Speed, small ball making Sox more diversified

Speed, small ball making Sox more diversified
September 19, 2013, 11:00 am
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Usually, when a team leads all of baseball in runs scored -- as the Red Sox do -- the offense is predicated on lots of extra-base hits.
      
And, to be sure, the Red Sox lead Major League Baseball in that department, too.
      
But this season, and particularly lately, the Red Sox are showing some other weapons. The team has stolen 119 bases, just seven steals shy of the franchise record set in 2009.
      
What's more, they've been remarkably efficient in their attempts. The Sox have been successful 86.2 percent of the time, which, if it continued, would be the best success rate in the American League in almost a hundred years.
      
Even catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, hardly thought of as fleet afoot, has three stolen bases this month, including Sunday night's daring steal of home.
      
That's not to suggest that the Red Sox are trying to become the 1959 "Go-Go" White Sox, or an American League version of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1980s.
      
But the mere threat of a stolen base makes the Sox a more difficult opponent in the post-season. In essence, to put in investment terms, the Sox are in the process of diversifying their portfolio.
      
"We value advancing 90 feet, however that is," said John Farrell. "If there are teams that are more proficient at shutting us down (in the running game), that's probably negated somewhat. But if it's a way to put pressure on a guy on the mound and maybe create a little bit more of a distraction for him, we'll look to use that.
      
"I can't tell you what benefits it's going to give us, but if (our speed and base-stealing capability) is a threat, that's another thing to contend with."
      
Presuming Jacoby Ellsbury returns for the playoffs and assumes his regular spot at the top of the Red Sox batting order, the Red Sox will begin the post-season with three base-stealing threats in the top third of the order: Ellsbury (52-for-56 in stolen base attempts); Shane Victorino (21-for-24) and Dustin Pedroia (17-for-22).
      
That speed could be even more valuable in October, when games are, by definition, closer and every run becomes more important.
      
"I think the ability to attack a certain situation," said Farrell, "as it presents...that's our goal in spring training, to give us some options to go to when that's called for."
      
And speed isn't the only aspect of the the Sox showing some diversification. The team, while ranked near the bottom in sacrifice attempts, has bunted more this month, again in anticipation of the post-season.
      
"We've shown we can sacrifice bunt," said Farrell, "and we can hit-and run. All those things are important, to not be static or one-dimensional, where a team can come in and think, 'Hey, stop this (one aspect) and you stop them.' We want the ability to adjust."
      
The Sox know they're being scouted closely by potential post-season opponents, all of whom are looking for tendencies and patterns. Showing some diversification in September could confuse some teams, but Farrell insisted that's not the primary motivation.
      
"I think as the year goes on," he said, "you gather greater amounts of information (about your own personnel) and you find ways to use it inside of a game. That's where things have evolved of late. But our goal is to win (every) night and to have the ability to address certain things inside our
game, we'll take advantage of that.
      
"But to go into a game and say 'We're going to do this because (an opposing scout) is in the stands...' no."