What is My Point?

Jed Hoyer, the Padres’ GM, is emphasizing pressure on the bases but the media is translating that into the Padres wanting to have incredibly fast players on the field.

Why Does it Matter?

The media will be focusing on writing about speed and may become critical that a certain player isn’t fast enough for the Padres.  This will cause front office and players to comment on possible acquisitions based on a criteria that isn’t the focal point.  The focal point is really forcing opposing teams to make plays if they want to beat the Padres.

The Over 220 lbs Baseball Club

“Welcome!  Welcome to the Husky Runners Club.  Yes we are big and yes we are slow.  But what do we know that they don’t?  The answer is the application of pressure!  We know when to steal bases… and why.”

“Carlos Lee!  Carlos, we love you!  We look to you as someone who knows when to take advantage of a situation.  Now tell us…what do you know that everybody else doesn’t?”


“No, no, no,” I say with a laugh. “Why is it that you can steal and nobody ever throws you out?”

“Because I pay attention to the game.  I watch the pitcher and I know his tendencies.  This catcher is lazy.  This pitcher is always too concerned with the batter.  This pitcher always throws to the plate using the same cadence.”


“Carlos, I have to admit that I really wasn’t expecting you to say that.  So if I pay attention to the game I too could steal bases?”

“Si… I mean yes.”  (Carlos is also a funny guy.)

Base Stealers Steal 3rd….Pressure Makers Steal 2nd

The easiest base to steal is third base, but it also represents the highest payout to loss ratio.  Stealing third is risky because you are already in scoring position at second base.  The real reason to steal third is to get the catcher to throw the ball away (Click here for example), but most managers don’t know that.  Back to the fast guys.

Carl Crawford loves stealing third.  And that dude is fast!  Carlos Beltran loves stealing third and that dude is even faster… when he is healthy.  Bill Tavers loves stealing third.  You know, Bill Tavers. C’mon, Joe Table, a.k.a. Jose Mesa? Willy Taveras, a.k.a…?

Bill Tavers = Willy Taveras!


I have been keeping tabs on Jed Hoyer because I want to learn from the guy.  I may listen to all that he says, but actions truly display what a man is thinking.  So let’s try and understand what is on Jed Hoyer’s mind.

Here is a quote from Padres coach Bud Black. But before we read this, let’s try and understand the meaning behind his statement.  Let’s not be critical of the words that are used and instead try and understand his message.  Ready?  Ok.  Here it is:

“We want the other team to feel it when we’re on the bases,” Black said of the team’s base-running focus early in spring training.

“When we say we’re placing more emphasis on being more aggressive on the bases, we’re emphasizing aggressive leads, good secondary leads, good turns at first and second, good turns around third — all aspects.”  Bud Black

Who noticed that these statements said nothing about speed?  Did you hear Bud say that we have world-class speed on this team?  What is Bud saying that Jed has emphasized?  Think.

Game Theory

I love reading about game theory.  Game theory is really just the probability of anticipating what your opponent is going to do.  If you ever play me in a game, be prepared to make decisions.  I am willing to sacrifice in order to gain an advantage.  I do not react.  I force my opponent to choose.  My youngest brother taught me this.

Sten and Chess

My brother Sten is 6 years younger than me.  He is the most similar to my Grandpa who was very analytical.  When I was 15, it became a ritual for my brothers and I to play chess while we watched the movie, Vacation.  My brother Larsen who is 2 years younger than me, and Sten and I would take turns at the chessboard, round robin style.  The winner kept playing and the loser would trade places with the brother who was watching the movie.

Lars and I started noticing a pattern that Sten was using.  We knew that the queen was the most important piece on the table because it had the most mobility on the board.  Larsen and I based our strategy around the queen.  Sten didn’t.  He built his strategy around the knights.  Knights move in a way that is more difficult to defend.  Even if we saw it coming, we had to figure out a way to defend against it.  This was a problem.

If Sten would sacrifice his queen, we knew that we were in trouble.  We realized that he was forcing us to make a decision.  But he was sending a deeper message as well: intimidation.  He forced us to execute.  For Sten, the game wasn’t over when we took his queen, it was over when we took his king.  It was very confusing and stressful for Lars and I. He forced us to react which caused us to constantly be on the defensive.

Jed Must Play Chess

The Padres are not fast.  They run well, but they are not burners.  In fact, they don’t have one player who has “plus, plus” speed, but they have a bunch of guys who run well enough.  Notice that Bud Black is talking about being more aggressive on the base paths.  I think that decision is coming from Hoyer.

Spring training games don’t count, but messages are sent.  Teams may say that it is just to get ready for the coming season, but that isn’t entirely true.  Scouts are watching and opposing GM’s and managers are watching tendencies.  I guarantee that every report is saying that the Padres will steal and try and take an extra base.  Even though the games don’t count, their message is clear.

Hey!  We are Hitting and Running on this Pitch Right Now!

It was 1998 at USC (Trojans) and we were hitting.  We had a man on 1st base and he had just missed the hit and run sign.  Our coach, Mike Gillespie never got upset if we lacked ability, but he was very upset when we neglected to pay attention to the details. He put his clipboard down and walked out of the dugout and this is what he said to the runner who missed the sign:

“We are hitting and running on THIS pitch RIGHT NOW.”

I couldn’t believe it!  The opposing catcher was looking at Gillespie.  Their pitcher was looking at him.  And then I got a glimpse of their pitcher’s eyes and he didn’t know if he should believe Gillespie or not.  He was completely confused.

Their pitcher finally threw a pitch.  Our runner on 1st took off and our batter hit the ball on the ground in between 1st base and 2nd base where the second baseman had vacated. We had just called our “shot” and the opposing team knew it was coming, but they couldn’t execute!

Hoyer Was a Pitcher

Hoyer pitched at Wesleyan University, where he still holds Wesleyan’s career saves record. Pitchers are paranoid.  They always think the worst.  Watch how many times a pitcher steps off the rubber when there is a man on second base to call the catcher.  They worry that the runner is telling the hitter what the catcher’s signals are.

Pitchers will throw over to 1st base with runners who don’t steal bases.  They will tell you that they got the sign from the catcher who will say that he got it from the manager.  But most pitchers will change the way that they pitch when there is a runner on base because they are concerned about runners stealing.

Hoyer understands the pressure that the pitcher feels just like Sten understood the pressure he was putting on Lars and I. He also understands that forcing players to make plays is difficult.  He knows that it is hard for an outfielder to throw a ball to 2nd base on one hop when a base runner is challenging him.  He has been out on the baseball field and he has felt that pressure himself. He knows that the best way to win is to pressure the opponent to make decisions and to make plays.

If I was playing the Padres, I would have one thing on my mind.  Hoyer doesn’t play with a queen.



  1. Rick says:

    I agree with this. The threat of something happening creates doubt and causes players to screw up and think too much. The fewer scenarios that a player has to think about will usually make his reaction to what actually does happen quicker and better.

    • Rick that is absolutely right. All batters are looking for is a quick lapse in concentration. Also, guys who steal cause pitchers to throw more fastballs because those pitches are quicker to the plate.


  2. You steal with your mind, not your legs. That’s why turning pure track stars into baseball players doesn’t work.

  3. Steve Stein says:

    Shades of Bullet Bob Hayes. It must be easier to turn a sprinter into a football wide-out than into a baseball player.

    With all due respect, I thought you stole third so that you could score on a sac fly (or a suitable groundout). If most steals of third are to make the catcher throw the ball away, why don’t you see more steals of third with 2 out?

    • Steve there is never a good reason to steal third with 2 outs. The reason is that the base runner is going to get a big secondary lead and will be running on contact. With those to variables, runners will score from second a high percentage of the time. That is why you see outfielders just toss the ball into second base on base hits.


      • Steve Stein says:

        What’s my point? You said “the real reason to steal third is to get the catcher to throw the ball away”. If this were REALLY the real reason, you’d see runners stealing third with 2 outs (because the catcher could throw the ball away).

        In reality, no sane runner steals third with 2 outs, because the real reason is NOT to get the catcher to throw the ball away.

        • Base stealers do steal 3rd with 2 outs. I thought you were grouping every type of runner. Maybe I didn’t understand what you were saying.

          My point: You steal 3rd with a right handed batter up not a left handed. You will not be surprising the catcher because he can see you go. You are surprising the 3rd baseman.

          Catching a throw from a catcher is very difficult at 3rd. Mostly because of reps. But, a third baseman is closer to the bag then a middle infielder is to second on a steal. So….if the runner is average speed or slower, the 3rd baseman can get there in time. If it is a “plus” runner, then it is a race to the bag (because you were caught off guard) and this is an extremely difficult play defensively. In other words, because the third baseman is late, the catcher has to lead the third baseman and even though the throw could be good, it still is thrown in the outfield do to difficulty.

          I misspoke when I said that the catcher throws that ball away when i should have said that it is a hard ball for the third baseman to handle. But the error will still go to the catcher.

          Does that make sense?


  4. Dan Szymborski says:

    You steal with your mind, not your legs. That’s why turning pure track stars into baseball players doesn’t work.

    While this is true and it’s far from a guarantee to work, I think there’s a better chance of turning a track star into a great basestealer than a significantly slower player with a brilliant mind into one.

    In other words, if I’m going to take a chance and turn someone into a basestealer, I rather start with the fastest guy in the world (Bolt) than the smartest man in baseball (probably Craig Breslow).

    • But Dan how can you say this? Guys that are super fast are always diving back to first on pick offs. Another part I didn’t mention was the delayed steal. The delay steal is focused around “lazy” middle infielders who don’t cover second. More on that later.


      • Andre says:

        I think it really comes down to that oft-used phrase: “You can’t teach speed.”

        Fast players can learn these skills, so they’re maximum potential is greater than players who are slower.

  5. You make an important point and, at the risk of reigniting the sabermetrics debate, this is why OBP is so important. Because it’s better to have a guy on base than it is to have a guy at the plate who’s fast but never gets on base (or at least not with any regularity). Obviously, if a player can do both – great. But that’s a rare and special individual. And it seems, too many major league teams spend season after season trying to replicate Ricky Henderson without success.

  6. Web says:

    This is why guys like Carlos Gomez will never become superstars in the MLB. With a .292 career OBP, it doesn’t matter how fast he is if he is never on base.

    I’ll take a guy who knows how to run the bases correctly (jumps, angles, checks outfield alignment, etc.) over a “fast runner” any day.

  7. Rick says:

    My head is spinning. All this seems to directly contradict Joe Morgan. During a broadcast a couple of years ago he said, “Getting on base isn’t what’s important. It’s what you do when you’re on base that’s important.”
    Talk about my world being turned upside down.

  8. kevin says:

    Oh don’t get me started on Joe Morgan. Or don’t get anyone with half a brain started on him. You gotta take his comments with a grain of salt. He’s still bitter about something. What I’m not sure though.

  9. Mile @AJM says:

    Tony Gwynn Jr. has nice speed but hasn’t been too successful on the base paths, thus proving your point.
    Pressure is where it’s at. Force the opposition to make plays.
    Dig the blog and the 2 HRs you hit in your 1st game with the Padres a couple years back, Morg.

    • Sometimes guys with speed don’t have the quickness to steal bases.


      • Adam says:

        Morgan, I’m curious to get your thoughts on why the ’87 Cardinals were so successful. I think they won 101 games. They didn’t hit too many home runs. They stole about 300 bases. Were caught stealing about 90 times. They had two or three plus, plus speed guys.

        The Padres play in a stadium similar to old Busch Stadium. I’m hopeful the Pads are trying to replicate whatever made those Cards’ teams great, but it’s hard to figure out what the secret was using the usual stats.

        What do you think?

  10. Mike @AJM says:

    Who’s “Mile”? that’s “Mike”!

  11. Rick says:

    All said with my tongue firmly in my cheek Kevin.

  12. Mark says:

    I believe the Padres SS, Everth Cabrera, possesses the type of “plus, plus speed” Morgan stated. If my recollection serves me correctly, scouts rated Cabrera’s speed as a 70 on the 20 to 80 scale.

    • If he is a 70 on the speed scale then that is “Burning”. I haven’t heard that, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. He definitely has enough speed to cause problems and that is all you need. A threat is as good as an action in this case.


  13. Drew says:

    We all know Hunter Pence is a 30/30 player, its just we watch him steal a base on a pitch out and get caught stealing. Then later we watch him swing at a slider in the dirt. He has the talent and potential, but whether or not that potential is realized into actuality will remain to be seen. You can change the name Hunter Pence with about 100 guys in MLB that haven’t gotten the mental part of it perfected.

    • Derek says:

      I hope Bud Mills has enough sense to keep a guy who has a career stolen base success rate of 58% from trying to steal anything.

      • I am not sure what you are talking about? Is that Carlos Lee’s success rate? If it is, it really is about the pressure, not actually stealing bases. It is about running when it is favorable for either a off-speed pitch or a fastball count.


  14. lisa gray says:

    you are dead right about clank. when we first signed him, i was surprised that a guy as, uh, poundly gifted (ahem) who doesn’t run very fast, was able to steal 20 bases a year.

    he really DOES usually steal when the pitcher/catcher have forgotten all about him being on first.

    and being a fast runner does NOT make a ballplayer a good basestealer. we can all think of many examples.

    your point about runners putting pressure on the pitcher/catcher is a very good one. of course, they can’t be like clemens, who basically ignored the runner and concentrated on getting the hitter out…

  15. I feel compelled to point out that no matter how fast the runner is, the throw is faster. So it’s not about speed, it’s about timing. And timing is something you do with your mind, not your legs. See above. Unless you are faster than the throw, it *does* matter when or if you run.

    Sure, some people run faster than others. That’s not the point nor the issue. The issue is, it’s quickness of mind that is important.

  16. HarbingerOfMonotony says:

    Morgan, I am continually impressed by the insight and general intellect displayed in your posts.

    I have always believed that pure speed is significantly overrated in baseball, to say the least. A guy with more speed than all his peers may not be the best baserunner, whereas on the other hand a guy like Conor Jackson could be an extremely underrated baserunner.

    When the threat exists on the basepaths, it gives infielders — and obviously the pitcher — more potential tasks to accomplish (or, for that matter, screw up). Combine that with an intelligent and attentive runner, and the offensive team immediately has that intimidation advantage over their opponent.

    • One area that I didn’t mention is that pressure’s byproduct is “quickness” to the plate. The quickest way to the plate is with fastballs. Teams that steal are constantly fed fastballs and that opens up hit and runs. The hardest part of a hit and run is getting the fastball. That is key.

      Thanks for the nice words.


  17. Morgan,

    Every Sabremetrics fan out there is going to tell you that speed means very little to the outcome of the game. In post after post I have had my thoughts downgraded when I tried to enlighten them on the fact that speed does make a difference that does not show up on their slide rules. (Guess I am showing my age there)
    So thank you for a great article about what the Padres are doing and how it has an effect on the game.

    • Speed effects the pitches that a pitcher throws. The more pressure to steal, the more fastballs are thrown.


      • Gary says:

        Since I no longer have “The Book”, I’m going off of memory, but I recall something about how having a base stealer on first actually led to a decrease in the productivity of the next hitter. Hopefully someone who still has their copy can clarify that.

        • That is really interesting Gary. It is surprising to me if it is true, but it certainly is necessary to get those guys on base.


          • Gary says:

            It surprised me too. Of course, you have to get guys on base, but the authors point was that pressure works both ways. Yes, the pitcher and defense have to worry about steals, hit and runs, etc, but the hitter also has the pressure of advancing the runners. Perhaps, and I don’t recall if this was addressed by the authors, maybe pitchers re-focus and simply bear down to get the hitter out. Anyway, it’s interesting stuff and it reminds me again that I need to buy another copy of The Book.

            • Gary says:

              Ok, I found this by MGL at The Book blog:

              “My “baserunning” lwts confirms that the true value of the best baserunner is around 3-4 runs above an average baserunner and the worst is around 3-4 runs less (per season).

              This is important to know, as most people/teams vastly overrate the value of speed on the bases. If you told a guy like Joe Morgan (or any player, manager, etc.) that the best baserunners in the league are worth less than half a win a year, they would look at you like you were out of your mind, right?

              Tango and myself have also shown that a basestealer (at least one who attempts a lot of steals) adds little if anything, and might actually take away, from the batter at the plate (by disrupting his concentration and causing him to take some good pitches). ”

              Link (see comment # 5 ->

              • I understand that it may appear to “take away”, but I am certain that there is an added dimension when it comes to the pitcher concentrating on the runner instead of the batter. Of course, it doesn’t seem to translate into runs so I have to think about that.


              • The 1ST problem with the logic is that Coco Crisp would not be hitting behind a player like Ortiz. You bat a player that hits more extra base hits than Crisp behind a slow runner like Ortiz.

                You bat a guy like, oh, Manny Ramirez.

                So the logic is faulty from the word go.

                The 2nd problem with the logic is the probably 85% of the time.

                How many times exactly did Ortiz take 3rd on a single? What percentage?

                For his career it is 82% and for 2006 it was 89%.

                On what percentage did he score?
                2006 – 0%
                Career – less than 1%.

                For his career he was on first base 333 times and did not reach 3rd on 271 singles. An average of 20.8 times per season.

                THAT is why you hit a guy who hits a greater percentage of XBH behind a slow runner.

                That is why you don’t have a guy that runs like Ortiz lead off even if he has the best OBP on the team.

                • I see where you are going, but I would love for the bases to be clogged if the guy is on 40% of the time. This isn’t a disagreement, I want to make sure that we are focusing on the primary point which is to get on base.


                  • Gary says:

                    I say clog away! Give me a team of guys who run at a glacial pace but get on 40% and we will score a ton of runs. Speed is a nice asset, but it’s probably more useful in a lower run scoring environment (ie the 1960s) than it is today. Michael Bourn can be a useful offensive player if he gets on base, but if he doesn’t he can really hurt the offense because as the old saying goes – you can’t steal first.

                    • An organization should try and draft players that can score from 1st on a double. It doesn’t matter if they are fast down the first base line. Always remember that it is about good base running, not world class speed.


                    • Gary says:

                      What do you think about bringing back the 4 man rotation?

                    • I don’t know why you would do that. The league should cut down the number of games from 162 back to 150 or so. There are way too many games.


                    • Gary says:

                      Well, 5th starters are not very good, so I was thinking of a way to limit their innings. Here’s the short version: use 4 starters but shorten their IPs per game so that their workload is the same as today but spread out over more starts. This would have the effect of transferring innings from 5th starters to relievers. That would be a good thing since relievers have better ERAs than starters, and much better ERAs than #5 starters. In fact, since relieving is easier than starting, some of these #5 guys may actually thrive as relievers and they could occasionally spot start as the need arose.

                      Of course, this will never happen. It was just a hypothetical thought experiment.

                    • You need a good bullpen for this to work. If you have a poor pen and a poor fifth starter, you’re screwed whether you leave him in the roto or move him to the pen and go 4-man.

                    • Gary says:

                      Oops, I put my reply in the wrong place!

                      Here it is:

                      This is a very clean design, but the comments section is making a fool of me and I don’t really need any help with that. I’m quite capable of doing that on my own.

                    • But Gary if you put more innings in the bullpen they are going to wear down. Remember, relievers have to get “hot” multiple times a game. If they warm up 3 times in a game they have won’t be available for that game. If they do that 2 games in a row they will not be available the 3rd.


                    • Gary says:

                      But if you make the 5th starter a reliever/spot starter, that’s another arm right there. And we’re not talking about a lot of innings here – maybe 80-100 more for the relievers and that’s spread out over 7 or 8 pitchers. You’ll still need a 5th starter from time to time – maybe 10-15 starts a year, so that’s going to be a few innings there. So, if our hypothetical #5 starter throws 160 innings, perhaps about 55 would be as a starter and maybe about 105 in long relief.

                      Warming up would be an issue, but a lot of times guys warm up and then aren’t brought into a game. Managers would have to be more careful about that.

                      There is an additional benefit to my approach. By yanking even good starters earlier, you can take away some at bats to pitchers and transfer them to bench players. Properly leveraged, that might be worth a few runs right there. Of course, that only applies to the NL.

                      Now, I do admit that I could be completely wrong on this, but there is nothing really set in stone about today’s strict 5 man rotation. In the 1960s and 70s 4 man rotations were quite common and in other eras teams used 4 man rotations with spot starters and they would often use starters in relief as well. So, at least historically, it is today’s strict 5 man rotation that is the anomaly.

                      At the very least, teams should ditch the strict 5 man rotation and go back to the 4 man with spot starters approach that was used in the 1950s. That model has been proven to work. I don’t think that you can go with the strict 4 man rotation used in the 1960s-70s because that would too much for today’s starters and the lineups today’s starters have to face are much tougher than back in 60s.

                    • I see you working Gary. I love the thought that you are putting into this. Maybe I need to think about this more. My initial feeling is that the bullpen will wear down. But let me try and think about it for a while.


                    • Gary says:

                      Well, don’t put too much effort into it. You have more important issues to cover here. I was just a bit – um -“board” when I started thinking about rotations. Sorry could not resist – especially since I do that all the time. And you may be right about the bullpen.

  18. I read something interesting that I don’t know if it is true or not.

    The writer for the SF Chronicle said that there were 11% more errors by the opposing team when Rickey Henderson was on base for the Athletics than when he was not on base.

    That would be an interesting piece of research for someone.

  19. Ashitaka says:

    The only thing I have a question on…Bill Taveras? Table somebody? Did I miss something?

  20. wrveres says:

    please, please, please fill out the necessary paperwork to put your application in for the San Diego Padres Manager position .. .. asap.


  21. The Batter ALWAYS has the pressure of advancing the runner. That is the batters job.

    Putting a speedy runner on that has the ability to run out of the double play or take second (or third) without the batter getting a hit takes some pressure OFF the batter.

    The pitchers does not always have the pressure of speed on the base paths.

    When they do their concentration is split. They react by making more throws to the bags instead of the plate and with each throw comes the possibility of an error. They throw more fastballs to reduce the balls time to the plate which gives the batter a better chance of hitting the ball.

    That doesn’t even take into account the holes a speedy runner causes in positioning of the fielders.

    • I like ti SoulSurfer. This is right on!


    • Gary says:


      But when a base stealer is on first, the hitter will often take additional pitches that are hittable. This more than cancels out the disruptions caused to the pitcher. Sorry, but it just does.

      Have you read The Book?

      • That is questionable if a batter will take a pitch. But I haven’t read the entire conversation.


      • I read the Book and Tom Tango will be the first to admit that he is not always correct.

        If you can post a link that shows exactly how many more pitches are taken that are “hittable” when a base stealing threat is on base then you might have a point.

        If you just lump all players together and say that all batters took X amount more pitches when men are on base you are not addressing the point. That is all that was addressed in the The Book.

        Until then I have to go with experience on the field. As a pitcher I threw more fastballs when a guy that was a base stealing threat was on base or if a team was known to attempt a greater percentage of stolen bases than the average.

        As a batter I just did my job. Nothing changed with a good base stealing runner on base. Except maybe I was asked to swing more often as part of a hit and run play.

        On teams I coached our batters actually took less pitches with our faster players on base than they would with bases empty because we were aggressive in calling hit & run and run & hit plays.

        If you have watched the Padres this spring you will see that they have been very aggressive at the plate as well as on the base paths. That puts tremendous pressure on the pitcher and the fielders.

        I would be very curious to see what the % of errors, the # of pitches seen and the batting average is with elite runners on base like Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Reyes, and Carl Crawford vs when the bases are empty or a when slow runner like Bengie Molina or some other slug is on base.

        Can you help us find those kinds of stats?

      • Gary says:

        What Tango, et all showed, after looking at 1000s of plays, was that the hitter gets distracted too and that leads to a decrease in productivity. That’s just the facts. So, obviously something was making hitters hit worse when there was a speedster on base. MGL speculated that it might be taking extra pitches. Another issue is that when second gets stolen, the first baseman can go back to playing his normal position. Thus, there is some value in not stealing second and forcing the first baseman to hold the runner.

        • Gary you are absolutely right about choosing NOT to steal to keep the hole open at 1st. With a left handed batter up you stay at first so that the lefty has a better shot at “shooting” the ball through that space. I experienced this situation many times.

          Since I am not fast, I had to run through the probability of me stealing second base (which would have been highly unlikely unless the batter protected me with a swing) or staying at 1st to keep the hole open. The hole always won for me. Of course I was always looking to get to 2nd on a ball in the dirt by getting a huge secondary lead.


    • SFC B says:

      But the issue is this effect doesn’t show up in a meaningful way in the stats. Batters, as a whole, hit like .005 higher with a runner on base. And I’d be willing to bet that the improvement is more a result of the defense shifting into a sub-optimal alignment than anything to do with the runner.

  22. Couch Tater says:

    I sure miss this guy…

    [Greg]Maddux was never good at holding runners, either, but that wasn’t important to him.

    “I loved to sit next to him on the bench during games,” said Padres pitcher Chris Young, a Princeton graduate. “One day, he just looked at me and said, ‘Only 18 percent of all baserunners score. So don’t worry about the runners. Just concentrate on the hitter.’ “

  23. SFC B says:

    I’m think eventually we’re going to come to a point where some team is going to realize they can cheaply pick up 3-4 .310-.320 OBP players who are fast, and smart enough to steal bases at an 80-85% clip, but can’t outslug their OBP. That team will mix in some guys with league average power and rely on driving the speed players in from second on a single, after they reached second following a steal after their bloop single.

    If they’re a team playing in some expansive park which lowers offense, all the better.

    • What we have to understand is that most managers today do not know when to steal or take advantage of a pitcher who gets flustered when there are runners on base. Managers NEVER give the steal sign. They give the green light or a “Must GO”. You have to have a feel for what is going on out there and most managers can’t feel that.


  24. Gary, If you can show some stats that show that, I will happily concede the point.

    The post you or someone else threw up about clogging up the bases sure doesn’t help your case.

    Love to see something conclusive, but in the lack of something that answers the questions I posited, I will go with my experience on the field.

    • Gary says:

      But your experience is simply wrong. Why do you insist on saying otherwise when the facts directly contradict you? I have shown you the facts. It’s up to you recognize them and use them.

      If you have in fact read The Book, you know these facts and I must conclude that you are being obstinate for the sake of being obstinate. There is no point in pursuing this matter anymore with you.

  25. Gary,

    I haven’t seen any FACTS yet. Sure hope you post some at some point.

    • Gary says:

      Been there, done that.

      Let’s play it my way for a change.. What evidence do you have that MGL and Tango are wrong? And I want hard core play by play data, not lame anecdotal evidence. PROVE THEM WRONG! But you can’t because the data is the data. It’s what happened thousands and thousands of times in real major league games from 1999-2002. That’s all she wrote.

  26. Kyle P. says:

    Morgan – It’s been a pleasure reading your blog. Alyson Footer at mentioned it a while back and I’ve been reading it ever since. I was wondering what your take on the Astros upcoming season is? Being that you were a part of the organization for quite some time I’d assume you’ve got a pretty solid opinion on the matter. I noticed your twitter post saying that we were in trouble but I was hoping you could go into some detail. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a die-hard fan and have been for over 10 years but I’m also a realist. I know if the guys’ health doesn’t hold up we’re in trouble but with the promise that Pence, Lee, Bourn, Towles, and Peliz all showed in Spring Training and with Paulino, Norris and Myers in the rotation this year we do have a solid chance to be respectable. Health is, of course, the key. Do you think this team has a chance if the health does hold up?

    • The Astros are in trouble. Teams that get to the playoffs have strong minor league systems. This is vital if you want to keep your costs down. If you don’t have players to draw from then you have to go out and spend money on free agents which is very expensive. As you stated in your post, injuries will happen and you need to have guys who are good enough in the minors who you can call up while the starter is healing.

      The other key to remember is that teams that win have better 4th and 5th starters. They also have better 2, 6, 7, and 8 hole hitters. Every teams 3, 4, 5 are equal for the most part. Your supporting cast makes the difference.

      It looks to me that the Astros spent money on guys that they could trade at the all star break to teams that are going to make a run at playoffs. This means that the Astros would only be paying for half of their salaries this year and in exchange they can restock their minor league system. This is a good move if that is their goal.

      I think the Cardinals are going to win and I would look out for Cincinnati.


      • Kyle P. says:

        Thank you for your response, Morgan. Another question I’d like to pose to you, and you’ll have an interesting perspective on this one considering you are a former player of this organization, as a player and fan of the game do you sympathize with fans of small market teams when they complain that the Yankees are a “Guns for Hire” team which can simply buy up all the best players after they were drafted and developed by the smaller market teams. Obviously it’s pretty difficult for me as an Astros fan to have as legitimate of an argument as a Pirates or Marlins fan considering we do have a sizeable payroll but nonetheless the fact that the Yankees have limitless pocketbooks is pretty discouraging for a fan of a team allegedly trying to develop from within. To get to the point, do you feel that a salary cap is a possibility in the future or do you believe it is even a fair/acceptable possibility?

        • Good question Kyle. Usually I would answer this question, but I would like to give you a little project to help you better understand what is really going on. When you get a chance, try and find out who has the best minor league systems. You don’t need money to be good.

  27. Gary says:

    Alyson Footer is reporting that you have stopped blogging about baseball and you will devote your website to relationship advice (kind of like Dr. Phil.) Say it ain’t so, Mo!

  28. Ryan Langrill says:

    You mentioned that you liked to read Game Theory; is it common for players to be acquainted with it formally? I’m currently in graduate school learning about it, and when we were discussing Mixed Strategies, my thoughts (naturally) turned to baseball. It occurred to me that it was strange in this context, that someone like Greg Maddux would adopt such an extreme strategy of indifference towards baserunners when just a minor shift in strategy could yield extreme marginal benefits. Obviously the Maddux quote above explains his strategy, but more broadly I wondered if it’s common for players to think explicitly in Game Theoretical terms? Can you think of a time you did?

    I also want to say that this is really awesome, and thank you for doing a blog!

  29. […] Padres Offer Usain Bolt a Contract to Play Center Field! (Morgan Ensberg’s Baseball IQ). Ensberg notes that some in the media have interpreted the Padres’ intent to be aggressive on the bases as a desire to have fast guys on the team. He talks about chess and game theory, and drops this nugget: “Spring training games don’t count, but messages are sent. Teams may say that it is just to get ready for the coming season, but that isn’t entirely true. Scouts are watching and opposing GM’s and managers are watching tendencies. I guarantee that every report is saying that the Padres will steal and try and take an extra base. Even though the games don’t count, their message is clear.” Besides, if Bolt isn’t available (shouldn’t he play for the Chargers anyway?), there’s always Miguel Dilone. [h/t reader Masticore317] […]

  30. lisa gray says:


    speaking as a player, would you trade scheduled doubleheaders (even day/night) for more days off?

  31. Rick says:

    You want high OBP guys in front of people like Manny and Ortiz etc. Stealing bases in front of guys like that costs runs unless you are at a 75% clip or better. If you aren’t, you are costing your team runs. Except in certain situations, stealing, moving runners over and other small ball strategies should only be used when there are crappy, no power threat hitters behind the guy on base.

    It would be a good idea to go to a 4 man rotation for a few reasons.
    You want your best pitchers pitching more innings.
    Injuries to pitchers have not gone down since the 5-man rotation became popular.
    It saves having to use your bullpen. Bullpens are a total crap shoot from year to year. They are in the pen for a reason.
    All the #5 starters will be back in AAA where they belong and we won’t be forced to watch them anymore.

  32. Gary says:

    Yeah, but even a below average pen will be better than an average 5th starter. The average NL SP had an ERA of 4.00 while the average NL reliever had an ERA of 4.30. And those are just average guys. A 5th starter has an average ERA of 5.00+ IIRC. So, even a somewhat below average bullpen would be better than that. Finally, it’s a lot easier to find relievers than it is to find 5 quality starters. I’m not saying relievers are a dime a dozen, but they are the low hanging fruit of the pitching tree.

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