Lentini Steals Spot Among All-Time Greats
When Long Island Ducks outfielder Fehlandt Lentini was growing up playing Little League baseball, he was always thinking about getting to the next base. Often he would purposely get into pickles so he could advance a base. He was fast, aggressive, and admittedly, a little reckless at times.
Now entering his 17th professional season – and fourth with the Flock – Lentini is still fast and aggressive, but has gotten wiser in the ways of baserunning. With 450 stolen bases in 13 years in open classification circuits, the California native is the all-time independent baseball stolen base leader. At 39 years old, he shows little signs of slowing down, going 51-for-56 in stolen base attempts in 2016.
On their face, Lentini’s stolen base numbers are impressive, but when you dive further in, just how much impact he has had on his teams in just this one phase of the game becomes awe-inspiring. Beyond the glitz of the 46-for-46 perfect season in 2014, lays an impressive 539-for-643 (83.8%) career stolen base record at all levels. To put that into perspective, only one Major League Baseball player has ever attempted 500 stolen bases in his career with a better success rate – Hall of Famer Tim Raines (84.6%).
Lentini’s 51 steals as a 38-year-old becomes an even greater accomplishment when one notes that only two MLB players stole as many bases last year – Jonathan Villar, 25, of the Milwaukee Brewers stole 62; and Billy Hamilton, 25, of the Cincinnati Reds swiped 58. No player age 38 or older has swiped 50 or more bases in a season since a 39-year-old Rickey Henderson stole 66 bases with the A’s in 1998.
However, to fully grasp the impact of Lentini’s stolen bases, one needs to be introduced to two sabermetric concepts – break-even rate and stolen base runs. Simply, the break-even rate is the success rate of stealing that you need to have to have a net-positive impact on your team. The rate is around 75%, a number which Lentini easily surpasses on the whole.
Stolen base runs (or SBR) is a slightly more complicated concept. It is derived from efforts from baseball researchers Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman and Andrew Dolphin, whose seminal 2004 work, The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, was groundbreaking and revolutionary in baseball statistical research.
Tango, et. al. studied years of actual baseball data and were able to assign an expected run value to every single occurrence on a baseball field. Their exhaustive calculations determined that a successful stolen base was worth approximately 0.2 runs, while getting caught stealing cost your team around -0.6 runs.
With this knowledge, we can calculate that throughout his career Fehlandt Lentini has been worth 45.4 SBR during his 16-year career. Using another sabermetric finding, that 10 runs equates to roughly one win, we see that Lentini has been worth 4.54 wins throughout his career just with his base stealing ability. In his 13-years in independent baseball, Lentini has racked up 42.6 SBR, including an incredible 15.8 with the Ducks.
For some more historical MLB perspective, Tim Raines was worth 74 SBR in his 23-year career, Rickey Henderson’s 25-year career resulted in 80.2 SBR, and Lou Brock, incredibly, was worth just 3.4 SBR in his 19 years.
When compared to these titans of basestealing, Lentini’s expertise can truly be appreciated. Of course comparing across leagues and eras makes this a highly imperfect comparison, but it is useful for broad context. In an era where stolen bases are becoming a thing of the past, Lentini is able to make a huge impact on his team with just this one small phase of the game.
Posted on March 31, 2017, in Feature Articles and tagged Atlantic League, Fehlandt Lentini, Long Island Ducks, Lou Brock, Rickey Henderson, Sabermetrics, Stolen Bases, Tim Raines. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.