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Streaming for Steals on the Final Weekend

With steals more scarce than in recent memory this season, fantasy championships could come down to who has that extra steal or two. What teams should be targeted for maximum steals? Who are the best streaming options?

Milwaukee Brewers v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Well, if you are reading this, you are probably still fighting for a championship, or at least a significant place (3rd might be valuable in your league). Congrats on making it this far after 24 weeks of grueling waiver wire watching, roster management, injuries galore, cold streaks, hot streaks, and trade negotiations.

In these last few days of the season, just one or two steals could win you that category in head-to-head leagues. You see, steals are pretty scarce this year. This season and last season have the lowest total number of steals in this century. We are currently 700 steals behind 2011’s 3279 total. With homers way up this year, steals have become significantly rarer than home runs.

All of this means chasing after steals can be a rewarding move. Thanks to Eno Sarris over at Fangraphs, we have good information about how to stream for steals. He used data from Baseball Prospectus to show that pitchers are the most important factor in making a team “easy” to steal against. The catchers have a much smaller contribution and the middle infielders even less so.

Pitchers that show up as “easy” to steal against: Jimmy Nelson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Cole Hamels, Jake Arrieta, Matt Andriese, Edinson Volquez, Yu Darvish, James Shields, Mike Leake, Taijuan Walker, Felix Hernandez, Jeff Samardzija, Adam Conley, Jason Hammel, Matt Wisler, and Marco Estrada.

Also, some teams, due to their home park, relief pitching staff, and primary catchers are more prone to steals. This includes: Yankees, Mariners, Pirates, Rays, Rangers, Braves, White Sox, and Padres. This data again comes from Baseball Prospectus and Eno Sarris.

So, let’s use this info to look for speedsters with good matchups this weekend (Thursday-Sunday)! First, let’s eliminate all starters that aren’t pitching in that time frame. Of the original list, that leaves: Ubaldo Jimenez, Jason Hammel, Matt Wisler, Yu Darvish, Taijuan Walker, James Shields, King Felix, Matt Andriese, Edinson Volquez, and Marco Estrada. I would add Jon Lester to the list, even though he wasn’t on the original list because he is so bad at controlling the run game.

I took this list and the list of teams to run against (there is definitely some overlap between the two lists) and used them to decide who is in best position to nab some steals. As I like to do, I put together two big tables that summarize my recommendations for which base stealers to stream this weekend based on all the above information.

Day Pitcher Opponent Players To Target Chance of Steal
Thursday Ubaldo Jimenez Toronto Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera 30%
Friday Jason Hammel Cincinnati Jose Peraza, Brandon Phillips 70%
Friday Matt Wisler Detroit Cameron Maybin, Andrew Romine 55%
Friday Yu Darvish Tampa Bay Kevin Kiermaier 35%
Friday Taijuan Walker Oakland Marcus Semien, Joey Wendle 30%
Saturday James Shields Minnesota Byron Buxton, Danny Santana 50%
Sunday Felix Hernandez Oakland Marcus Semien, Joey Wendle 30%
Friday Matt Andriese Texas Elvis Andrus, Carlos Gomez, Delino DeShields 50%
Saturday Edinson Volquez Cleveland Rajai Davis, Jose Ramirez, Abraham Almonte 60%
Friday Marco Estrada Boston Marco Hernandez? 10%
Saturday Jon Lester Cincinnati Jose Peraza, Brandon Phillips 50%

Team Weekend Opponent Players To Target Chance of Steal
Yankees Baltimore None 0%
Mariners Oakland Marcus Semien, Joey Wendle 30%
Pirates St. Louis Jeremy Hazelbaker, Tommy Pham 50%
Rays Texas Elvis Andrus, Carlos Gomez, Delino DeShields 50%
Rangers Tampa Bay Kevin Kiermaier 40%
Braves Detroit Cameron Maybin, Andrew Romine 55%
White Sox Minnesota Byron Buxton, Danny Santana 50%
Padres Arizona Chris Owings, Michael Bourn 30%

This first table is for the starting pitchers that can’t control runners against them. I added a column for “chance of steal,” which is a number I arbitrarily assigned to each matchup. I used the ability of the base runner, the quality of the starting pitcher, and the team’s general steal-blocking abilities to determine this number. The number is primarily based on the first base runner listed, since that is the faster or more talented runner. The ones with the highest chances are great baserunners against bad pitchers that can’t control the run at all.

The second table uses the list of teams and their opponents this weekend to list some streamers. I again listed my made-up “chance of steal” value for each opponent/base runner matchup. Many of these are repeats, but the Cardinals and Diamondbacks make their first appearance. The Cardinals guys do have some speed, even if they are just part-time players. The Orioles have no one fast enough to be useful, so you can ignore them.

There you have it. I hope these lists are useful for you as you make the final turn into the finish line this weekend. One or two steals could make all the difference, even if some of these guys have poor OBPs, low averages, or low slugging percentages. They could still add value to your team. Good luck and Tschus!