"Don't worry, Mad Dog. Only 17% of base stealers actually score."
Greg Maddux is famous for his inability to hold runners on base. It's about the only thing he hasn't done well in his career, and last year the problem extended through the entire Padres starting rotation. For instance, runners were 44 for 44 against 6'10" Chris Young.
It was a problem, and as the season wore on it became a huge topic for discussion in San Diego. They were stealing on Jake Peavy, and Maddux, and of course Young.
So one day Maddux told Young to forget about the runners, that it wasn't the big deal everybody else was making it out to be. He told Young, "Only 17 percent of runners who steal second go on to score."
Maddux made another point: If opposing players have a low batting average against a pitcher—as is the case with Young—then it makes sense to go after the hitter and not worry about the runners.
The next time Young was interviewed about all those stolen bases, he said, "It's like Greg says, only 17 percent of the runners who steal second go on to score."
This 17 percent solution became something of a mantra in the second half of the season for the Padres. Why? Because Maddux said so, that's why.
Nobody bothered to check the stats; they just repeated Maddux's assertions. When I was in San Diego last September, a savvy and wry reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune told me, "I've got a feeling Maddux just made up that 17 percent thing to take the heat off these guys. It gives them something to say, and everybody just nods because it's Maddux."
Then a guy in San Diego who writes a blog by the name of SDPads1 decided to check it out. He went through every 2007 boxscore and discovered that slightly more than 40 percent of the base-stealers eventually scored against the Padres.
He broke it down further and further—eliminating from the equation guys who would have scored anyway—eventually whittling the number down closer to Maddux's estimate. But the truth was, 17 percent wasn't exactly science.
There was no arguing about one point, though: It was classic Maddux.