With so many quality ball clubs in Major League baseball, the margin of error for a team is razor thin. Make a great play or shift into the proper position and you can steal a couple of extra runs and a couple of extra ballgames. Lose your focus for even just one second, and the game can treat you harshly, rewarding you with bitter losses that can come back to bite you in the ass by the end of the season. The Dodgers have suffered two of the such losses in consecutive days at the hands of the San Diego Padres, and because of a few mental lapses, LA now trails the Giants by a game and a half. Let’s break down the mistakes the Dodgers made, and take a look at how San Diego was literally able to steal a pair of wins.
Base runners are always taught, on every level from Little League to the Majors, to take the extra base whenever the opportunity presents itself. An intelligent base runner can increase his team’s chances in scoring with smart base running, and in some cases an intelligent ballplayer can steal a run for his team. There has been plenty of good base running over the past week, and I want to take a look at a few examples.
Andrew McCutchen is a 5-tool outfielder, with speed to burn. The Pirate centerfielder has been a solid base runner throughout his career, stealing 20+ bases 3 times with a career high of 33. In a game on 5/9/2011 against the Houston Astros, McCutchen put his blazing speed to good use, taking an important run from the Nationals in one of the most difficult ways possible.
With two outs in the 3rd inning and 2 runs already in for the Pirates, McCutchen was standing on 2nd base with 2 outs. Pedro Alvarez was at 1st with Casey McGehee at the plate facing Ross Detwiler. McGehee hit a weak groundball into the hole on the left side of the infield and the runners were moving with the pitch. Because he was going with the pitch, McCutchen was easily able to cruise into 3rd, where he noticed something interesting.
As you can see in the clip, shortstop Ian Desmond, does not look McCutchen’s way, allowing him to take off for the plate. By the time Desmond realizes what’s going on, he double clutches the ball, runs in a few steps, and throws home late. Pirates 3- Nationals 0. McCutchen also went 4-4 with a homer and 2 RBI in the game, but it was his speed and instinct on this play that most impressed me.
Since making his Major League 2 weeks ago, Bryce Harper has used his base running to make an impact and affect the game. Harper has already proven the National’s decision to move him to the outfield was an intelligent one, because of his great speed and base running prowess. He has shown a hunger to take the extra base any time an opportunity presents itself. Against the Phillies on Sunday Night Baseball this past weekend, Harper was really able to show what he can do.
In the bottom of the 1st Bryce Harper was hit in the back with a pitch from Cole Hamels. He was able to go to 3rd on a single by Jason Werth, and that’s where Harper made his move, stealing home in his first Sunday Night Baseball appearance.
Harper never hesitates, taking advantage of the fact that Hamels is a lefty and is paying very little attention to the 19-year-old, to steal home. He uses his great speed and probably would have been save even if the throw had been on target, rather than thrown high. This is great base running and isn’t the only time Harper showed off his wheels in the game.
In the 8th inning Harper came up to the plate with his team trailing 3-1 and Hamels still on the mound. Harper was able to fight off an inside pitch and bloop it just past the shortstop for a hit. Instead of watching the ball, Harper hustled down the line, thinking that Pierre may slow down in fielding the ball.
As you can see in the clip, Pierre slows down to stop the baseball, and Harper takes full advantage. His team was unable to bring him in from 2nd, but this kind of instinctive base running is difficult to teach, and Harper has the speed to make it work.
The Blue Jays shortstop had quite the game in Minnesota last night, going 4-4, scoring 2 runs. He did a great job at the plate, rapping out singles, and once he got on base, Escobar became a menace. Two of the first three runs in the game were created by his base running, and the Blue Jay was particularly instinctive scoring the game’s 3rd run.
In this clip you can see Escobar immediately begin rounding 3rd in anticipation of scoring once he realized that 3rd baseman Trevor Plouffe was going to throw the ball to 2nd. He hustles home as fast as he can, and is able to give the Blue Jays an early 3 run cushion. Escobar does not hesitate and believes that he can score the entire time. This is really great base running and should be applauded.
This kind of base running is contagious on a ball club and can lead to extra runs throughout the season. These types of plays have the ability to turn games, provide insurance runs, and can lead to big innings. With so many competitive ball clubs this season, every base and every run could be the difference between playing in October or watching.