Adam Dunn - Jamie Squire
It's probably not a good idea to steal bases when Dunn is batting
The most obvious reason Adam Dunn should not bat in what has been his customary 3rd spot is, of course, that the only other left-handed hitter in the regular lineup is likely to be leadoff hitter Alejandro De Aza. Almost regardless of who would bat 2nd, repeating the 2012 batting order positions for De Aza and Dunn would be an even greater invitation for an opposing team to match up their left-handed relievers since, well, now there really wouldn't be any reason to use them any other time.
But another (lesser) reason is De Aza's ability to steal bases. In his major league career, De Aza has been successful a 70% of the time (42 for 60), including 68% (26 for 38) in 2012.
When to steal
I'm sure almost any fan recognizes there are times when it's a really good idea to attempt to steal bases (Rickey Henderson with Dan Meyer batting - look it up, kids) and times when it's a really bad idea to attempt to steal bases (Paul Konerko, like, ever). The trick, of course, is recognizing where all the other situations fit on that spectrum.
Many analysts have fired up their spreadsheets and crunched the numbers while drinking Mountain Dew in their mother's basement on the night of their Senior Proms. The sheer number of variables - runner, pitcher, batter, catcher, score, outs, inning, other baserunners, who's on-deck, who's in the hole and on and on - makes this both a nightmare and a fascinating detour into game theory.
One intrepid analyst took his stab at it with the stated purpose of finding the break-even rates, solely for stealing second base, for each individual hitter based on all outcomes. If you want the gory details on how he came up with this, feel free to peruse this. It goes without saying that this isn't going to be a completely accurate study. But it probably approximates the reality for the majority of players, particularly those on the extreme ends.
I'm sure by now you've guessed who shows up as a batter for whom a basestealer must be very confident of success.
- With no outs, Dunn is 8th in baseball with a necessary break-even point of 75.1%.
- With one out, Dunn takes over the top spot with a break-even point of 76.6%.
- With two outs, Dunn keeps his top spot (and widens his lead over the field) with a break-even point of 81.6%.
4th or 5th spot?