Sunday, April 19, 2009

Stealing home

Another post from my brother, Peter Shearer.

Stealing home is almost unheard of in baseball today. But Jackie Robinson attempted it 30 times, succeeding 19 times. Today's NYT has an interesting analysis of whether these attempts helped or hurt his team, based on a statistical tool called run expectancy. It turns out that his efforts produced a net gain of 8.3 runs, which the author of the article dismisses as insignificant when considered over his entire career. I think that misses the point. To most players, trying to steal home would rightfully be deemed boneheaded because they would give up a possible run for a near-certain out. But Robinson was so good that his spectacular attempts succeeded often enough that he actually helped his team. That's pretty impressive. In addition, the knowledge that he might try to steal home whenever he was on third surely rattled many pitchers into making mistakes that are not counted in the statistics.

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