By: Travis Pulver
MLB Most Stolen Bases Odds: Does Speed Still Matter
Brief as the moment may be, stolen bases bring excitement to baseball, and we love that. Why do we love it? More action in a game some perceive as slow can only be a good thing. Maybe it is the act of ‘stealing’ we get a thrill from, or perhaps it is the strategic aspect.
Whatever the reason, fans enjoy seeing guys steal bases. But in recent years, it has almost seemed like stealing is becoming a lost art. Rather than manufacture runs, many teams seem to rely more on home runs to clear the bases.
No one has had 60+ stolen bases in the AL since Juan Pierre had 68 in 2010. Ronald Acuna Jr.’s 37 last season was the lowest for a season-leader in the NL since 1961 (Maury Wills, 35).
But in this year’s 60-game season, it might not be surprising to see managers give their speed demons the green light more often. With every game being much more important this season, it would not be shocking to see some managers be a little more aggressive with base runners.
Numbers will obviously be smaller than usual since the regular season will only be 60 games. However, if more managers to get aggressive with their base runners, maybe the race for the league lead will be more contested than usual.
MLB Most Stolen Bases Odds: Should You Roll with a Favorite?
The oddsmakers at DraftKings have made it clear who they think will lead the league (AL and NL) in steals this season:
- Adalberto Mondesi +200
- Mallex Smith +400
- Trea Turner +600
- Ronald Acuna Jr., Jonathan Villar +900
- Victor Robles +1600
- Starling Marte +1800
- Whit Merrifield +2500
- Byron Buxton, Fernando Tatis Jr., Jose Ramirez, Jarrod Dyson +2800
- Elvis Andrus, Dee Gordon, Francisco Lindor, Oscar Mercado, Amed Rosario, Christian Yelich +4000
- Billy Hamilton, Trevor Story +5000
- Bo Bichette, Tommy Pham, Luis Robert +6600
- Kolten Wong, Tim Anderson +8000
- Mookie Betts +10000
If you are a casual fan, some of these names will be familiar to you, but many will not be. However, since oddsmakers felt the need to include them on this list, you know they have to be decent base-stealers, if not good ones.
So, how do you figure out who to target?
Base stealers are fast guys who tend to be contact hitters that can get on base, not power hitters (but sometimes they are decent power hitters, too). Look for guys that play positions for speed and dexterity are vital (i.e., outfielders, shortstops, and second basemen).
The only guys that recorded 40+ last season were a center fielder (Mallex Smith, 46), a shortstop (Adalberto Mondesi, 43), and a second baseman (Jonathan Villar, 40).
Mondesi (+200) and Smith (+400) definitely have the kind of speed you want in a base stealer, but both struggle in one vital aspect—they struggle to get on base. Last season, Mondesi hit just .263 and had an OBP of .291. Smith struggled even more at the plate hitting just .227 but had a slightly better OBP of .300 (but still bad).
Why the Favorites in the MLB Stolen Bases Odds are the Favorites and Why Some Speed Demons Have a Fatal Flaw
However, what’s interesting about them is despite their struggles to get on base, they still led MLB in steals. If that wasn’t intriguing enough, Mondesi only played in 102 games and Smith 134. So, you know they had to have the green light more often than not.
National’s shortstop Trea Turner (+600) has comparable speed to Mondesi and Smith and does a better job getting on base (BA-.298; OBP– .353). He only had 35 last season but missed 40 games. But he had 46 in 2017 when he played in 98. However, Anthony Rendon is no longer in the lineup, so he may not see as many hittable pitches as last season.
Jonathan Villar (+900) shouldn’t be ignored after notching 40 last season and does have a 60+ season during his career, but that was back in 2016 when he was with the Brewers. The Braves young star, Ronald Acuna Jr. (+900), has the tools to lead the league in steals. He recorded 37 last year and could have solid numbers again this season if given the green light.
If you are interested in taking a longshot, there are a few promising candidates. Minnesota’s Byron Buxton (+2800) has the tools to be a great base stealer but struggles to remain healthy. Billy Hamilton (+5000) has four seasons with 50+ on his resume. However, he has struggled to stay on the field as well.
Dee Gordon (+4000) is a former steals champ with two 60+ seasons to his name, the last coming in 2017. But players tend to get slower with age, and he is now 32, and he struggled to stay on the field last season (117 games).
It seems like younger players are the ones with the kind of speed needed to be a good base stealer. This season, there could be several good, young players worth betting on—Bo Bichette (+6600), Luis Robert (+6600), and Oscar Mercado (+4000). However, it is hard to say how much playing time some of them will get right now.
So—who should you bet on?
That’s hard to say. Yes, there are plenty of guys with speed, but many tend to struggle with getting base. However, when they do, they are dangerous. Some older guys are consistent producers but don’t tend to get big numbers anymore.
But if someone were to go on a tear and record a few multi-steal games, it could be anyone’s contest this year.