Mason Mallard is Stealing the Show

Tech ranks well among college baseball teams in a lot of stats. The Bulldogs rank 1st in ERA, 8th in triples, and 1st at throwing shade at alternative rock bands from Las Vegas.

But what’s the fun of looking at one of Tech’s strengths. Instead, let’s look at something Tech is ranked 59th in: stolen bases.

Tied with Sam Houston State, Worst West Virginia, High Point, and VCU, the Bulldogs have combined for 41 stolen bases on the year.

There is a major difference between Tech and those schools, however. While each of the above programs have been caught stealing between 12 and 14 times, Tech has been caught trying to steal a bag twenty-four times.

Fun Fact: Tech has been caught stealing exactly as many times as there are hours in the day

That’s like, really bad. If we were going to compare stealing bases to robbing banks, Tech wouldn’t be too far away from this. Remember how Tech is ranked 59th in steals? If my math checks out, there are 58 teams ranked higher than them. Only three of those 58 have been caught stealing 24 or more times.

(The #1 ranked team in the country in steals has been caught stealing 23 times, but that doesn’t sound bad when you consider they have 102 successful steals vs Tech’s 41).

So while Tech is sorta okay at stealing bases, they are also pretty bad at… stealing bases. But there is one bright spot in this sea of mediocrity: Mason Mallard.

Dalton Skelton, Hunter Wells, Parker Bates, and Mason Mallard lead Tech in steals this season. Skelton has three steals. Wells has swiped four bags. Bates has stolen nine.

Mason Mallard has sixteen. Much like the Anas platyrhynchos pictured below, Mallard seems to be hard to hunt catch.

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That puts Mallard at 25th in college baseball. But it gets better from here:

Skelton and Wells have been caught stealing twice each. Bates has been thrown out stealing six times.

Mason Mallard has never been caught.

Mallard has not been caught stealing all year. Not once. Not even like a little bit. He is a perfect 16 for 16. That is a perfect 100%. The Barry Allen of college baseball. Or Quicksilver I guess if you want to be all Marvel fanboy about it.

Only three college players have 16 or more steals and have never been thrown out while trying to steal.

Lucky Break

Going 16 for 16 at anything in baseball is pretty impressive. Getting a hit 16 days in a row. Throwing a curve ball for a strike 16 times in a row. Getting struck out 16 times in a row (which is totally not something I did in little league).

Anyway, there are bound to be some close calls where Mallard lucked out. Some of his steals probably should not have worked.

In fact, Mallard’s steal streak almost ended at 1:

SIUe Steal.gif

One out. Man on first. Batter ahead in the count. This a perfect base stealing scenario. You want to avoid the double play, and because the count is 1-0, the pitcher will probably waste a pitch on a pitch out to the catcher.

The way this goes wrong though is if the runner misreads the pitcher. And that’s exactly what happened. Mallard sees the SIUe pitcher lift his leg to deliver a pitch, so Mallard takes off. Because the pitcher hasn’t moved forward toward home plate and takes a step towards first, the pitcher is allowed to throw to first and not be called for a balk. Luckily, Mallard is fast enough to get under the tag at second.

It’s also worth quickly mentioning how hard it is to steal second base off of a left handed pitcher unless the pitcher’s name is Jon Lester. For a righty, their back is to first base. To attempt a pick-off, they need to spin around and throw to first. But a lefty is already facing first. This allows the pick-off move to be quicker and harder to detect.

Was the Crime Worth the Time and Effort?

Similar to last week’s post, I am interested in how many runs resulted from Mallard’s base-swipes. Did the steals result in more runs, or were they brief moments of enjoyment in an otherwise fruitless effort like existence itself?

So I made this cool table:

# Date Versus Score? Matter?
1 2/18 Pepp Yes No, would have scored anyway
2 2/24 SIUe No No, picked off
3 3/3 Cal No No
4 3/6 GSU Yes Yes, scored on a pop fly
5 3/16 Rice Yes Yes, scored on a fielder’s choice
6 3/17 Rice Yes Yes, scored on a bad throw
7 3/17 Rice Yes No, would have scored anyway
8 3/17 Rice No No
9 3/24 UAB Yes No, would have scored anyway
10 3/24 UAB No No
11 3/25 UAB Yes No, would have scored anyway
12 3/27 McNeese Yes Maybe
13 3/27 McNeese Yes Yes, scored on a single
14 3/30 FIU No No
15 4/6 UTSA No No
16 4/8 UTSA Yes No, would have scored anyway

So 4 (maybe 5) of the 16 steals resulted in an extra run. That’s about 2% of Tech’s total runs this year. Unfortunately, all those extra runs came in games that Tech won handily (> 4 runs), but with the number of games that Tech has played that were decided by a run (7 so far), a Mallard steal may wind up being the difference between a win and a loss down this final stretch.

Conclusion

Mallard is a good base runner. Add that to his team leading Home Runs, Walks, and On Base Percentage, and you get a complete offensive player for Tech.

Also, even though none of Mallard’s extra runs came in close games, every run matters. Tech is trying build a resume to convince the committee to invite them to the NCAA Regionals if things go south in Biloxi. And while run differential is not as high on the committee’s list as things like strength of schedule, Tech can use all the help they can get.

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