Pardon the pun, but there's something afoot in the stolen base category this season.
Major league stolen base attempts are down as a whole, resulting in fewer successful steals. Through Sunday, the full-season paces were 2,645 for stolen bases and 3,631 for attempts; the former would be the lowest single-season number since 2005, the latter the fewest since 1973 & when there were only 24 teams.
The impact upon fantasy leagues has been stark, at least in Rotisserie-based formats.
Nine of the 16 players to have stolen at least 15 bags this season rank among the top 16 hitters on our Player Rater. Only three of those 16 players with 15-plus steals, however, rank among even the top 20 hitters in points leagues. And there's no easier way to illustrate this split than going the consistency route; our Consistency Ratings, updated through June, show this below.
Yes, it's key to one's strategy in a standard Rotisserie league -- 5x5 scoring, that is -- to own a reliable source of steals. With fewer steals to go around, stolen base replacement levels have dropped, propping up the value of the truly speedy. To that end, consider the consistency of the five players who have derived the greatest percentage of their Rotisserie value from their contribution in steals:
Juan Pierre: 38.5% Consistency Rating (Rotisserie), 15.4% (points-based)
Everth Cabrera: 76.9% CR (Rotisserie), 69.2% (points), 5 Stud weeks
Jacoby Ellsbury: 69.2% CR (Rotisserie), 76.9% (points), 6 Stud weeks
Rajai Davis: 46.2% CR (Rotisserie), 15.4% (points), only 1 Stiff week
Ben Revere: 46.2% CR (Rotisserie), 30.8% (points)
Also consider the contributions of these three other steals standouts:
Nate McLouth: 92.3% CR (Rotisserie), 53.8% (points), 0 Stiff weeks
Starling Marte: 61.5% CR (Rotisserie), 61.5% (points), 5 Stud weeks
Jason Kipnis: 69.2% CR (Rotisserie), 61.5% (points), 7 Stud weeks
Alexei Ramirez: 61.5% CR (Rotisserie), 61.5% (points), 7 Stud weeks
Pierre, one of the greatest all-time examples of the fantasy baseball "one-category performer," is the most glaring example of the speedster who would've let you down. Five times he has been a "Start" and four times a "Stiff," but in his defense -- in deep-mixed or NL-only formats -- he has a substantially higher Consistency Rating in Rotisserie than points-based scoring. Keeping that in mind, even the slightest correction to his career-worst .263 BABIP could vault him back into the meaningful class in Rotisserie leagues.
McLouth, meanwhile, has been underrated. Though he is now owned in 100 percent of ESPN leagues, that he's one of only 14 players to have been active for all 13 weeks to date and never once been judged a "Stiff" -- that being a hitter who failed to finish among the top 260 in Rotisserie value in the given week -- speaks volumes about his fantasy value. Consider what the word "downside" means with regard to McLouth: It's a week in which perhaps he steals 1-2 bases, but thanks to his serving as the leadoff man for the second-highest scoring team in baseball perhaps results in enough runs and/or RBIs to prop up him up any week.
It's also rational to immediately activate Everth Cabrera, currently working his way back from a hamstring injury, once he rejoins the San Diego Padres. Cabrera, despite missing the past two weeks, is on pace for 63 walks, a .305 batting average and 61 stolen bases. Even with regression, a .260-hitting, shortstop-eligible player who could swipe another 25 bases is a Rotisserie must-start in a year like this. This might be the final time all year you could acquire him on the cheap.
Here's the other factor to consider: Thanks to the diminishing major league steals rate, those power-speed combo hitters gain additional value. That's why it shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone that Carlos Gonzalez, Mike Trout, Jean Segura and Jason Kipnis, all of them on pace for at least 22 home runs and 29 stolen bases apiece, rank among the top seven hitters on our Player Rater. The Player Rater, after all, considers players' value relative to replacement levels.
That's the primary reason that Carlos Gomez is not a sell-high candidate, despite a .315 batting average propped up by a .373 BABIP. Regress his batting average for the remainder of 2013, if you wish, but even in his bad weeks, he could chip in 1-2 steals, which would be plenty to warrant his spot in your weekly lineup. He's on pace for 24 home runs and 32 stolen bases, and there's an excellent chance he'll amass at least 20 and 30, respectively, in those categories by year's end.
Consistency Ratings: 2013 Weeks 1-13
Players are initially ranked in order of their Consistency Rating in Rotisserie leagues (Roto%), calculated as the percentage of the season's 13 weeks -- not weeks the player played, but total weeks on the MLB schedule -- in which his Player Rater standing registered a "Start" score. All categories are sortable both ascending and descending; just click on the headers to sort. Players must have a Consistency Rating of 50 percent or greater in either Rotisserie or points-based formats in order to be included on the chart.
"Start," "Stud" and "Stiff" scores are for Rotisserie scoring formats.