I hesitate to even throw this post out here, but I can't suppress my urge to say something about this.
Last night, Ian Kinsler stole his club-record 24th consecutive base, bringing his total success rate on the basepaths this year to 25 steals in 27 attempts. Only the Cubs' Tony Campana (20-for-21) boasts a better basestealing success rate this season, which is significant because success rate is closely tied to a player's actual basestealing value. The break-even point is somewhere around the 70-75 percent mark, meaning that a guy who swipes 20 bases in 25 attempts is generally going to provide more baserunning value to his team than a guy who swipes 30 bases in 50 attempts. Put another way, the raw number of steals isn't nearly as important as the success rate at which those bases are stolen.
[That said, there's still something of a debate about whether guys who amass lots of stolen-base attempts provide some 'hidden' value by putting additional pressure on opposing pitchers, so not every possible variable is being accounted for. But I do vaguely recall one study that indicated that stolen-base attempts disrupt the batter at the plate just as much as the pitcher, so perhaps there really isn't much to that theory, after all.]
But I'm getting off track here, because that's not really what I wanted to talk about. After Kinsler stole that base, he was immediately picked off second base, thereby tying him with guys like Ichiro, Brett Gardner, and Mike Aviles for the most pickoffs (six) among American League players this season. I quipped on Twitter that I was going to set up a filter in TweetDeck for the word "Kinsler" to see how much hell he caught for that blunder, and ... well ... it wasn't pretty:
splashzilla Jho Cardenas
Kinsler u idiot!
greggorox My name isn't Greggo
Contrary to semi-popular belief, Kinsler is NOT a good baserunner. He could be if he focused more on the basepads.
esqurredsword Evan Elder
Holy shit Kinsler WTF #thatshitwasdumb
Ian Kinsler is the most annoying baserunner ever. He makes boneheaded mistakes during significant moments, like big games.
I took the liberty of excluding some of the other generic "ugh" tweets, since I could at least somewhat understand and emphathize with those. It wasn't a real laudable moment, after all -- but there's a real difference between expressing momentary frustration at a mistake by a player who is otherwise exceptional at his craft, and some of the vitriol and erroneous opinions that were posted above.
I then committed the (possible) mistake of engaging one of the above tweeters with this response:
"Kinsler grades out as the second-best baserunner in baseball this year, per BP: http://t.co/YHYgUF2"
Which resulted in a wholly unsatisfying back-and-forth exchange about how Kinsler, despite being one of the most valuable baserunners in baseball this season (and over the last few seasons, for that matter), still "isn't a good baserunner because he commits too many mistakes." I was also informed that the reason why Kinsler was worse than Ichiro and Gardner (despite having been picked off just as many times this year as them) was because Ichiro and Gardner "aren't prone to the laziness" that Kinsler tends to show on the basepaths, and was accused of playing the role of "stat bully." Not that I mind that last part, of course. At least I wasn't called a "certified bullshit baseball technician."
But I don't get it. I don't understand what else he's supposed to do. Poke around Twitter or some of the other blogs out there enough, and you'll find that there are still a substantial number of Kinsler detractors populating various corners of the blogosphere. Which is sort of funny, because this very likely has been Kinsler's best season as a major leaguer, but really not so funny, because it's kind of disconcerting how much of a perception problem he still seems to be facing with a considerable number of Rangers fans. Do his perceived level of effort and body language really count for that much?
In any event, I do believe that will be the last time that I engage random Twitter folks about anything related to baseball.