When it comes to building an offense in daily fantasy baseball, we tend to focus most of our energy on finding players who have the best chance to hit the ball over the fence. The reason for this is obvious, but it seems to me that this line of thinking may be misguided.
Since our goal is to get the most points from each player, our most prized offensive assets should not simply be home run hitters, but instead players who have the potential to combine the long ball (four points) with stolen bases (two points). This week we will look at how to identify which matchups provide the best opportunity to successfully marry power and speed.
While determining which hurlers are susceptible to giving up homers is as easy as navigating to their personal stat page on any number of web sites, locating data that reveals which pitchers have yielded the most stolen bases is a bit more difficult. Ultimately, as with most things pertaining to sports, these numbers can be found on ESPN.com but are somewhat hidden in the pitcher statistics under the filter of “Opp. Batting Stats.” The page is a great resource of information for our purposes, as we can not only see who leads the league in stolen bases allowed, but also how many runners have been caught while certain pitchers are on the mound.
Aside from checking things like caught stealing percentage, I find it helpful to contextualize the numbers in terms of how many innings a hurler has thrown this season. This is useful because it can give us a sense of how many stolen bases a pitcher is likely to give up on a per-start basis. A quick look at the list, for example, tells us that Tyson Ross of the Padres leads the league in allowing advancement on the base paths this season, with 27 runners taking the liberty in 160.2 innings pitched. This roughly translates to one base taken against the right-hander every 5.9 frames, with Ross averaging 6.4 innings per start this season.
While this may make Ross look like a nice target at first glance, remember that stolen bases are only half of the equation. In order to make the puzzle complete, we need to find pitchers who allow home runs as well. Given that Ross has allowed just 11 dingers all season, he likely would not be our ideal candidate when attempting to employ this strategy.
A better option comes to us in the form of Blue Jays pitcher Drew Hutchison, who has allowed 18 stolen bases in 137 innings, while also surrendering 12 home runs to left-handers in 76 innings. Hutchison looks to be on track to face the Yankees later this month at home, which is a perfect environment for hitters like Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner to do damage with the bat and on the basepaths. The pair have combined for 21 homers and 37 stolen bases against righties this season.
One thing to keep in mind when looking for pitchers who allow stolen bases is that the catcher plays an important role in whether a base runner succeeds in taking the bag. This means it’s important to check who is behind the plate before committing to a selection. A user looking to play against Hutchison, for example, would note that his primary catcher, Dioner Navarro, has a caught stealing percentage of .263 in 643 innings behind the plate in 2014, while backup catcher Josh Thole has thrown out three of 22 (.163) potential base stealers in his 38 games (31 starts).
What should become clear when searching for offense in this manner (and what may have been obvious in the first place) is that there aren’t too many hitters that can combine above-average speed with above-average power. It’s for this reason that pitcher selection and park factor awareness are crucially important to the process. By targeting homer-prone pitchers in hitter-friendly conditions who have a problem holding runners, we can locate players with varying degrees of power and speed who have the ability to become big point threats.