Tim Locastro Catches Tim Raines

In the sixth inning of Saturday night’s Diamondbacks-Reds game, Tim Locastro took off for second base. Acknowledging the blazing speed of the runner, Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart rushed to get into his throwing motion before even securing the baseball. Thus, Carson Fulmer’s pitch nicked off his glove and skipped to the Chase Field backstop. Locastro made it to second without a throw.

Not once in Locastro’s career has he been caught stealing, with Saturday’s stolen base representing his 28th consecutive successful attempt, a new major league record. It broke the mark set by Tim Raines, who went 27-for-27 to begin his career from 1979 to 1981 (stolen base attempts have been recorded since 1951). To mark the achievement, Locastro’s cleats were swiped (pun fully intended) by Cooperstown, where they will be displayed in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Locastro is something of a baseball enigma, one popularized by baseball YouTuber Foolish Baseball, whose video “Why Tim Locastro Should Be Your Favorite Weird Player” now has 1.1 million views. Locastro is elite — boasting a 99th percentile ability in two very niche skills: running fast and getting hit by pitches. This allows him to frequently get on base even despite a subpar 6.6% career walk rate, and immediately wreck complete havoc on the basepaths.

Sprint Speed Leaders
Rank Player Sprint Speed
1 Tim Locastro 30.9
2 Byron Buxton 30.7
3 Roman Quinn 30.4
4 Trea Turner 30.3
5 Adam Engel 30.3
6 Anthony Alford 30.3
7 John Andreoli 30.3
8 Magneuris Sierra 30.1
9 Isaac Galloway 30.1
10 Jorge Mateo 30.1
Min. 10 opportunities, 2015-21

What’s fascinating about Locastro isn’t just that he’s a speed demon, it’s that no catcher has yet to catch him when he goes. Speed certainly plays a role in stolen base success rate, but it is far from the only factor here, as all of the fastest players in baseball have been caught stealing at least a handful of times during their careers. Additionally, because players can quite literally choose when to go, they self select for a higher stolen base rate. Thus, it makes sense that sprint speed alone correlates somewhat poorly (r-squared of 0.11) with stolen base success:

Albert Pujols, the slowest player in the Statcast era, has been successful in 84% of his stolen base attempts since 2015, though it is worth noting that he hasn’t tried to steal since 2019, when his sprint speed was a smidge faster, at 22.5 feet per second. (This is compared to the 22.0 ft/sec sprint speed he posted in 2020.) Like Locastro, Pujols’ most recent stolen base came without a throw:

So, as Pujols demonstrates, stealing bases (relatively) efficiently can be done even without blazing speed. As baseball has continued to play the percentages, this makes sense, since run expectancy matrices tell us that base runners need to steal successfully roughly 75% of the time to “break even.” Even still, however, it’s a whole different feat to steal as often as Locastro does and never get caught. Of the 530 non-pitchers to appear in at least 100 games since 2017, Locastro ranks in the 94th percentile in stolen base attempts per game. Yes, Locastro steals pretty regularly (which makes sense, considering his raw speed), and yet he still has never been caught.

Which still leaves us with the overarching question: How exactly does Locastro do it?

First, just once — in his first career stolen base attempt, no less — has Locastro stolen third base. Stealing second is significantly easier than stealing third, so if your goal is to never be caught, then avoiding the temptation of third base makes sense. In 2019, the average catcher pop time to second base was 2.01 seconds. To third base, it was 1.61 seconds. With his speed, Locastro certainly could steal third, and could likely do so more-than-efficiently, but it is interesting that he’s only tried it once (and it also interesting that it was in his first career attempt).

Here’s how Locastro compares to other fast players in third base stolen base attempts:

Stolen Base Attempts by Base, Sprint Speed Leaders
Name Sprint Speed Career 2B SBA Career 3B SBA Total SBA
Tim Locastro 30.9 27 1 28
Byron Buxton 30.7 71 1 72
Roman Quinn 30.4 33 8 41
Trea Turner 30.3 170 34 204
Adam Engel 30.3 37 3 40
Magneuris Sierra 30.1 18 2 20
Billy Hamilton 30.0 378 86 464
Delino DeShields 30.1 111 29 140
Garrett Hampson 30.0 28 4 32
Terrance Gore 30.0 37 11 48
Min. 20 career stolen base attempts

As you can see, Locastro isn’t the only speedster on the bases who has avoided trying to steal third. Buxton, too, has only attempted third once in his career, which could raise questions about the strategy behind stolen bases. For one, how much of it is organizational? Though some stolen base leaders always have the green light, coaches will often give runners signs, which theoretically would be at more optimal times to run. Especially in recent years, could the Twins have told Buxton to not try for third, especially given all of the big boppers they’ve had in their lineup? It’s entirely possible.

But the broader point here is that most, though not all, of these fast runners do try for third somewhat frequently. Besides Locastro and Buxton, Engel is the only other player on the above list for which fewer than 10% of his career stolen base attempts are to third base.

Avoiding attempts at third base is not the only way in which Locastro proves that he knows when to go. I logged all 28 of his stolen base attempts, making note of which catcher was behind the dish for each. Then, I listed all of their average pop times based on data from Baseball Savant and Statcast. Because 2020 and 2021 pop times have yet to be published on the site, there are some gaps for catchers with recent debuts. For the more veteran catchers who tried to catch Locastro in 2020, I used their most recent, 2019 pop time in the last column:

Tim Locastro Stolen Bases
Stolen Base Date Base Stolen Catcher Avg Pop Time
1 9/30/17 3B Tony Wolters 1.56*
2 5/3/18 2B Jeff Mathis 2.07
3 9/4/18 2B Kevin Plawecki 2.07
4 9/9/18 2B Chris Iannetta 2.04
5 9/18/18 2B Chris Iannetta 2.04
6 4/18/19 2B Tyler Flowers 2.12
7 4/18/19 2B Tyler Flowers 2.12
8 5/27/19 2B Tony Wolters 1.96
9 5/31/19 2B Wilson Ramos 2.00
10 6/1/19 2B Wilson Ramos 2.00
11 6/24/19 2B Will Smith 1.99
12 6/26/19 2B Russell Martin 2.04
13 7/16/19 2B Tim Federowicz 2.03
14 7/18/19 2B Yasmani Grandal 2.07
15 8/9/19 2B Will Smith 1.99
16 8/12/19 2B Tony Wolters 1.96
17 8/25/19 2B Manny Piña 1.95
18 8/30/19 2B Russell Martin 2.04
19 9/6/19 2B Curt Casali 2.07
20 9/7/19 2B Curt Casali 2.07
21 9/13/19 2B Tucker Barnhart 2.01
22 9/25/19 2B Matt Wieters 2.02
23 8/19/20 2B Sean Murphy 1.98
24 9/8/20 2B Austin Barnes 2.09
25 9/8/20 2B Austin Barnes 2.09
26 9/23/20 2B Sam Huff
27 4/2/21 2B Luis Campusano
28 4/10/21 2B Tucker Barnhart 2.01
*Pop time to 3B

For the reasons listed above, this is an inexact science, but it is still interesting to analyze which types of catchers Locastro runs on. Excluding Locastro’s one attempt at third, when he runs, the average pop time of the catcher behind the plate has been 2.03 seconds. If all of these catchers were combined into one giant “anti-Locastro catcher,” their average 2.03 second base pop time would’ve ranked 50th out of the 78 catchers with at least five throws down to second in 2019. Locastro is lightning fast and picks below-average catchers to run on, a good recipe for success. To further this point, in 17 of his 25 stolen base attempts to second (with data) — nearly 70% — Locastro has run on a catcher with a pop time at or above 2.01 seconds, the major league average.

Because I did this by hand, I don’t know exactly how this compares to other thieves. Even still, it definitely provides a helpful glimpse into the world of Tim Locastro on the basepaths. Because he is so fast, rarely attempts to steal third, and tends to run on catchers with below-average pop times, we can gather a simplistic, yet fundamental understanding in how he has been able to start his career 28-for-28. So move over Tim Raines, there’s a new speedster in town. Tim Locastro, one of our favorite weird baseball players, has etched his name in the record books with an elite combination of speed and efficiency.

Devan Fink is a Contributor at FanGraphs. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.

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1 year ago

He has definitely been fun to watch on the basepaths. He got two infield singles to shortstop on Saturday night, and he had a walk-off win in the final game of 2019 on the same kind of hit.

The D-backs have had a couple of blazing fast guys since I started going to games like Tony Campana, but they never got on base like Locastro has been able to. His knack for getting hit by pitch is amazing.