I recently had the unfortunate experience of watching a Mets game with a Yankee fan friend. So the announcers are talking about Beltran's baserunning prowess, citing his incredible success rates and my friend says that's "because he only runs in easy situations when he knows he'll make it" and because he "pads his stats in blowouts". Now I've heard this blasphemous myth before and inspired by an interesting post about Ichiro and baserunning, I decided to look more into when the Mets top base thieves, Beltran and Jose, run in terms of situational pressure (or leverage).
Baseball-Reference.com provides some handy leverage splits, with each player's numbers getting separated into High Leverage (1.5+ LI), Medium Leverage (0.7-1.5 LI), and Low Leverage (below 0.7 LI) situations. We'll start with Jose compared with the NL average:
And here are a few of the league's other top base stealers compared with Beltran:
Graphically (click to enlarge):
So much for Beltran only running when it doesn't count. That myth about padding his stats is just that, a myth (probably created by jealous Yankee fans). Beltran not only runs more than most in high pressure situations, he is successful more than most as well.
Jose is much more in line with the average base thief. He actually runs a bit less in tight situations but a bit more in medium leverage spots. Hes definitely not padding stats with that 17% low leverage rate. His success rates are in line, if not a little lower, than top base stealers also. However, Jose is a bit of a special case because of the sheer # of steals and especially because nobody's base-stealing rep. precedes him more than Jose. If throws over to first were actually measured I'm pretty confident that Jose would have twice as many as anyone in baseball, especially in those high leverage situations, explaining that lower percentage.
The underlying theme here, the one thing to take away from all this, Carlos Beltran is an incredible base stealer.