Oh, Michael Brantley, how I wish you would run more often, not just for your sake but the team’s as well.
Brantley turns 25-years-old next week – May 15, to be exact – and has more than 1050 career plate appearances under his belt. It’s probably safe to say that the player he is now – a career .262/.314/.356 hitter – is a close proximity of what he’ll be during his peak years, ages 26 to 30 (give or take a year).
His skill set as a hitter is rather limited: heavy on the groundballs, little power, and slightly below-average walk rates. Defensively, he grades out far better in left – +3.3 UZR/150 in 684.2 career innings – than he does in center, where he’s been fairly abysmal (-18.8 UZR/150 in 1361.1).
This isn’t to say that he’s not valuable because, well, he is. In fact, all league average starters – a player that’s worth about two wins above replacement – have some value. I just think the Indians could be doing more to add to his value, both in terms of on-field production and market price.
When the Indians originally acquired Brantley – he was considered at that time a key piece to the C.C. Sabathia deal – the organization thought they were getting their leadoff hitter of the future, the type of player that would walk around nine- or ten-percent of the time with a solid line drive swing and the potential to swipe 30+ bags in a year. He hasn’t developed into any of those; two of them – the walk rate and line drive power – aren’t really the organization’s fault but the third, however, is. Or so I think.
Coming up through the minors, Brantley was always a pretty deft base stealer, swiping 162 bags in 201 attempts. It’s not a tremendously successful rate, 81%, but it was solid, reliable skill and one that I’m sure was marketed by the Brewers to increase the interest in their young outfielder.
So, I guess, my question is: why has he attempted to steal only 44 times in 238 career big league games?
In order for a player to add value to his team via the stolen base, he must successfully steal second base two out of every three attempts, which was kindly confirmed via email by Tom Tango. The success rate increases for third and home and the general “breakeven point” is right around 71% for all situations.
Over the past two years, 2010 and 2011, Brantley successfully stole 23 bases in 30 attempts, a success rate of 77%. It’s also the rate you would expect given his minor league numbers; one would assume some type of regression would take place between the major and minor leagues.
Yes, I know he went four for eight in his 28-game, brief 2009 audition and currently is two for six in 2012. But with that being said – and this is me just thinking out loud – I do wonder if base-stealing, like any of skill, becomes lax if not regularly practiced. He’s shown both in the minors and the two previous seasons that he’s capable. Why not given him 30- or 40-attempts at stealing second base this season?
I also understand that the value added by a 75%-rate base stealer is not much, theoretically one run or so. But it is additional value the team hasn’t taken advantage of. Plus, it only makes him more marketable to potential trade partners. Hell, the Giants traded for outfielder Angel Pagan, who swiped 32 bags last season but posted eerily similar offensive production to Brantley (.313wOBA vs. .309 wOBA), in an offseason trade.
My point: counting stats still count to a certain degree.
To me it just makes sense to turn Brantley loose, for both his sake and the team’s.
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