For the past few years, Brett Gardner had been the only Yankees player in his prime who could swipe a base on a consistent basis. The Yankees were never considered a real “speed” team; instead they relied on power to score runs. With the signing of Jacoby Ellsbury, the Yankees now look like a team that could cause just as much damage on the basepaths as they do with the bat.
“Instead of playing a team that’s station to station, you’ve got five, six guys in the lineup who are threats to run at any time,” Gardner said to the Wall Street Journal. “It’s something I’ve never been a part of before. I’m really excited for it.”
Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are two of the top base stealers in the American League, but they aren’t the only ones that can steal a bag when needed. Carlos Beltran, Brian Roberts, Ichiro Suzuki, Alfonso Soriano, Derek Jeter and Kelly Johnson have all shown at some points in their careers that they can swipe at least 20 bags. The issue is, with the names I just listed, they’re all past their prime when it comes to stealing bases. However, first base coach Mick Kelleher believes the team has the potential to top of the American League in the stolen bases category.
“I believe, absolutely, they can take 15, 20 bases each with their smarts and their ability to get good jumps, with their knowledge of the pitchers in the league,” Kelleher said.
It’s not just speed that’s in the equation: it’s the percentage of how many times you steal a base successfully. Players who lose their speed may not steal as many bases, but they have a high percentage rate because they know when it’s the appropriate time to steal.
“If you’re stealing 80%, 85%, you’re not just doing it on speed. There’s a lot of fast guys out there who get thrown out a lot and steal 60%,” Roberts said.
“Even though your speed’s declining, your total numbers may not be as high, but your percentage will still be really high, because you know when you can do it and when you can’t, because you knew that even when you were fast. Or, fast-er.”
Jacoby Ellsbury stole his first base on Wednesday, and he knows the Yankees can now become a peskier ball club than they have in years past.
“If you know a team’s going to run, it puts pressure on the defense,” he said. “And you didn’t even do anything; it’s just what you’ve done in the past. When they know, hey, these guys are going to take every little advantage they can, it makes them rush a throw, cut the ball off quicker, and those result in bobbles, mistakes, and then you can take another base.”