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How to keep Crawford and Upton in check

10/6/2010

CrawfordUptonThere might not be a more dangerous base-stealing duo in the postseason this year than the Tampa Bay Rays' Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton.

Both players stole more than 40 bases this season with a combined success rate of 82.2 percent. In fact, Crawford and Upton have stolen more bases this season than 12 entire teams.

Despite their success, there is a way to slow them down, and Rays fans might not be too happy to hear it:

Pickoff attempts.

Crawford, Upton This Season
By Pickoff Attempts

It sounds simple, yet opposing pitchers almost seem to forget who's on base. This season, 51.4 percent of Crawford and Upton's steal attempts came without a pickoff attempt. In 2009, 52.3 percent of their attempts came without pickoffs. Even if you go back to the 2008 playoffs where Crawford and Upton combined to go 13-for-13 on stolen base attempts, seven of those came without a pickoff.

The more teams throw over against the Rays, the better. Crawford and Upton were successful more than 91 percent of the time without a pickoff attempts this season, but when teams threw over at least once, they can't even crack 75 percent.

While Upton has an 89.7 success rate with no pickoff attempts and 72.7 percent success rate with at least one attempt, his rates fluctuate up and down by each throw over. Crawford, on the other hand, gets worse with each pickoff throw.

Pickoff attempts aren't the only way to keep Crawford from running wild. There's a strategy the Texas Rangers will employ that could anchor Crawford to first base: left-handed pitching.

Crawford By Pickoff Attempts
This Season

Since 2009, only 15 of Crawford's 133 steal attempts (11.3 percent) have come against left-handed pitchers with just a 60.0 percent success rate. Of the top 10 base stealers from the past two seasons, none has run less against lefties than Crawford. With Cliff Lee going in Game 1 of the ALDS and C.J. Wilson scheduled to go in Game 2, the Rangers might not have to worry too much about Crawford. Then again, the Rays left fielder did swipe second off of Lee earlier this season … and that was with a pickoff attempt!

Crawford and Upton like to run, but the pitcher on the mound might be the biggest determining factor in how successful they are this postseason.