I remember, early in the draft season of 2019, listening to a fantasy baseball podcast where they were talking about unique league formats. One of the leagues that came up was the Vampire League, where 11 teams play fantasy baseball normally, but there was one vampire team that didn’t get to draft a team, and had to start with the waiver wire scraps. Every week they win a matchup, they get to steal a player from the opposing team. I thought that sounded cool, but realized that for 90% of the league, every week is just a regular fantasy baseball week. That didn’t sound fun to me, why should only one team get all the fun? Why not get every team involved?
That’s what led to the creation of Grand Theft Baseball. Every week the stakes are high. If you lose, you lose a player to your opponent, but if you win, you get to steal one for your own team. It’s the ultimate challenge bet, and it happens every week for every team. Last year, we had a fantastic inaugural season, and it led to us having three leagues this year as everyone wanted in on the action. Let’s see how things turned out this season amid all the Grand Thievery.
Breaking Down the Grand Thefts
The first thing I did when grabbing this theft chart was to compare it to last year’s, and the first thing that jumped out to me was how similar some of these sections were. Outfielders last year were stolen 23% of the time, compared to 22% this year, and starting pitchers were at 41% last year, just a bit above 37% this year. But the one position that changed the most was relief pitching, as 16% of all thefts last year were relief pitchers of some sort. As we are starting to realize more and more each year, having a closer just isn’t as valuable as it used to be. That was especially true in a year like this, when teams were turning to more pitchers than ever before to record a save. 50 pitchers recorded at least three saves this year, compared to 73 last year, in just 37% of the season. It will be interesting to see if this pattern continues and if relief pitchers continue to lose perceived value year over year. I’m not at all surprised about the lack of catcher or DH steals though, we saw a similar breakdown last year. This year, it was Salvador Pérez and Austin Nola who were taken, while last year it was Gary Sánchez who found himself being stolen.
GTB Award No. 1: Most Stolen
There’s weirdly a lot that goes into being on this list. You have to be good enough to be a desirable theft at multiple points in the season, but not good enough to be protected by the team that currently has you. You need to be getting better as the season goes on, so that more teams are still interested in you as the protection lists dwindle down and better players become available. Of course, you need to play a position of value, because even if you meet the first two criteria, catchers aren’t being stolen multiple times. So with this in mind, it should come as no surprise that our most stolen player this year was Dinelson Lamet. Lamet was stolen four times, accounting for 3% of our total steals on the year. He also had the widest range between any two thefts. Whereas guys like Eloy Jiménez were stolen in back-to-back weeks, Lamet was relevant early on, being stolen in Week One, and was still valuable late, being stolen in Week Seven, even when protection lists were down to zero players. So congratulations to Dinelson Lamet, who was good enough that people wanted him, but not good enough for anyone to want to keep him.
GTB Award No. 2: Most Valuable Theft
We had some pretty fantastic nominees for this award last year. Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger were both stolen in July, proving to be incredibly valuable pitchers down the stretch. Eugenio Suárez was stolen right before he went nuclear and hit nothing but home run after home run, but the winner was Ketel Marte, who was stolen in April, before he really started to break out. I don’t think we had any thefts quite as incredible this year (hard for it to feel like it had a big impact when the season was as short as it was), but there were still some good contenders. Let’s see who the nominees were for most valuable thefts.
Luke Voit, stolen on August 23rd: 12 home runs, 25 runs scored, 32 RBI, .259/.311/.547 slash-line
Corey Seager, stolen on August 9th: 12 home runs, 28 runs scored, 34 RBI, .296/.348/.580 slash-line
Dinelson Lamet, stolen on August 2nd: 59 IP, two wins, 78 strikeouts, 2.14 ERA, 0.76 WHIP
This is a tough decision, as there are arguments to be made for all three players here. Lamet has probably the most eye-popping numbers, as his strikeout totals and ratios are insane, but only two wins make him just a three-category player. The same can be said for Voit, who showcased incredible power and run production, but just a .259 batting average is a bit of a bummer there. Seager has the most well-rounded numbers, but none of his numbers pop considering he had two more weeks than Voit to put up essentially the same run production. I had too tough of a time making a decision, so I turned to our PL+ community on our Discord to vote. And by the skin of his teeth (literally a one-vote difference between the winner and second place), Corey Seager won our Most Valuable Theft award over Dinelson Lamet! Congrats to Seager, and also to writer Alex Drennan for having the foresight to steal him after Week 2!
Our Kings of Thieves
After seeing how insane Grand Theft Baseball was last year, we had an incredible turn-out this year and what was one league last year turned into three this year! We had two categories leagues and one points league, and I just have to say how incredibly grateful I am of our community for taking to this concept. It was a real blast, and there’s nothing better than getting to steal a great player from your opponent when you beat them. I highly recommend this format for anyone looking to spice up their fantasy life, as it adds a level of intensity you can’t really find anywhere else.
With that said, congratulations to our winners! Our categories leagues were won by graphic designer James Peterson and writer Donny Moskovits, and our points league was won by writer Darrin Ambrose. All three were brand new to the format, so kudos to them for picking it up quickly and showing everyone how it’s done!
Thank you to all 34 of you who played in Grand Theft Baseball this year, and thanks to everyone for reading along all year. If you want to be a part of this league next year, be sure to look out for my announcements come February 2021. Looking forward to next season’s thievery!
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@FreshMeatComm on Twitter)