to the Manu, the Myth, the Legend' quiz

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Dejounte Murray gets his calls blocked twice

It's reality check time for the Texas Rangers

The 'Walk on home, boy' quiz

NBA Weekend Awards: Who will take a bite of the Snow White Crystal Apple?

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'How two award snubs might shake up the NBA' quiz

Preparing for the BIG3: Q&A with BIG3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker