The Rays lead all of baseball with 53 stolen bases thus far. While as it doesn’t come as much of a surprise, due to great team speed and manager Joe Maddon's aggressive mindset, there is a strange anomaly that was pointed out by a buddy of mine.
I looked into it, and sure enough, there is a very wide gap between bags stolen off of righties and off of lefties: 45 vs. RHP, 8 vs. LHP.
So let’s take a closer look, with stats provided by baseball-reference.com.
Let’s start with Carl Crawford, who has nearly half of the Rays’ stolen base total at 22. Of the 22 bases Crawford has swiped, 21 have come off righties and only one off a lefty. Reasons?
It could be simply that C.C. has had more opportunities off of righties which he has (99 PA vs RHP, 52 PA vs. LHP).
However, he’s actually hitting very well against lefties so far. In 48 at-bats, Crawford is hitting .292 and has drawn three walks, for an OBP of .346. So that’s 17 times he’s reached against a lefty, four of which were doubles.
Of those 17 chances, I was unable to find how often he had a runner in front of him, but you can still see that he hasn’t had nearly the amount of chances against lefties that he has against righties.
But now let’s take a look at Jason Bartlett, who is second on the team in SB with seven. All seven of his stolen bases have come off righties. Again though, his plate appearances versus righties more then double his lefty total, 85 to 39, but his OBP is higher vs. LHP, .436 to .369. Bartlett has only been caught once, and it was off a right hander, meaning he has zero attempts against lefties.
Same goes for B.J. Upton, who also has seven SB. His splits: Five SB, two CS vs. RHP, two SB, zero CS vs. LHP. Akinori Iwamura’s number’s aren’t far off, either: Six SB, zero CS vs. RHP, one SB, zero CS vs. LHP.
Those are pretty big gaps that might show a limit to Maddon’s aggressive philosophy. While there are more opportunities to go off of righties, they are also easier to read. However, lefties are easier to steal on because you go on first move no matter what.
The Rays have only been caught stealing seven times—only two when a lefty is on the mound. The team collectively has a higher average and OBP off lefties, but have half the at-bats. Still, it’s clear to see that the Rays are far more conservative when facing a southpaw.
Let’s take a look at some other tendencies and miscellaneous facts about the Rays’ stolen base total:
The Rays have progressively stolen more bases as outs increase: 14SB/0 outs, 19/1, 20/2.
They have consistently stolen bags throughout the game: 18SB/1-3 Innings, 18/4-6, 17/7-9.
The first inning has seen the most SB with 10, followed by the 4th, and 7th inning with seven each.
18 SB have come on the first pitch, followed by seven on a 1-0 count.
The Rays have swiped 10 bags on first and third situations.