Despite not playing in the most games in baseball, the New York Yankees currently lead the majors in stolen bases.
In 2015, the Yankees only swiped 63 bases (Gardner 20, Ellsbury 21) which ranked 25th in the all of baseball. As a team, the Bombers’ stolen base success rate was at 71.59%.
Maybe health had something to do with it, but regardless the Yankees attempted to steal only 88 bases which was the lowest in team history since 1955 when they attempted to steal only 80 bases.
This lack of speed turned the Yankees into an alarming one-dimensional team. Let’s face it, they depended on the long ball way too much.
They scored the second-most runs in all of baseball (764), but it was primarily based on the fact that they hit 212 home runs. Imagine what kind of team they would have been if they used their game-changing speed.
After a disappointing flat-line in production that inevitably led to the largest blown division lead in franchise history, it’s not surprising that New York has changed their philosophy.
Through the first 11 games of the young season, the Yankees sit atop the league in the stolen base category with 13 and only two teams surpass them in terms of stolen bases attempted.
They also rank third in baseball with an 86.67% stolen base rate and third in the AL with a .333 on-base percentage.
Now, it’s very early in the season. They aren’t going to break the record for most stolen bases in team history (at least I assume they won’t), but the added pressure placed on the opposition will incontestably lead to a surplus of offensive success.
“Basically, turn a single into a double, turn a double into a triple,” Ellsbury told Chad Jennings of LoHoud.com. “It’s how you win games, getting into scoring position and putting as much pressure on the defense as possible.”
The more bases you swipe, the more the defense feels stressed, pressured, and more prone to defensive blunders.
In Sunday’s victory over the Seattle Mariners, we got a front row view on how speed can change the complexity of a contest.
Following an Ellsbury single, he made a break for second base and was not only safe but Steve Clevenger’s throw made it’s way into center field.
Thanks to the error by Seattle’s catcher, Ellsbury effortlessly skipped on over to third with the red-hot Gardner at the dish.
Gardner then smacked a ground-rule double that granted Ellsbury the right to score. Does he score if it weren’t for the stolen base and errant throw? Nope.
What speed does for the New York Yankees is: adds to the already explosive offense.
The best part is, it’s not only New York’s 1-2 punch that is adding the pressure. Starlin Castro has a pair of stolen bases, Chase Headley has swiped three bases, and even 40-year old Alex Rodriguez got in on the action.
This younger and athletic team will continue to be intrusive on the basepaths in order to get into scoring position for those big bats in the middle of the lineup.
If manager Joe Girardi continues to green light his more than capable baserunners, the fallacy of average with runners in scoring position will no longer be a concern for the Yankees.
The more baserunners and stolen bases lead to more opportunities with RISP which inevitably creates long-term prosperity for the offense.
Toss in the dominant bullpen and raw power form the middle of the lineup and you got yourself the main components of a championship-caliber team.