Paul Goldschmidt Could Care Less About Speed


Paul Goldschmidt has mastered the art of stealing bases.

When I think of guys that should steal a ton of bases over the course of a season, I think of guys like Billy Hamilton and Trea Turner. They absolutely fly around the bases. An impressive concentration of quick-twitch muscles within their small-to-medium frames makes them nightmare fuel for pitchers. Hamilton and Turner represent the common build for a base stealer in Major League Baseball. You know who doesn’t? Paul Goldschmidt.

Goldschmidt doesn’t have the small frame of most base stealers. His wide shoulders and arms appear sufficient for blasting baseballs out of major league stadiums, but one would think they would relegate him to the end of the line when it comes to base stealing. Goldschmidt could care less. He sees bases for the taking and he is going to take them.

The initial reaction when you see Paul Goldschmidt swipe second base might be along the lines of “he must be deceptively fast”. Goldschmidt, however, is about as fast as he looks crossing your screen. He has placed himself in the company of some of the fastest players in today’s game while only having about league-average speed.

According to Statcast’s sprint speed, Goldschmidt ranks 405th in sprint speed between 2015 and 2021. Yet, he is 24th in stolen bases over that period. He has managed 94 steals and has only been caught 20 times for an 82.4% success rate. That is impressive. He is tied with Cameron Maybin at 94 steals, but Maybin has been caught 31 times compared to Goldschmidt’s 20. Here is a chart comparing stolen bases and a player’s success rate:

When it comes to stolen bases, Paul Goldschmidt is among the most most efficient and prolific.
Stolen Base Statistics obtained through Stathead Database

If we look at the players that have stolen more bases than Goldschmidt, only 6 have a better success rate: Mookie Betts (82.8%), Christian Yelich (82.8%), Adalberto Mondesi (83.1%), Jarrod Dyson (83.4%), Trea Turner (83.9%), Billy Hamilton (83.9%).

So, how does Paul Goldschmidt steal bases so effectively? What has he mastered that others have not been able to replicate? It is actually quite simple, Paul Goldschmidt takes a pretty big lead. This simple act of starting just a little farther out than most players has allowed him to be a genuine base-stealing threat.

It is easy to look at Paul Goldschmidt and see him as an anomaly, an outlier who finds a way to steal bases when he shouldn’t be able to. I, however, wonder if Goldschmidt is actually a model base stealer. He shows that stealing bases at a good rate is very attainable through good reads and honing skills like taking a bigger lead. Perhaps, more guys without blazing speed can join him in the ranks of good base stealers.

We live in an era where a player’s success rate on stolen bases is crucial. Players that can’t steal successfully are often limited to fewer than 10 attempts during the season. MLB players have a lot to do each day and they are often forced to choose certain types of practice over others. I would guess most players that don’t have great speed choose to focus nearly all their time on other parts of the game like hitting and fielding. I would be curious though to see how the game might change if players spent more time focusing on their leads. What if you showed up prior to a minor league game and guys were practicing their leads?

Sure, there is an added risk of getting picked off of first base with a bigger lead, but there are also a few rewards. The first is simply more stolen base opportunities. This is really important since run expectancy is quite a bit larger with a runner on second compared to a runner on first. Additionally, pitchers have a tougher time pitching to batters with a runner on first that might steal. The pitcher has to consider pick-offs, varying their timing, and modifying their delivery. These things make it more likely that the pitcher will miss their spot and the batter will get a good pitch to hit. Lastly, having a runner on first that can steal gives a team more options. Hit and runs become a more viable strategy, along with double steals. These strategies often end up playing a pivotal role at the end of close games.

Paul Goldschmidt is an outlier in current baseball, but maybe he doesn’t need to be. Maybe he is just ahead of his time, an example for future players.

Click here for a Goldschmidt stolen base from earlier this month.

Goldschmidt is no slouch with the bat either:

Goldschmidt 2022 highlights via MLB

Data via baseballsavant.mlb.com and baseballreference.com

Read More: Goldschmidt has succeeded in accumulating stolen bases without being particularly fast, but hitting triples, well, that requires some top end quickness. Find out why there are fewer triples being hit in baseball today.

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