2013 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

The Elvis Andrus Rule

elvis-andrusFor some time, I’ve been bizarrely intrigued by Elvis Andrus. Once, he appeared to be the next Jose Reyes, a 100+ run, 40+ steal, fantasy behemoth. While he has been a sturdy fantasy performer, he has often put together great first halves that were never a prelude to greatness. For whatever reason, people seem unaware that Andrus does a Jekyll and Hyde routine in the first and second halves of the season:

Split

G

PA

R

H

2B

3B

SB

CS

BA

OBP

TB

1st Half

328

1413

201

347

46

15

81

20

.279

.347

444

2nd Half

276

1192

142

285

44

10

42

23

.270

.337

370

Andrus has been caught stealing more times in the second half despite 36 less attempts—both the lack of attempts and success are disconcerting. With pretty close on base rates, the logical conclusion is that the rigors of a season wear Andrus down.

Last week, prompted by a tweet from Matthew Pouliot, I began to wonder if there is a league wide decline in SB attempts and/or success rates for a certain type of players – and whether that is exploitable in fantasy baseball. Basically, are there other Elvis impersonators out there?

The crux of what I found:

  • Bulk SBs and attempts went down in the second half by a decent amount. A lot of that came from the players who barely reached high rate thresholds (11 SBs, 16 SB attempts), suggesting that more marginal players who stole or attempted in large numbers (for the first time) likely won’t do so in the second half.
  • That said there is always safety in numbers: the stalwarts (B.J. Upton, Angel Pagan, Drew Stubbs, Ichiro, Juan Pierre, and Michael Bourn) who steal at great rates hold speed value from the first to the second half far better than any other group.
  • Since 2010, 30 times a player emerged in the second half with 16 or more stolen base attempts while not doing that in the first. In addition, 19 times a player stole 15 or more bags in the second half while not stealing that many in the first (only three of these attempted 16 or more steals in the first half).
  • So, if you are trying to make up SBs in the second half, it makes sense to target two groups of players:
  1. The absolute leaders in SB attempts/bulk SBs from the first half or
  2. Injured stars and potential break-out younger players.

Basically, going for players who have little track record in accumulating SBs over a long period will likely not give you enough to catch up.

The Details

Stolen Base Attempts

In 2012, 41 players attempted 16 or more steals in the first half.

In the second half, 32 players attempted 16 or more steals—nine fewer players.

In the second half, 23 of the 41 players who attempted 16 or more steals in the first half failed to get to 16 attempts.

Further, of the 20 players who made at least 20 first half SB attempts, eight (including Andrus) failed to reach even 16 attempts in the second half.

Lastly, of the 10 players with at least 23 first half SB attempts, four (Dee Gordon, Tony Campana, Starlin Castro and Jordan Schafer) failed to reach 16 attempts in the second half.

In 2011, 41 players also attempted 16 or more steals in the first half.

In the second half, 29 players attempted 16 or more steals.

Somewhat shockingly, of those 41 who attempted 16 or more first half steals, again 23 failed to reach 16 attempts in the second half.

Further, of the more prolific thieves (the 28 players who attempted at least 20 steals in the first half), 12 failed to reach 16 in the second half—basically the same ratio as in 2012.

Lastly, of the 10 players with at least 28 first half SB attempts, only two failed to reach 16 in the second half (Jose Reyes and Rajai Davis)—a bit better than the 2012 crowd.

In 2010, 38 players attempted 16 or more steals in the first half.

In the second half, 24 players attempted at least 16 steals.

In the second half, 17 of the 38 players failed to duplicate SB attempts rate.

Further, of the 24 players who attempted at least 20 first half steals, nine failed to attempt at least 16 steals in the second half—a smidge better than 2011 and 2012.

Lastly, of the 10 players with at least 31 first half attempts, just two (Andrus and Scott Podsednik) failed to reach at least 16 attempts in the second half—eerily similar to 2011.

Summation: It appears that those who attempted a good bit of steals (16+) in the first half have a difficult time replicating the success as a hole. However, the upper echelon of attempted burglars tends to count among the top SB attempts in the second half.

Basically, from 2010-2012, there were 110 first halves with players attempting at least 16 SBs, but only 85 players attempted 16 or more SBs in the second half. There are only 10 players who attempted 16 or more steals in the first half twice but failed to attempt that many in the second half twice: Andrew McCutchen, Bobby Abreu, Corey Patterson, David Wright, Andrus, Hanley Ramirez, Ian Kinsler, Jose Tabata, Justin Upton and Tony Gwynn.

Stolen Bases

In 2012, 49 players stole at least 11 bases in the first half.

In the second half 39 players reached at least 11 thefts—just 10 less players.

But, of the 49, 25 failed to tally 11 SBs in the second half of the season.

Further, of the 28 players with 15 SBs in the first half, nine failed to reach 11 SBs in the second half.

Lastly, of the 10 players with at least 20 first half SBs, three (Gordon, Campana, Schafer) failed to reach 11 SBs in the second half—not great but right in the niche of the higher level attempts we saw.

In 2011, 55 players stole at least 11 bases in the first half.

In the second half, 36 players stole 11 bases or more—nearly 20 less players.

Of the 55, 32 failed to reach 11 stolen bases in the second half—pretty similar numbers to 2012.

Further, of the 30 players with at least 15 first half SBs, 13 failed to get to 11 in the second half—again similar to 2012.

Lastly, of the 10 players with at least 24 first half SBs, just two failed to reach 11 in the second half (Reyes and Davis).

In 2010, 40 players stole at least 11 bases in the first half.

In the second half 27 players stole at least 11 bases.

Of the 40, 19 failed to reach 11 SBs in the second half—basically 20 less, again.

Further, of the 27 players with at least 15 first half SBs, 10 failed to reach 11 SBs in the second half.

Of the 10 players with at least 23 first half SBs, only two (Podsednik and Andrus) failed to reach 11 in the second half—again we see that the upper echelon of stolen bases guys tend to continue to produce at a high level in the second half.

Summation: Since 2010, there have been 144 instances of a player stealing at least 11 bases in the first half but just 102 players with 11 or more thefts in the second half. Much like with SB attempts, there are 11 players who fail to duplicate their first half SB success twice: McCutchen, Abreu, Carlos Gonzalez, Patterson, Danny Espinosa, Andrus, Hanley Ramirez, Ian Desmond, Justin Upton, Shin-soo Choo and Gwynn.

Who is stealing in the Second Half?

During the second half of 2012, 32 players attempted at least 16 SBs, 14 of them did not reach that threshold in the first half of the season. Those 14 break down into two pretty clear camps: players (typically younger) gaining playing time (Anthony Gose, Carlos Gomez, DeWayne Wise, Everth Cabrera, Jon Jay, Norichika Aoki, Pedro Ciriaco and Starling Marte) and players getting healthy/overcoming weird first halves (Dustin Pedroia, Erick Aybar, Ichiro, Jimmy Rollins, Jacoby Ellsbury and Will Venable). In 2012’s second half, 22 players stole 15 or more bases, nine of them did not reach 15 SBs in the first half. The nine—Escobar, Gose, Gomez, Aybar, Cabrera, Ichiro, Rollins, Aoki and Venable—are all included in the above.

During the second half of 2011, 29 players attempted at least 16 SBs, 11 did not reach that rate in the first half. Those 11 do include players who gained playing time: Alejandro de Aza, Dee Gordon, Desmond Jennings, Eric Young, Jemile Weeks, Melky Cabrera, Peter Bourjos and Willie Bloomquist. The other three (Aaron Hill, Cameron Maybin and Starlin Castro) don’t exactly fit the mold from 2012, although it should be noted that Hill was a far better second half player and Maybin attempted 14 steals in the first half of 2011 (so just missing the threshold). Meanwhile Castro attempted nine steals in the second half, however only tallied two successful swipes—so he was just terrible at it. In 2011’s second half, 13 players stole 15 or more bases in the second half. Of those 15, six didn’t record 15 successful thefts in the first half: Weeks, Young, Jennings, Gordon, Maybin and Revere—basically young speedsters who finally got fulltime playing duties.

During the second half of 2010, 24 players attempted at least 16 SBs, but, somewhat surprisingly, only four players did not reach that rate in the first half. Of the four, Coco Crisp and Eric Young simply got more playing time, Cliff Pennington just missed qualifying in the first half and Franklin Gutierrez bizarrely just ran more than ever before (maybe he was actually healthy?). In 2010’s second half, 14 players managed to steal at least 15 bases – again four didn’t accomplish the feat in the first half (just swap Venable for Young). With just four-five outliers, there isn’t much to be gleaned from 2010.

In summation: since 2010, 30 times a player emerged in the second half with 16 or more stolen base attempts while not reaching that threshold in the first half. In addition, 19 times a player stole 15 or more bags in the second half while not stealing that many in the first (only three of these attempted 16 or more steals in the first half).

So, if you are trying to make up SBs in the second half, it makes sense to target two groups of players:

  1. The absolute leaders in SB attempts/bulk SBs from the first half or
  2. Injured stars and potential break-out younger players.

Going for players who have little track record in accumulating SBs over a long period will likely not give you enough to catch up.

A note about Andrus: he is basically the true outlier here. He is the only truly untrustworthy first half thief to consistently come up lame in the second half. Despite his recent contract extension, the Rangers seem to understand this. His SB attempts have gone from 14 in 2009 and 2010 to 20 in 2011 to just 9 last season. Of course, so far, he’s on pace for 36 SBs in the first half.

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