Stuck In Neutral | The Process Report

Stuck In Neutral

From 2008 to 2012, the Rays lapped the competition in stolen bases. The team stole 797 bases during that five-year stretch, 147 more than any other team in baseball. 14 different players swiped at least 10 bases for the Rays over the past five seasons, led by B.J. Upton’s 195.

This season, there is a noticeable difference in the running game that often gets overshadowed by the inability of the defense to control the running game. Simply put, the Rays are stuck in neutral on the basepaths this season.

Coming into their final game against Detroit, the Rays are just 21st in baseball with 37 stolen bases. That team total is just five more than what Jacoby Ellsbury has accomplished on his own this season. No Rays player has reached ten steals this season and only four – Desmond Jennings, Kelly Johnson, Matt Joyce, and Ben Zobrist – has as many as five steals. The opportunities are there for the team, but Maddon is taking fewer chances this season compared to recent seasons.


In the Rays era, the team has never attempted fewer than 178 steals in a season as their team totals have been 192, 255, 29, 217, and 178 over the past five seasons. The 2013 team is on pace to attempt just 109 steals

The lack of speedsters on the roster combined with a perceived lack of confidence in the running game has added yet another wrinkle into the bizarre 2013 season. Defense is still in the Rays’ DNA, but the pitching has had its issues and the Rays find themselves being force-fed a taste of their own medicine by opponents who were often left feeling helpless in slowing down the Rays on the basepaths.


  1. Jason Hanselman wrote:

    Especially interesting is when you couple this with Bradley’s research into the evolution of the SB break-even point:

    With more contact and fewer whiffs: they may just be finding it’s better to GTMI using the bat rather than the legs, though there is certainly less speed on the team than in the past with Old Man Longoria not running and no B.J. Upton there to inflate totals.

    Interesting that the opportunities project to be down from years past as it seems like we’ve had a lot of guys on, but maybe that’s the problem. More guys on in front of other guys on base lowers the amount of opportunities in the aggregate.

    • I too was surprised that the projected total, while higher than last season, is down from previous seasons. I think your hypothesis is accurate in that the bases are a bit more clogged these days.

    • merrillfraz wrote:

      I was just thinking about this myself, and I honestly feel that it’s a simple risk vs reward scenario. In years past, our offense was more likely to K or GIDP than get a hit, so those bases stolen were vital in getting RISP. Now, there is a very respectable offense, and getting double-digit hits in a night is not an anomaly anymore. So why risk another Longoria hammie-pulling slide when top-to-bottom there is potential for a hit?

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