Giving up a stolen base can sure seem like a big deal and when you give up nine of them you would think that is a huge number. It isn’t something you want to give up every night, but it’s not as big of a problem as our pitching staff’s inability to not give up the free pass.
A stolen base has an average value of about 0.18 runs. That means every time a runner takes a base he increases his teams chances to score by that amount. That isn’t much and when you take into account the potential to lose 0.43 value if you are caught it’s a pretty dangerous wager.
In the case of the Rangers off of Tim Wakefield though on Tuesday night there wasn’t much danger of being caught and only value to gain. It was an easy choice for them and gave them approximately 1.62 runs in value. That is no amount to ignore and is worth slightly more than the average home run, which is worth about 1.4.
So by stealing nine bases the Rangers essentially added a home run to their total, but there was something else last night that gave them quite a bit more. Wakefield along with the rest of the pitchers on Tuesday night gave up nine total walks. Wakefield had five of those walks and although he threw 56 percent strikes near his career rate he couldn’t hold the Rangers off base.
If Vladimir Guerrero is able to get a walk you know you’re having trouble. It probably didn’t help that Wakefield was asked to pitch out several times giving up a free ball to the hitter. So how much did this hurt the Red Sox? A walk on average is worth about .30 runs in value and giving they had nine against Tuesday night they gave the Rangers 2.7 runs for free.
That was worth two home runs of value the Rangers got just by working walks last night. That wouldn’t be such a big thing if not for the fact that walks have been more of a problem than just Tuesday night. Among the starters only Josh Beckett has a BB/9 below three and in the bullpen only Ramon Ramirez and Scott Atchinson in limited time have done the same.
Based on history the pitchers will return to career levels, but this along with a low number of strikeouts has been the number one problem so far. The defense has been quiet yet solid as the first UZR numbers show the Red Sox as the fourth best defense in this young season. That leaves us counting on the offense to help, but has not with only 57 runs in the first 14 games.
My final thoughts are that while nine steals is an extreme amount and did result in extra runs the team when playing to it’s full ability should be able to deal with the amount. Also if Wakefield is removed from the rotation when Daisuke Matsuzaka returns that could limit what we saw on Tuesday. The last thing we should do is assume Victor Martinez should be our DH and Jason Varitek is suddenly ready to return to catching duties. As we all remember he isn’t much better and the new catcher UZR agrees.