The Fightins'
Cole Hamels: Ace
Posted by at 11:12 pm ET 68 Comments

If there is one thing that the last two seasons of Phillies baseball proved, it’s this: Dominance can be fleeting. For proof, look no further than Cole Hamels. He was one of the biggest reasons the Phillies won it all in 2008, and ironically, one of the biggest reasons they didn’t win it all in 2009.

He went into last season fresh off a career year, his second full season in the majors, that saw him best opposing teams to the tune of a 3.09 ERA over 227.1 innings. Then October rolled around, and things really got going for the lefty. In five games, he went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA en route to winning both the NLCS and World Series MVP awards, while leading the Phillies to their first title since 1980, thus completing his journey from coveted prospect to staff Ace.

We all know what happened next: The limelight, television appearances, cover stories, a new wife, a new condo, a poor off-season training program, an injury to start 2009, 12 earned runs in his first nine innings, a few good starts, a great start, some bad starts, a few more good starts, bad start, great start, bad start, bad start, playoffs and more bad starts, the questionable walk to Mark Teixiera, the even more questionable two-run tater to Alex Rodriguez, the curveball to Andy Pettitte, game over, Cole wanting it all to end. And it did.

And as spring training approaches, the question remains: Where does that leave Cole?

Well, if you ask’s Hal Bodley, it’s somewhere far, far behind Roy Halladay…

But with Halladay replacing Lee at the top of Philadelphia’s rotation this coming season, it might be only slightly better than it was when it lost to the Yankees in six games. After Halladay, it’s Cole Hamels, J. A. Happ, Joe Blanton.

There’s a huge drop-off after Halladay as it was in the World Series last year with Lee — a key reason why the Yankees prevailed.

Granted, Roy is a better pitcher than Cole, at least for right now, but a “huge drop-off?” Hardly. While Cole got a sound beating from the opposition in 2009, it’s very unlikely that he repeats that performance.

And to answer my question: Cole is the Ace. Er. Co-Ace, that is. Right next to Roy.

Don’t laugh.

Despite his struggles last season, Cole Hamels is still one of the best pitchers in the game. If the season started tomorrow, there are no less than 12 teams that Cole could conceivably get the Opening Day nod on. Not only that, but he would be the best pitcher on those teams, too.

Think I’m crazy? Think again.

Our good friend over at The Phontiersman wrote a nice little piece on Cole last season…

It’s not an overwhelming case, but a fair portion of the numbers suggest that Cole’s 2009 seasons was as good as – if not better than, in some aspects – his 2008 campaign.

Perhaps a tad bit of hyperbole, but it’s backed up with numbers that insinuate that Cole had such a rough go of it last season due to things he couldn’t control, namely BABIP (batting average of balls in play), which basically makes the case that Cole suffered from bad luck and bloop hits more than anything else. His BABIP in 2007 was .282. It dropped to .262 in 2008. In 2009, it ballooned to .321.

The article continues…

If you watched Hamels’s last three or four starts, Friday’s jaunt against Colorado included to an extent, you probably noticed how poorly-hit balls often made Cole the victim. Well, that small sample has, essentially, been a microcosm for all of 2009: lots and lots of end-of-the-bat bloops with an irregular home run thrown in for good measure.

Translation: Cole was paper-cut to death.

Continuing on in this article, we find out that Cole allowed slightly fewer homers per nine innings in 2009 (compared to 2008), and struck out and walked the same number of hitters per nine. In other words, three big statistics that go a long way in determining how good a pitcher is would lead you to believe that Cole was actually better (and at worst, the same) as he was in 2008.

In fact, the only significant jumps for Hamels was the number of hits he allowed per nine (7.6 to 9.6) and the increase in BABIP (.262 to .321). Keep reading, and you’ll see that the defense behind Hamels was worse in 2009, although he allowed fewer line drives, while inducing more ground balls and infield fly balls, which leads us to the conclusion of the article…

Combine all of this, and you’d figure that Hamels’s ERA should have been closer to his 2008 figure of 3.09, and you’d be right. His xFIP for 2009 was 3.75: exactly 0.03 points lower than his xFIP for 2008. That stat, xFIP, is what a pitcher’s ERA “should” be, given his peripheral stats and normalizing his home runs allowed.

In layman’s logic, based on Cole’s peripheral stats, his 2009 season should have been better 2008. Think about that.

So what does this mean? Meh, who knows. The stat heads will say that Cole was the victim of bad luck, while the old school types will say that Cole is a victim of himself and some bad baseballin’.


Personally, I think it was a combination of both. It’s no question that Cole was often on the receiving end of some weak singles and rally-extending bloops (much to the delight of Mr. Chip Carey), and there is no doubt that his heavy work load in 2008 took a toll on him. Combine that with an admittedly poor training program before the 2009 season, plus a few early injuries, and you have the ingredients for a perfect storm of mediocrity.

Whatever the case may be, there is no reason that Cole Hamels can’t go toe-to-toe with Roy Halladay in 2010. While Roy’s career stats speak volumes about the type of pitcher that he is, consider that Cole is still a youngster. Really. 2010 will be only his fifth big league season, and only the fourth that he is on the roster come opening day.

What I’m trying to say is this: Don’t count out Cole before the season starts. While everyone is gaga over Cliff Lee and his departure to The Emerald City, let’s not forget that we have our own left-handed Ace right under our noses.

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  • I throw 80 MPH

    Cole was my hero until we got Lee

  • John Kruk’s Lonely Nut

    Holy shit, a fucking picture!

  • WeaponX20

    He will be back… I have no doubts… You don’t go from dominant to suck without there being some form of an issue…

  • maxL

    Thing is, a .262 Babip is INSANELY low, and the career average for a major league pitcher is (I think) around .300. But yes, Hamels certainly suffered from bad defense, but having zero mental fortitude and a complete inability to deal with adversity probably didn’t help either.

    Coincidentally, J.A. Happ’s babip in 2009? .180.


  • Tits McGhee

    There’s a huge drop-off after Halladay as it was in the World Series last year with Lee — a key reason why the Yankees prevailed.

    During the 2008 World F’n Series, I remember McCarver or Buck or some talking head saying that there was a huge drop-off in the rotation after Cole. What a difference a year makes. (This is more a criticism of the talking heads than Cole.) Cole should return to form this season. I just hope that he brings a third pitch with him.

    I Throw 80 MPH–Jamie Moyer, is that you?

  • joe wade

    i got in a huge inebriated fight at a mummers bar last friday about Hamels and how he’ll return to form this year… i hope drunk me is right.

  • Mike P

    Right on, Dash. Right on.

  • Mike P

    Oh, and is it bad that all of the people who harp on the Cliff Lee trade are starting to make me hate Cliff Lee? Seriously, I used to love the guy, but I’m starting to get peeved.

  • I throw 80 MPH

    No, I’m not Jamie Moyer.

  • Johnny

    Definitely a victim of bad luck. Hamels will be fine this season. He’d be an ace on most teams.

  • Flash

    Also how about the complete lack of run support he got for a few long stretches. For a span of 10 straight starts from July to mid-September the line up didn’t give him more than 4 runs. He had a similar (though not as drastic) stretch earlier in the year.

    They gave him 22 in the rout of Cincinnati. COME ON 22 RUNS IN ONE GAME?!?! WHY THE HELL COULDN’T THEY SAVE SOME FOR LATER??


  • BS

    @MaxL: Happ’s overall BABIP in ’09 was actually .270. Although his BABIP with RISP was a ridiculous .180

    I’m confident Cole will bounce back. But I also hope Roy lights a fire under his ass and gets him on the Halladay Workout Routine(TM).

  • Incaviglia’s Mullet


    Gob? That you?

  • PhillyCuban

    Its always a combination of both. You cant rely on stats for everything but they do the best job overall.

    I always thought that Hamels was maybe a little prone to giving up HRs. Before last season, it seemed that when he did, he managed to limit it to mostly solo shots. Last year, not only did the bloops and such lead to more opportunities to give up multi-run homers, but when he was the victim of bad luck it would get in his head at times leading to the mistake pitch.

    Everyone knows hes the biggest key to success this season, and hopefully these projections and a better offseason will turn out right

  • World Forking Champions ’11

    I am pretty damn sure that Cole Hamels will bounce back this season, although it remains to be seen how MUCH of a bounceback he has. Will we see 2008 Cole, or an even better Cole?

    That’s definitely possible, when you consider that he pitched consistently well prior to 2009.

  • gm-carson

    A bit of pressure is off of him now that Halladay is here. Hamels can slot comfortably into the #2 spot in the rotation and be ace 1b. He has the arsenal to dominate, but the focus is still lacking at times. I think he puts a quality effort up this season and has numbers very similar to ’08.

  • Chip Caray



  • don

    Even if he’d be the #1 on a lot of teams, Hamels is still a big drop off from Halladay, because Halladay is just that good.

  • Shane’s beard

    Halladay has been consistent for a long time. Cole is still a youngster. He will improve. I know he has to potential to be a 200 plus Ks per year. Nothing went right for Cole last year. I still daydream of having a rotation like Roy, Clifton, Colbert, Blanton(if he wasn’t traded) and some dude.

  • Shane’s beard

    * I know he has the potential

  • Joe D

    I am not willing to give up on Cole but some of this BABIP stuff is plain BS. I understand that he was victimized by some bloop hits but christ what pitcher isn’t from time to time. What did Cole in last year was located right between his ears. Great pitchers shrug off a bloop hit or a botched double play ball by coming back and getting the next hitter. Cole let those things melt him down. His stuff is there, there is no doubt but he has mental hurdles ahead of him.

    And thanks for bringing up that curveball to Pettitte again. I swear I made up expletives when I watched that pitch.

  • ryan302

    what do all those numbers mean?

  • bigmyc

    After watching the demolition that he propagated in the ’08 post season alone, I would think that anyone who understands baseball even a little bit would never bet that Hamels wouldn’t have some sort of monster rebound season in ’10 or ’11.

  • bigmyc

    Stick Joe D in the, “..thinks he was victimized by some bad baseballin’,” category.

    I’m with ya, Joe.

    Nice coin of a phrase, Dash.

    I’m gonna use that to death this season. I hope you don’t mind.

  • Joe

    Thank you. Anyone that actually watched him pitch every game last year knows that he wasn’t as bad as people (mostly those who just tuned in during the playoffs) think he did. I keep beating a dead horse about it, so I’ll just stop there. What I really wonder is if all the people screaming about him being horrible (& those who think he should have been traded instead of Lee) and such will claim that they were always behind him when he bounces back this season.

    BTW, I don’t understand why people always claim that getting married is one of the reasons he had a down year. He got married before the ’07 season.

    2 weeks til spring training!

  • Reverend Paul Revere

    The unnerving thing about Cole last year though was that he’d let every little thing get to him. A bloop hit on a broken bat would lead to a walk or a gopher ball. An error would lead to him losing his cool and grooving one down the middle. And he had a hard, hard time preventing the big inning. He didn’t really have many bad games, but he always seemed to have that one bad inning that hurt him, the one where he lost his composure.

    I’m going to chalk that up to not handling really the first struggles he’s had in his life, and I expect him to bounce back. But to suggest he had ace stuff last year would be a misnomer, not saying anyone suggested that. His numbers may not have been all that far off as far as things he can control from 2008 to 2009, but his composure out on the mound was. Hopefully he grew up and can deal with adversity a lot better in 2010.

    He has to re-earn his co-ace status, however. Because one year as an ace and one year as a struggle doesn’t quite qualify you as a bona fide ace just yet. Good news is he’s still young and certainly has the stuff. We’ve seen it before. Let’s hope we see it again.

  • don

    Give him two years as an ace, Reverend. I’m sure pretty much everyone would take his 3.39 ERA from 2007 again.

  • Reverend Paul Revere

    He had a very good 2007, for sure don, and he was certainly the ace of the staff but not an ace, if that makes any sense. Maybe I’m nit-picking, but sure, we can go with 2.

  • Joe D

    @Reverend….I agree. I think a lot of it was due to finally facing adversity. Cole has dominated throughout his entire life up until last year. He has been a good-very good pitcher. What will elevate him to great status is how he handles the adversity this year coming off the heels of last year. I see him as a gamer even with his comments about wanting the season to end last year.

  • maxL


    Whoops, my bad. I was working from memory on that comment. But .270 is still really low.

  • Phylan

    whole lotta sports psychiatrists in the Fightins comments, I had no idea.

    Great article dash

  • Phylan

    Seriously, Dash pretty much covered it, but the guy was injured in spring training last year, had to start his conditioning late because of it, had hampered velocity on his fastball for almost a month because of that, suffered one of the largest BABIP spikes you’re likely to see these days, and people wanted him traded because they didn’t like his little dog. Philadelphia sports.

  • Dash Treyhorn

    @Phylan Thanks for the kind words.

    I didn’t get to it in the article, but this was also the first time in Cole’s professional career that he has struggled. In four seasons in the minor leagues, he pitched to an ERA of 1.43 over 36 games. In that span, his ERA wouldn’t get above 2.73, and that was when he was 19 years old. He’s flat out dominated every level he’s been at, so 2009 was an eye-opening experience for the kid, especially after what he did in 2008. So while he may have been rattled last season or unable to cope with the pressure (which I find to be a weak argument), we all need to give him some slack. Seriously, if it weren’t for Cole, the Phillies probably aren’t hoisting the 2008 banner.

  • will.H

    its so strange, the stigma behind Cole. We love people who ‘tell it like it is..’ and offer that awkward but true honesty we’re all looking for. And, when we get it, we throw it right back in their face.

  • Dan Muller


  • JayFraud

    Everyone knows that the downfall of Cole’s 2009 season was the puppy pack. I’m just sayin’.

  • Joe D

    Phylan is so god damn miserable. It’s always Philadelphia sports philadelphia sports. Stop following it if you are going to get your panties in a bunch anytime someone rips a player. I know all you sabermetricians wackoff to VORP and other nonsense but when I see a guy on the mound having a hissy fit I don’t need BABIP to know that his head is gone.

  • Joe D

    @will…some things Cole says he needs to keep to himself. Just because his thoughts are genuine that doesn’t mean he needs to voice them in front of the media. Philadelphia sports.

  • will.H

    joe D, im right there with you. But, we’ve all heard it from every corner of the tri-state area. People want athletes to be raw and forthcoming about their feelings. They kill guys–like andy reid– that are very selective about their words and quotes in the media. talk radio and random fans alike despise the keep-to-yourself kind of guys.

  • Joe D

    will, I appreciated Cole coming out in the beginning of the year and saying “hey I didn’t bust my ass in the offseason and that’s my fault”. What I don’t appreciate is melting down at every sign of adversity. It just made no sense last year. Coming off of 2008 when he took the world by storm and pitched like a man possessed to taking 3 steps back in 2009. I haven’t heard a peep out of him this offseason and like I said in a prior post I know that he wants to win and I can see the fire in him when he isn’t letting an error bother him or getting beat by an inferior hitter with his 3rd best pitch. Cole has the goods. I just hope he isn’t look at his BABIP, QTSO, RNBM, BXS stats and thinking too much.

  • Joe D
  • will.H

    Cole also does a few unnoticed things that arent parallel with his personality. last year in a regular season game i think he was still pitching in the 6th or 7th with a lead. He batted 3 or so in the inning and slid into second base breaking up a potential inning ending double play. I feel like if Cliff Lee did that, we’d still be talking about it today. Cole might act a bit prissy, but that was flat out freakin awesome–everything i expect from a big league pitcher trying to win.

  • Phylan


    The Setup

    Last year, Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies stole 23 bases; it was a career high for the All-Star.

    More remarkable? Utley was not caught stealing once all season. A perfect season on the basepaths is a rare accomplishment, but it practically begs the question: “Why didn’t Utley try to steal more bases?”

    The Proof

    The explanation consists of two interlocking parts: First, Utley caught some breaks, and second, he was demonstrating one of the basic truths of corporate economics.

    Why would I try to take away from Utley’s tremendous success by claiming he was lucky on the basepaths? And how, exactly, is luck involved with a feat that is so obviously related to pure physical skills like speed and instinct?

    Let’s start by consulting history. Since caught-stealing statistics were first consistently recorded in the National League in 1951, there have been three major leaguers who have stolen at least 20 bases in a season without being caught once. Kevin McReynolds did it in 1988 with the New York Mets, and Paul Molitor matched the feat in 1994 with the Toronto Blue Jays.

    Molitor was a consistently successful base stealer, and followed his 20-for-20 performance by going 12-for-12 in 1995. McReynolds, on the other hand, followed his 21-for-21 season with a pedestrian 15-for-22 one. If this limited history is a guide, Utley has — at best — an even-odds chance of another perfect season on the base paths in 2010.

    Even that rough calculation overstates the case. Rather, it is much more likely that Utley’s true base-stealing talent is closer to his career success rate of 88 percent (still excellent). Maintaining perfection is terribly difficult, and it’s more likely than not that some catcher will throw Utley out this year. The sheer rarity of the feat makes it nearly unrealizable two seasons in a row.

    But let’s assume Utley can expect to be successful about 85-90 percent of the time. Shouldn’t he still steal more bases? While fans and fantasy players might appreciate the extra attempts, it’s not clear doing so would help the Phillies win more games.

    Imagine the easiest base-stealing opportunity Utley faces all season. He’s got a right-hander on the mound. The pitcher has a slow, deliberate move toward first base. The catcher has a noodle arm. The dirt is packed just right to give Utley the best possible grip for his cleats. Under these circumstances, Utley is very likely to be successful — so he should absolutely steal. Now imagine the second-easiest situation, and the third. He should still attempt to steal, right? The question we want to answer is how unfavorable the circumstances have to get before Utley should stay put.

    Introductory economics textbooks usually contain a case study that helps students differentiate between thinking in terms of average costs and benefits and thinking in terms of marginal costs and benefits. Using marginal thinking is what helped, for example, Continental Airlines increase its profits during the 1960s. Utley — as well as his wise and experienced first-base coach, Davey Lopes — is more like Continental than you might think.

    The theory Continental applied was one of the first maxims of profit maximization: The company leaders realized that if they had empty seats on their planes it would cost them very little to fill — essentially just the cost of the extra gas to accommodate the extra weight. As long as the marginal revenue they earned from selling another ticket exceeded the extra costs of carrying another passenger, they should sell more tickets.

    In economic jargon, firms should supply their product until the costs of making one more unit exceed the amount they can sell it for.

    The Conclusion

    By analogy, Utley should attempt to steal bases until the extra chance of winning is outweighed by the decreased chance of winning in the event he is caught. If Utley attempted to steal in any situation with a less favorable chance of success, he would be hurting his team because the marginal costs would outweigh the marginal benefits.

    That exact break-even point is going to depend on variables that change from game to game and inning to inning. But let’s assume that Utley, a smart baserunner with a great first-base coach, has found that point. Because each situation that’s easier than the point at which Utley should stay put was by definition easier, Utley’s average success rate would be quite high, much higher than the 70 percent success rate needed to break even. If he were to keep attempting stolen bases until his average season rate matched the 70 percent point, he’d have been stealing in situations where he was hurting his team’s chances of winning.

    If the Phillies, Lopes and manager Charlie Manuel consider analysis at the margins, Utley might not run more at all next season. And there is ample evidence that the Phillies do understand this analysis. Last year, the Phillies had four players steal at least 20 bases, and none of them was less than 75 percent successful. During Lopes’ first season in Philadelphia in 2007, the team set the record for stolen base percentage at 87.9. In each of the subsequent years, the Phillies have led the league in the category. With Utley and Lopes, the perfect is not necessarily the enemy of the good.

  • Phylan

    It’s kind of rambling and I don’t necessarily see what he’s driving at, but the executive summary is that Utley is the fucking man at baserunning like he is at everything else. I think the point is he shouldn’t attempt to steal too many more than he did last year, because more attempts will lead to more attempts with slightly to definitely unfavorable circumstances, and eventually the marginal gain by stealing the base sinks below the value lost by getting caught. Right where he’s at now, his career percentage is 88%, and the break even rate is 70%, so he’s tremendously successful.

  • Phylan

    Oh I guess I should’ve asked if it was cool to C+P premium material, sorry Fightins

  • Joe D

    Thanks phylan. Not a bad read. I always feel like Utley should run more that’s why I was interested in the article. Now I see the other side of it. Utley usually gets the timely steal and I’ll take that over seeing him get thrown out 10-20% of the time.

  • Joe D

    And and and and at the same time I’m blown away by how many times Shane gets caught. But we all know Shane isn’t the brightest of the bunch. I’d always rather have the smarter baserunner.

  • don

    Utley’s also on base all the time and if there’s a 0-2 count on Howard there’s probably a 75% chance the next pitch bounces before it gets to home plate, so he’s got that going for him.

  • Joe D

    which is nice

  • Muscles


  • Dougie Glanville

    I love you, Chase Utley. Yes, in THAT way.

  • Blaise

    Can’t wait to draft him in like the 15th round of my fantasy draft.

    All my friends will be caught up in Halladay and Happ, I’ll pounce on Hamels in the late rounds (just like I got Carpenter round 23 last year)

  • TC

    Hamels sucks (as of now). His head isn’t in the game, and he only has 2 pitches. I hope he gets back to form, but I’m not holding my breath. Those commercials he did (and the ad for the highrise apt) did him in hahaha!

  • Phylan

    hey look, a WIP caller

  • BD

    i heard cole was working on a better curve and possibly a “fourth” pitch like a cutter or some other pitch for people to get off his change up but give the guy a break cliff lee wasnt a stud until his late 20’s anyway

  • Flash

    Wow, and all this time I thought I was missing out by not being an ESPN Insider.

    Here’s what the article says in a much more concise way:
    Chase Utley is a very good baserunner with a very good first base coach.
    Now think of everything you already know about stealing bases.
    Chase, his first base coach and his manager seem to know this as well.

  • Flash

    His whole point about Chase’s 23 for 23 being only the third time since 1951 someone has been 100% with 20+ attempts sets the stage for the article. But the reason why these three players were perfect for the season is because yes, they were smart but they were not the best. The best base stealers year after year will always have a high number of attempts and will always be caught stealing. I would much rather Chase have the ability to steal 40+ bags (and inevitably get caught here and there) than have him steal 20 a year and never get caught for the rest of his career.

    “But let’s assume Utley can expect to be successful about 85-90 percent of the time. Shouldn’t he still steal more bases?”
    -The only reason why you would assume he would have a success rate that high is because he DOESN’T attempt to steal a large amout of bases.

    “Because each situation that’s easier than the point at which Utley should stay put was by definition easier, Utley’s average success rate would be quite high, much higher than the 70 percent success rate needed to break even. If he were to keep attempting stolen bases until his average season rate matched the 70 percent point, HE’D HAVE BEEN STEALING IN SITUATIONS WHERE HE WAS HURTING HIS TEAM’S CHANCES OF WINNING.”

    The reason why Chase (and every other player above the “success rate needed to break even” for that matter) does not try to lower their average season success rate to 70% is because NOBODY ACTUALLY TRIES TO MAKE THEIR TEAM LOSE.

    And can someone explain why 70% is the “break even” point?

  • Phylan

    Below 70% (and I think some evidence exists that it’s a bit higher than that) you’re doing more harm than good by stealing.

  • Gaze_NJ

    I had a bet going with a buddy of mine beginning in June that Cole Hamels wouldn’t be able to put together 3 quality starts in a row for the rest of the season. I collected on that bet. It’s the 6 & 7 ER games 4-5 times a year that make me think Cole will never turn the corner into an elite pitcher. Guys like Lincecum and Halladay have maybe one or two bombs like that per season.

  • D. Whitmore

    @Joe D.

    noone else seemed to notice your caddyshack comment but i did.

  • Fodoimp

    Great article……He’s gonna rebound….he’s gonna be great. If I ever saw him face to face I would give him these words of encouragement “You’re gonna eat lightnin’ and you’re gonna crap thunder! “

  • bigmyc

    Nice going, gold star to you, David.

  • James Anthony Happ

    I wanna be WS MVP too!

  • Watrick

    Case in point of bad luck-didn’t he give up a broken bat homer to Texiara? I mean, come on, that’s just unheard of.

    And about hating Clif Lee because of the trade, it’s actually made me annoyed at the fans in this town harping on it. Remember back when we were struggling to get an opening day starter that could actually pitch like an opening day starter? (Like… say maybe not having a Joe Roa in our rotation at all, let alone opening day?) All the talk radio wants to talk about is McNabb and Lee. Hopefully Lee won’t be the only guy gone come opening day next year.

  • I want to go to the zoo with Roy Halladay

    very good article, particularly the note on BABIP- which is hard to overlook. i’m confident cole’s going to be “better” (speaking in results)- barring something goofy- in 2010.

  • Bill Baer

    Sorry I’m late to the party, but to answer Flash’s question on why 70% (specifically 72%) is the general break-even point, you take the success and failure rates and multiply them by their average run values. This is taken from Tom Tango’s “The Book”:

    Average SB success rate = 72%
    Average run value for advancement of one base = .153

    Average SB failure rate = 28% (or 1 – .72)
    Average run value of making an out = .426

    In equation form:

    .78 * .153 = (1 – .72) * .426

    Both sides are about equivalent. For specificity, it is better to consider the inning, outs, and run differential (listed on page 336 in The Book).

    In deciding whether or not a stolen base is an optimal strategy, you can just use the Run Expectancy Matrix at Baseball Prospectus (

    Let’s say we want to analyze Utley attempting to steal second. He’s on first with no outs. The run expectancy with a runner on first and no outs is .88.

    Expected runs, bases empty and one out (Utley CS): .28, a loss of .60 (.28-.88)
    Expected runs, runner on second and no outs (Utley SB): 1.14, a gain of .26 (1.14 – .88)

    We can weight these by Utley’s base running skill. For simplicity, let’s just use his 88% career SB success rate. 12% would be his rate of failure.

    .88 * .26 = .23
    .12 * .6 = .07

    88% of the time, the Phillies will gain .23 runs; 12% of the time, the Phillies will lose .07 runs. Overall, it’s a net positive, so Utley should attempt to steal second if the environment (inning, run differential, count, opposing pitcher and catcher, upcoming hitters, etc.) is conducive.

  • Tug Haines

    Does this guy know how to party or what?!

    /Wayne Campbell’d

  • Cole Sucks
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