The Tigers and Twins were in a scoreless game in the top of the seventh inning last night. While sabermeticians typically frown on small ball, a stolen base or sacrifice bunt could have been the key to a 1 to 0 victory. That they ended up scoring seven runs using only four outs lends credence to the belief that outs are precious and they should not be sacrificed just to move a runner up a base.
The Tigers have 30 stolen bases, last among all teams. They score 5.05 runs per game, the most of any team. This is not surprising, as stealing bases can actually harm a team's chances of scoring a lot of runs. But they increase a team's chances of scoring just one run, and sometimes that one run is critical. The Rangers are also in first place in their divisional standings, but on the other end of the spectrum. The Rangers have stolen 100 bases, but been caught 38 times. The Tigers have only been caught 17 times, third best in baseball.
The Rangers therefore have created seven innings worth of outs on the bases. The Tigers have had 21 more outs to work with - more plate appearance, more hits, more walks, and more homeruns. The opponent's starting pitcher has had to work that much harder, and forcing a relief pitcher earlier in the game. Or to crystallize this, Miguel Cabrera has batted three more times this year because the Tigers are rarely caught stealing.
The Cardinals have made the fewest outs by stealing, having only been gunned down 15 times in 50 attempts. This is not the Whitey Herzog version of the Cardinals.
The Tigers' goal is a championship. In the postseason, runs are even more precious. Last night the Twins stole second with two outs in the seventh. A single scored the run, which would not have occurred without the steal. In the playoffs, will the Tigers be able to steal that base when needed? It would be good to have a few players steal a base a week for the rest of the season. It may slightly reduce their chances of winning each game, but improving the skill may increase their chances of winning a key playoff game. This team does not have a Quintin Berry. Which bench player should become the designated stealer?