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March 22, 2012 posted by Dave Shovein

Fantasy Baseball: Chasing stolen bases

Fantasy Baseball: Chasing stolen bases
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Ah, the elusive stolen base.

The art of base-stealing has seen somewhat of a resurgence in the past few seasons, coinciding with the decrease in home runs in the post-steroid era.

As we wind into the final few days of draft preparation before we do battle in 2012, let’s take a closer look on just how you should plan on achieving your stolen base target this season.

You’re all aware by now that to put yourself in a place to compete for the big prize in the NFBC’s main event, you need to finish in the top 20% of each category. This season, my categorical target for stolen bases is 180.

Each owner is different in how he chooses to go about achieving that target. Some like to grab a speed-only option (or Judy as he’s more affectionately referred to) to build a solid foundation in the category. Others attempt to build a well balanced team and distribute the speed.

My preference, is to avoid the Judy’s whenever possible. These players typically offer very little in the power departments, and represent a very high percentage of your team’s total stolen base output tied up in one player. Should that player succumb to injury, he’s damn near impossible to effectively replace.

The goal is to be as balanced as possible and distribute the speed amongst my roster. If a player who’s being counted on for 20 steals goes down, you can at least find a replacement through FAAB to provide something in that neighborhood.

The focus now, is how on draft day you actually plan on attacking that stolen base target. To re-iterate my belief, going into your draft without a plan in place is a surefire path to failure. Simply knowing that you need to approximate 180 steals during the season, without a plan to attack that goal you are in trouble.

Some owners perform the simple exercise of tracking their projected HR/SB as they go through the draft. If one number seems far off of the target they’ll adjust and add more speed/power as they see fit. This method seems pedestrian, but is far more valuable than having no plan at all and free-wheeling at the draft table.

Others choose to simply attack that 180 number by subtracting from it with each player they acquire. As the draft progresses, they’ll pay some attention to the goal but won’t understand what some decisions will mean.

For example, in the 14th round there are two similarly ranked outfielders available in Angel Pagan and Lucas Duda. This owner may take Duda, simply deciding that he’s the better player and that he can find his steals later. What he doesn’t realize, is he may now be counting on production from positions that don’t have the inventory to fill that void. By passing up the steals in the outfield in that spot, he may need to depend on more from his CI or his catchers. By the time round 20 comes around, to make his goal he may need his two catchers and his utility player to average 20 SB each.

What I like to do in regards to my stolen base target, is estimate what kind of production I am going to need from each roster group. These numbers aren’t set in stone and can easily be adjusted as the draft progresses. What it does, is give me a very clear idea on what type of players I am going to need from each group.

Here’s the breakdown that I’m using as of today and my personal draft preferences:

2B, SS, MI: 75 SB

1B, 3B, CI, 2 Catchers: 15 SB

5 OF, UTIL: 90 SB

As the draft moves along, these numbers are fluid. If you start your draft with Hanley Ramirez and Ian Kinsler, odds are that your MI slots will account for more than 75 SB. Knowing that more speed is covered by middle infielders, this would leave the option to take a player such as Delmon Young in the 13th round instead of a burner like Austin Jackson.

Similarly say you buy into the hype and pounce on Brett Lawrie in the 2nd or 3rd round. He’s going to give you 20+ SB himself from your corner infield group, which will allow you to adjust elsewhere and stay balanced.

Just remember to be careful and stay cognizant of where your anticipated steals are coming from. They’re extremely difficult to find from the corner infield and catcher spots. If you end up counting on them for too much of your production, you’re destined to fall short of your target.

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