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Front Page: Rocco Baldelli Wins Manager of the Year

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:12 AM
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli was named the 2019 American League Manager of the Year.He received 13 of 30 first-place votes, and 13 of 30...
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Front Page: A Three-Step Plan to Drastically Improve the...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:07 AM
In 2019 the Twins finished in the bottom third in Major League Baseball in errors, fielding percentage, DRS and UZR. Poor infield defense...
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Will There Be Another Great Knuckleball Pitcher in the MLB?

Other Baseball Today, 11:04 AM
Just a general question as we pass time in the offseason. I've always been a fan of the pitch, and in this day of high velocity, I would...
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Front Page: Quick Hitter: New Rules for 2020

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:58 AM
During the 2019 offseason MLB and the MLBPA agreed on various rule changes. Some of these rule changes went into effect in 2019, but ther...
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Danny Salazar for the Twins?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:04 AM
He could be another buy low candidate that could be 2020's version of the Martin Perez signing. Health has been an issue with him for the...
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Stealing Bases Isn’t Minnesota Nice – Will That Change?

The Minnesota Twins did plenty of things well in 2019, winning the AL Central and setting the all-time record for home runs, but one thing they didn’t do was steal many bases. With Byron Buxton hurt for much of the season and the ball flying out of the park like never before, the Twins were Minnesota Nice on the base paths, swiping a league-low 28 bags.
Image courtesy of David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
The Twins ran sparingly, and when they did try to take a base, they were incredibly inefficient. Minnesota baserunners attempted only 49 steals, but were caught 21 times, for a league-worst 57% success rate. Given their lack of success and propensity for hitting long-balls, it isn’t surprising that the Twins stayed put.

The Twins didn’t run much in 2018 either, taking just 47 bags, putting them in 27th place. They were more efficient (63%) but still not where you want to be (above 70%) and the team lead was shared by Eddie Rosario and Brian Dozier with just eight steals.

With the Twins running less than ever and smacking bombas like never before is there any reason to care about the stolen base in today’s game? And is there any chance that Minnesota will see an uptake in steals for 2020?

Starting with the first question, the stolen base does seem to be an area where teams can still grab an advantage in the modern game. While the Twins have been extremely inefficient stealing bases, baseball as a whole is more efficient than ever. In fact, 13 of the last 14 seasons rank as the most efficient since 1920. With more information available than ever before, it’s easier to target which combinations of pitchers and catchers are prime to steal on, greatly increasing the chances of success.

There is also a good chance that the juiced ball of 2019 will be less juicy in 2020. The ball was a big story in 2019 and it was widely speculated that the ball was altered for the postseason to lessen home runs. MLB is set to investigate the ball this offseason and it seems all but certain to be less home run friendly in 2020. With fewer balls leaving the park and increased base-stealing efficiency, the stolen base could play a bigger role going forward.

As far as the potential for Minnesota swiping more bags next year, there will be no bigger factor then the health of Byron Buxton. Buxton ranks third in the league with a sprint speed of 30.3 feet/second and his elite speed helps him to be an extremely efficient base stealer. For his career he has stolen 60 bases and been caught only eight times (88.24% success rate). Buxton stole a career-high 29 bags in 140 games in 2017 (he was only caught once!) and he should be encouraged to run with greater frequency.

After Buxton, things look quite a bit bleaker in the base-stealing department. Polanco is the next fastest runner with a 28.2 ft/sec sprint speed, but he is not a particularly adept base stealer. He stole just four bases in 2019, although he did have 13 steals back in 2017. Lamonte Wade Jr., Max Kepler, and Jake Cave all have above-average speed, but they combined for only one stolen base this year and Kepler was thrown out five times. Top-prospect Royce Lewis has elite speed, but he will likely spend most if not all of 2020 in the minor leagues.

Given that Minnesota will most likely run out pretty much the same set of position players in 2020, if they are going to steal more they will have to be smart about it. With the overall lack of flashy base runners, the Twins will have to pick their spots carefully if they hope to become more proficient on the base paths. A healthy Byron Buxton could go a long way towards making that happen.

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11 Comments

Yes to the steal.I loved Billy Martin's aggressiveness, I thought Whitey Herzog's Cardinals were great, and Rickey Henderson is a plus in any era.Why does a team give up on any of the skills?I know sabr-metrics cannot measure the quality of confusion and upset that speed has on the other team, but I have seen it and I want to see more. 

    • DocBauer, PDX Twin, Platoon and 2 others like this

I love stolen bases.I loved the Piranha's. However, the way the Bombas Squad hits, it is wiser to play base to base baseball.Earl Weaver did it and he didn't have the HR potential that the Twins do.Look how many runs we lost because of aggressive base running, then a HR was hit.It was frustrating and wonderful and frustrating again.

This team needs to run smart and trust their teammates to bring them home.:)

Can't steal more bases when your fastest player can never stay healthy and you don't have many other options on the roster that can steal a bag.

    • Danchat and Platoon like this
Photo
diehardtwinsfan
Nov 09 2019 02:01 PM

I think the beginning of the article stressing their inefficiency is also the answer as to why they don't do it. 

 

I do think they should run more.. The question though is who should be running. Buxton is a no brainer, but he's also spent a lot of time off the field. 

    • Doctor Wu likes this

To me, it is another weapon a championship team needs. The don't have to be league leaders, but they definitely should not be the worst in MLB! With the speed this team has, it is pathetic that they don't steal more bases, and steal them with a high percentage of attempts. Whatever needs to happen to develop the base stealing talent again, I am all for it. It isn't always the fastest player that steals the most bases. Counting on the big hit as the only option in playoff games leads to being swept. We all that story.

    • DocBauer likes this

The Twins don't have the personnel to do it, so to hand more outs to opposing teams by getting outs on the bases isn't going to help us score more runs.

 

Rosario's too slow, Kepler and Polanco have the speed but just aren't very good at it, Arraez & Adrianza have below average quickness for infielders... 

 

They could use a speedy 4th OF who could spell Buxton in CF and steal bases. With a 26 man roster next year, it'd be nice to have a pinch runner on the bench.

 

(Basically what I'm saying is if they want to steal more bases next year, they need to add players who can do that.)

    • SQUIRREL and Platoon like this

Stealing a base happens because you need something to happen and you have the right mix of batter and player on base. At best, a ruenr steals a base. At worst, the guy on base is a threat and disturbs the pitcher.

 

The Twins are fortunate to NOW have two guys potentially in the lineup who put the ball in play: Arraez and Astulido.

 

But I like it more if the guys on abse have the ability to take that extra base than put themselves in a situation for injury (or an out) with a steal.

 

And, yes...if the Twins do not hit home runs in 2020, then they have to do a better job of getting runners home when they have no or one out and guys in scoring position.

    • DocBauer and Doctor Wu like this

The Twins could be in a little trouble depending on which balls MLB decides to use in 2020. I love a team with speed.

You build your team a certain way based on what is available. The 2019 Twins were based on bombas and deservedly so. But baseball history has shown us multiple ways to build a club.

I have argued in other threads about how analytics are changing the game, but eventually others will catch on, so then you have to be progressive enough to find the next thing. At some point, speed and defense will return again. But why can't the Twins be at the forefront?

I will give Rocco a pass as a rookie manager with his Bomba squad. But as a smart and ex player turned manager,you have to realise what the SB can accomplish. There are enough good athletes at your disposal, beyond Buxton, that timing and technique could allow you to utilize another weapon. Maybe it requires a coaching change, I don't know. We don't have to be at the top of the list, but we sure shouldn't be at the bottom either.

I'm an "old school" fan of stolen bases, but I also realize how inefficient it can be if the team doesn't have the speed or talented base runners. Obviously Buxton is the go-to guy ifhe's healthy. But it's not only the Twins who are stealing less, or trying to steal less. It seems like the number of stolen bases is down throughout the sport in recent years.

It seems like the number of stolen bases is down throughout the sport in recent years.

FWIW, MLB average SB / CS per team:

1979: 115 / 61

1989: 120 / 55

1999: 114 / 51

2009: 99/38

2019: 76 / 28

 

You're not imagining it.


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