“He stole my marble rye!”

Any excuse to quote Seinfeld and I’ll take it. I’ll admit, this one is a bit of a stretch, though.

My train of thought: researching baserunning stats, stolen bases were one area I looked at, made me think of stealing, made me picture that little old lady standing on the New York sidewalk as Jerry ran off with her rye.

Works for me.

But I digress…

I wrote a little bit on this topic last week in an item on Indians.com, but wanted to look a bit further into it for a post on here.

Note from the author: As this season wears on, you’ll probably find me using this space more for analysis every so often rather than daily blog posts. You can follow me on Twitter and read Indians.com for the daily stuff.

Here is a link to the item in question: CLICK HERE.

For those who’d rather stay here and not read the other story, in short, the Indians are being more aggressive on the basepaths this season. This does not mean they are stealing more bases. Rather, the Tribe is taking extra bases at a pretty good clip and that’s played a role in the team’s overall run-scoring ability.

The photo in the post is of my scorebook. That double includes two dots (RBIs). Two batters earlier, there’s a walk and that runner scored from first base on the double (that’s what those two little arcs over second and third base mean). This is an example of the type of aggressiveness Indians manager Manny Acta has emphasized since taking over.

Plenty of people think stolen bases and baserunning aggressiveness go hand and hand.

Not Acta.

“Stolen bases don’t guarantee that you win ballgames,” Acta said. “You can look at every year. The team who leads the league in stolen bases isn’t guaranteed to go to the playoffs or to win.”

Acta does, however, want his basestealer to be successful at a specific rate.

“Over 70 percent,” Acta said. “If you’re not over 70 percent, you’re giving away too many outs and not too many teams have enough guys to do that. If you give me five Jose Reyes’, I’ll run you out of the league. The fact is there’s only one and he’s in New York. You have to have the right guys to do that kind of thing.

“History has shown that because you lead the league in stolen bases, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to go to the World Series and win. I appreciate more guys that take extra bases on a base hit.”

Got it.

Well, for what it’s worth, and it certainly seems to be worth something to Acta, the Indians have a stolen-base success rate of 72 percent, entering Tuesday. Cleveland had swiped 18 (league average is 24) and had been caught seven  times. Acta’s point is made: stolen bases are not top priority.

There is this, however. Baserunners have eventually gone on to score 33 percent of the time for the Indians this year. Only the Royals — at 35 percent — have a better rate of success with its runners among the Tribe’s American League counterparts. The Indians have also run into just 10 outs on the bases — two off the fewest in the league.

So the Indians are being aggressive, but they’re also being smart.

Said Acta: “We worked very hard in Spring Training on going first to third, taking extra bases, and basically telling these guys we have nothing to lose, but a lot to gain. The game has changed a lot. There’s a lot of people that you can challenge, and put pressure on the defense.

“So far, that’s been our motto, just, ‘Go three. Go three. Go three.’ And go from there. Put yourself in scoring position. Everybody here is buying into it.”

More numbers (all entering Tuesday) to back Acta up:

  • Indians have taken 36 bases on either fly balls, passed balls, wild pitches, balks or defensive indifference. The American League average is 31.
  • The Indians have an extra-base percentage of 43. That’s the fifth-best rate in the AL and the league average is 40 percent. What this means is the Tribe  runners have gone more than one base on a base hit or more than two on a double 43 percent of the time.
  • The Indians have gone from first to third or from first to home on a base hit 22 times this year. That is tied for the third-best mark in the AL and the league average is 17.
  • The Indians have scored from first base on a double 14 times this season. That mark is second in the AL and the league average is nine.
  • The Indians have scored from second base on a single on 28 different occasions. That is the best mark in the AL. The league average is 20.
  • Cleveland is averaging 5.00 runs per game, which is the third-best rate in the American League.

Another pearl from Acta: “You can always stop a guy from stealing a base by holding a ball long or calling a pitch out. You can’t stop a guy from going first to third unless you’re taking a chance by playing very shallow in right field and you have a name like Shin-Soo Choo.”

Speaking of which, why do runners keep testing Choo’s arm?

That’s a post for another day.

P.S. Thanks to baseball-reference.com for all the lovely numbers.

–JB

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