Sox have edge on basepaths in ALCS

Sox have edge on basepaths in ALCS
October 11, 2013, 8:45 pm
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BOSTON – It’s no secret the Red Sox and Tigers have two of the most potent lineups in baseball. Between them, they were either first or second in the American League in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs scored, hits, total bases, and intentional walks.
 
One aspect where their offensive profiles diverge, though, is on the bases. The Red Sox finished the season with 123 stolen bases, behind only Kansas City, with 153, and Texas, with 149, in the AL. The Tigers, meanwhile, finished last in the league, with 35. The Red Sox were caught stealing just 19 times, for an 87 percent success – both marks were best in the majors. The Tigers were caught 20 times for a success rate of just 64 percent, better than only Minnesota and Arizona in the majors.
 
The Sox are also the postseason leaders with six steals. When Daniel Nava was caught stealing in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Rays that snapped a streak of 45 consecutive successful stolen bases by Sox runners going back to Aug. 9.
 
“I don't know that our hitters are going to each at‑bat wanting to take pitches to give the guy a chance to steal a base,” said manager John Farrell. “We have hitters that have a long track record of working deep counts and grinding out at‑bats.  That will be a key for us this series as it has been all year.

“The one thing that stands out with the base stealing and the overall tone of the base running, is to try to put as much pressure on the opposition as we can.  And that means running smart.  And not just giving outs away.”
 
The Sox had three players with double-digit steals this season, in Jacoby Ellsbury, who led the majors with 52, Shane Victorino with 21 and Dustin Pedroia with 17. Ellsbury is also the postseason leader with four steals. No other player has more than one.
 
“It’s another dimension,” Ellsbury said. “If you’re not hitting the long ball, [which is] not going to happen every night, so it’s just another way of putting pressure on the defense, another way of making something happen when you maybe don’t have the momentum as you’d like. And from a defensive side, teams that can run, teams that put pressure on the defense, it’s tough to defend against. So that’s something that we take pride in, playing an aggressive style but at the same time being smart about it.”
 
The Tigers will have to be just as smart defending against it.
 
“Well, if you looked at our last couple of series with Kansas City, who is a real running team, you'll find we did a good job of that," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland.  "We picked them off about three times.  I don't know that we'll be able to get Ellsbury.

“That's kind of a Catch‑22.  I think you actually have to ‑‑ you can't get consumed by that as a pitcher, because then you make too many mistakes with the hitter.

“We'll have a plan.  We'll try to watch it close.  We'll try to contain them.  It's not going to be a perfect deal.  But you know, I don't know how much that will be a factor.  I know they push a little bit more than the Oakland club, to be honest with you.  It's a great point, just an extra thing you have to be aware of.  We'll be prepared for that.”
 
That responsibility will fall to catcher Alex Avila.
 
“What every other team would try to do,” he said. “Pitchers varying their times, varying their looks, being able to disrupt the rhythm of the runner, which in turn gives me a better shot, and just being flawless in that exchange from once the ball leaves his hands and my glove of making an accurate throw. A lot of times you can do a very good job of that and the guy can still steal a base. Sometimes you get an out but you just got to make sure you vary your times and different looks like that to give myself the best chance.”
 
Avila threw out 15 of 88 would-be base stealers in the regular season, a 17 percent rate. He has allowed one stolen base in the only attempt this postseason.
 
“It’ll disrupt us if obviously we make mistakes,” he said. “The thing is if we’re able to execute, [Ellsbury] may steal a bag, something might come of it, sometimes nothing comes of it. It’s just the way baseball is. But they have some smart base stealers, and just do the best job you can to try to contain them. If they end up getting a run out of it, so be it. If not, then it’s good for us.”