No, I’m not talking about what Will was thinking after he realized why Carlton was dancing so fast.
During the offseason, the Twins told us fans that Ron Gardenhire was disappointed with the lack of speed on the 2010 roster, and that he wanted to be able to do more hit-and-runs and stolen base attempts this year. This led to jettisoning J.J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson (though they left for other varying reasons as well) in favor of Alexi Casilla and Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka.
Well, from an offensive and defensive standpoint, it’s been pretty clear that these moves haven’t panned out. Nishioka didn’t do very much in his 6 games before Nick Swisher broke his leg, and Casilla… well, we know what he’s doing (or rather, not doing) this year. Meanwhile, Hardy is on the disabled list himself, and Hudson is surprisingly stealing bases at an unprecedented rate this year. He’s already matched his career high in SB with 10, and will likely pass his career high in stolen base attempts later this season, provided he also comes off the 15-day disabled list first.
Getting back on track, the Twins were looking to become a faster team this year, but that hasn’t been the case. Maybe I had higher expectations than the team, but I guess I was imagining a team that would go crazy with the stolen bases and advancing an extra base this year. Instead, we’ve witnessed a squad that currently ranks 28th in attempted steals and 25th in successful stolen bases. The team’s 11 stolen bases is just one more than the aforementioned Orlando Hudson has this season.
Finding the core of this problem isn’t difficult. As the offense has sputtered with ranking last in runs scored and OBP, there just haven’t been many opportunities to steal in the first place. Also, by being behind in games most of the time, it would be unwise to risk giving away outs just to advance a single base.
As for baserunning in general, this is where the Twins have been doing okay, at least overall. According to the statistic Equivalent Base Running Runs (EqBRR), the Twins are right around the middle of the pack with gaining 1.5 runs from base running so far this year. This may not seem like much, but we should realize that this number is in comparison to the number of runs we would expect from a team with average base running.
However, this number is driven up by their successes in advancing on grounders (4.64 EqGAR, 2nd in MLB) while being roughly average on stolen bases (0.29 EqSBR, 12th in MLB). But most telling is that they have been poor on advancing on air outs and hits. Their -0.93 EqAAR and -2.13 EqHAR both rank last in the league, and that’s not good. Part of the blame can go to the actual speed on the roster; after Span and Casilla, I don’t think we’d call any of the regulars “speedsters.”
But it can also go to just being smart on the basepaths. After all, the Twins did just have two runners picked off by John Danks in the final game of this past White Sox series. Runners have been failing to score from second base on singles to the outfield. Having the speed of Carlos Gomez will help, but you’d also need the brain of Albert Pujols to fully take advantage of it.
Going forward, I think the return of Tsuyoshi Nishioka will help a bit. However, while the team promoted adding speed to the roster, I’m still doubtful that we’ll see an increase in stolen bases, even once the offense picks up. Alexi Casilla is playing himself out of the lineup (and would have “succeeded” if the Twins had more viable options than him), and that would leave Span and Nishioka as the primary stolen base threats. As for running the bases… well, I’d have to think that it may be a crapshoot on whether that improves or not.
For a team that has been known for “doing the little things” over the past decade, chalk up another example for how they’ve been failing to live up to that praise.