The new running game

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The Orioles stole five bases in the opening day game, most without a throw from Reese McGuire, the beleaguered catcher. To be sure, it's easier to run when one is leading, and the Red Sox trailed by multiple runs for most of the game, but five steals... damn. Most of the blame goes to the wildness of putative control pitchers, especially Ryan Brasier, but there's enough blame floating around for some of it to wash up on McGuire, who seemed to concede second base too readily.

The Red Sox stole nothing and ran station to station. They scored nine runs anyway, but given the personnel on the field, it's hard to imagine the Sox taking full advantage of the new bases and baserunning rules. Can the Sox compete in the new running game? Heal quickly, Adalberto.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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The Orioles stole five bases in the opening day game, most without a throw from Reese McGuire, the beleaguered catcher. To be sure, it's easier to run when one is leading, and the Red Sox trailed by multiple runs for most of the game, but five steals... damn. Most of the blame goes to the wildness of putative control pitchers, especially Ryan Brasier, but there's enough blame floating around for some of it to wash up on McGuire, who seemed to concede second base too readily.

The Red Sox stole nothing and ran station to station. They scored nine runs anyway, but given the personnel on the field, it's hard to imagine the Sox taking full advantage of the new bases and baserunning rules. Can the Sox compete in the new running game? Heal quickly, Adalberto.
I'm gonna defend McGuire here, as I don't think him throwing down would have made a difference on any of the steals. In one case, the runner took off while the pitcher (pretty sure it was Brasier) was still in the set position. All he had to do was step off and throw to second, but he went to the plate. A couple others occurred because the pitcher (Brasier again, maybe Ort also) was repeatedly taking the clock down to 1 second before delivering the pitch, making it obscenely easy for the runner to time his jump and give McGuire no chance at all. I'd go as far as to say all five stolen bases were entirely on the pitchers. They just weren't even trying to control the runners.
 

YTF

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I caught bits and pieces of the game on radio and Castig and Co. seemed to notice a pattern of runners using the new pitch clock to their advantage saying that they pretty much know when the pitcher has to make his pitch. I think he said that they were pretty much ready to go around the 5 second mark.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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The Red Sox pitchers certainly did not seem ready for or comfortable with the new rules; while the Orioles were aggressive from the get go. Frankly, until Story and Mondesi get healthy, I don’t think the Sox really have the personnel to take advantage of the new rules.
 

Benj4ever

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Martin looked comfortable yesterday, but Brazier and Ort were a joke. I can't wait to see their backsides!
 

Benj4ever

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I'm gonna defend McGuire here, as I don't think him throwing down would have made a difference on any of the steals. In one case, the runner took off while the pitcher (pretty sure it was Brasier) was still in the set position. All he had to do was step off and throw to second, but he went to the plate. A couple others occurred because the pitcher (Brasier again, maybe Ort also) was repeatedly taking the clock down to 1 second before delivering the pitch, making it obscenely easy for the runner to time his jump and give McGuire no chance at all. I'd go as far as to say all five stolen bases were entirely on the pitchers. They just weren't even trying to control the runners.
I agree 100%. I didn't even see Brasier or Ort look over to first base more than once or twice. It was pathetic!
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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If the trend holds- other teams basically running at will undefended and the Sox on offense are still playing station to station, it’s going to be a long shitty season. Cora and Bloom both will look like they fell behind and couldn’t adapt. Also…Did nobody scout the O’s?
 

Whoop-La White

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This is an effect I wouldn’t have thought about when the pitch clock was implemented until I saw it. Baserunners have always used a mental clock to time pitchers’ movements, and it’s always been up to the pitcher to change things up so as not to telegraph when the pitch is going to be thrown. But now the baserunners have an actual electronic device they can use as a reference. Brasier always goes home with 4 seconds left? Then that’s when I take off.

The Orioles had the 1-2 guys in the AL in steals last year (Mateo & Mullins) so it’s absolutely not surprising they’d look for a way to take advantage of this. I don’t think I dig the rule change about pickoff attempts, though. There’s practically no way left to defend if you can't nab the runner on the first try.
 

Green Monster

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....and of course there is the catcher on his knee thing that Varitek apparently loves. I can't see that helping to control the running game
 

CoffeeNerdness

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Where are the clocks at Fenway? If it's within the rules I'd make it so runners on 1B can't see the clock.
 

chawson

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If the trend holds- other teams basically running at will undefended and the Sox on offense are still playing station to station, it’s going to be a long shitty season. Cora and Bloom both will look like they fell behind and couldn’t adapt. Also…Did nobody scout the O’s?
Ehh, it’s one game — and a cold one at that. McGuire, Wong and Alfaro all have well above-average pop times and arm strength.

McGuire’s caught stealing marks were excellent last year, and he was +3 catcher runs above average in “baserunner kills and baserunner advances” per Bref, which is well above average. I continue to think it’s incredible that we got him for Diekman.

The O’s really do have some burners though. Mateo has the ninth-fastest sprint speed in the game last year, and Mullins can fly too.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Where are the clocks at Fenway? If it's within the rules I'd make it so runners on 1B can't see the clock.
It'd be a neat trick to find a place that the pitcher can see the clock but not the runner on 1B. Or the runner's teammates/coaches who could signal him or count out loud or something.

The solution to the problem isn't hiding the clock, it's having the pitchers vary their timing. Which isn't really different from the way it was before the pitch clock. When the pitcher is predictable, he's going to get stolen on.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Ehh, it’s one game — and a cold one at that. McGuire, Wong and Alfaro all have well above-average pop times and arm strength.

McGuire’s caught stealing marks were excellent last year, and he was +3 catcher runs above average in “baserunner kills and baserunner advances” per Bref, which is well above average. I continue to think it’s incredible that we got him for Diekman.

The O’s really do have some burners though. Mateo has the ninth-fastest sprint speed in the game last year, and Mullins can fly too.
sure. Absolutely just one game. As I said, “if the trend holds”…. It would be quite alarming. I’m sure that Cora and Bloom and probably Sale- pitching today- took notice.
 

Wallball Tingle

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The solution to the problem isn't hiding the clock, it's having the pitchers vary their timing. Which isn't really different from the way it was before the pitch clock. When the pitcher is predictable, he's going to get stolen on.
I agree with this, to the point where I'd say the batter's eyes should be up at say 11 seconds (instead of 8) on the clock to give the pitcher a slightly wider window to vary said timing.
 

absintheofmalaise

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Just going off of stats on OD for all teams, there were 23 steals and 2 caught stealing, so it looks like there are plenty of teams who need to do a better job of holding runners. I'm not saying this to cut the Sox any slack. The pitchers were terrible at holding runners, but the limit on throws to 1B is a game changer for runners and the defense and, like others said, they need to figure this out quickly with the pitchers varying their timing. They also need to figure out how to take advantage of this on offense as much as possible with the players who might actually have a chance to steal a base.
 

jon abbey

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Just going off of stats on OD for all teams, there were 23 steals and 2 caught stealing, so it looks like there are plenty of teams who need to do a better job of holding runners.
There are 30 teams and 5 of those 23 were BOS, so not sure that is the conclusion to draw here, just 18 SBs allowed for the other 29 teams.
 

absintheofmalaise

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There are 30 teams and 5 of those 23 were BOS, so not sure that is the conclusion to draw here, just 18 SBs allowed for the other 29 teams.
Very true, but I was more interested in the number of caught stealing. Obviously a minute sample size, but it will be interesting to track for all teams for the season.
 

IpswichSox

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Lou Merloni addressed this point on WEEI on Friday, and he put the blame squarely on the Red Sox' pitchers:
"It's a simple math problem. Catchers have pop times when they catch the ball and when the ball is delivered to second base. Reese McGuire is pretty good. Conner Wong is pretty good. They're in that 1.9 [seconds] range. Top 10, top 15 in the league. They're pretty good throwing the ball, catch and release. But it's a math problem. When your pitcher is a 1.5 [seconds] to the plate -- because he's not paying attention or he's got a huge leg kick -- and you're a 1.9, that's a 3.4 [seconds]. They're stealing that base all day, every day in the big leagues. Base runners know exactly what the pop time is of the catcher, and they know that if a pitcher is at a 1.4, 1.5, they can go all day, every day if they can get a jump. Pitchers [in Thursday's game] gave them absolutely no chance."
Connor Wong was No. 9 among all catchers last year with a 1.92 pop time to second base. Reese McGuire was No. 37 with a 1.97. Link. (There are some SSS that affect the rankings, but not the pop times.)

For context, JT Realmuto was ranked No. 1 last year with a 1.82 pop time in 44 throws to second base, one of the most throws to second base among catchers -- curious that so many runners would attempt to steal on Realmuto, who ranks No. 2 among all active catchers on caught stealing percentage. Link.
 
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Whoop-La White

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The new rule doesn't say anything about catchers throwing to first base behind the runner. That's not a disengagement as they now define it (at least how I read it). I wonder if we could see more of those in an effort to keep runners close.
 

Toe Nash

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5 more today. I expect other pitchers will do better, hopefully, and other teams are not as fast as the Orioles, but this is the kind of thing I would expect an advanced franchise with top coaches like the Sox purport to be to have foreseen.

I would imagine the slide step and pitchout are still legal and if you can go faster to the plate, you could use the timing of the pitch clock to your advantage if the runners are going on first movement. It would only take a couple CS to slow things down a bit for all but the best basestealers.
 

Spelunker

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This is an effect I wouldn’t have thought about when the pitch clock was implemented until I saw it. Baserunners have always used a mental clock to time pitchers’ movements, and it’s always been up to the pitcher to change things up so as not to telegraph when the pitch is going to be thrown. But now the baserunners have an actual electronic device they can use as a reference. Brasier always goes home with 4 seconds left? Then that’s when I take off.

The Orioles had the 1-2 guys in the AL in steals last year (Mateo & Mullins) so it’s absolutely not surprising they’d look for a way to take advantage of this. I don’t think I dig the rule change about pickoff attempts, though. There’s practically no way left to defend if you can't nab the runner on the first try.
Plus, the bases are larger, so runners need to go 3 inches fewer than last year. There will be a ton more steals this season, which will make for more exciting baseball. Steals are back!
 

CoffeeNerdness

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I will say that I enjoy the return of the running game to baseball, but if they've over-tuned the rules to the point that runners are going to be stealing without throws from the catcher that are remotely challenging then they've swung the pendulum way too far in the runner's favor. Steals are awesome because they're a dangerous play where the difference between success and failure is thinner than a lineup card, but they're far less interesting if the catcher has almost no chance.
 
I would think that if runners are timing the pitcher using the clock then they would be much more vulnerable to the pick off. Using the pitch clock to catch runners stealing in this way may take some work though. I'd have liked to see the Sox be more on top of this aspect of the game, although the steals of the last two games may be more of a sign of the Orioles ability rather than the Sox being flat footed. Few more series will give us better info.
 

Sad Sam Jones

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I never really understood people theorizing over the winter that Jarren Duran or Billy Hamilton type players could suddenly be valuable under the new rules. Stealing bases is now much easier, so why carry guys who do little to nothing else? The ones who are really going to benefit are multi-tool smart baserunners with a bit better than average speed. The top sprint speed guys aren't needed to have a running game, so they better bring something more to the table.
 

themactavish

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It seems to me that alert runners with any speed can embrace a great strategy. Draw a pickoff throw with a generous lead where you're leaning to get back to first, not stealing. Pitchers are apt to be really conservative with any second pickoff move, since you're then out of moves, unless you get the guy with the third move to avoid a balk. If you succeed in drawing two throws, you should be in a nice position to go, provided you have any speed.
 

Toe Nash

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I will say that I enjoy the return of the running game to baseball, but if they've over-tuned the rules to the point that runners are going to be stealing without throws from the catcher that are remotely challenging then they've swung the pendulum way too far in the runner's favor. Steals are awesome because they're a dangerous play where the difference between success and failure is thinner than a lineup card, but they're far less interesting if the catcher has almost no chance.
Small sample size in every way but I think if you remove the Orioles and Red Sox games it is not too different from last year.

So far: 49 SB, 7 CS in 70 games - .8 attempts per game, 87.5% success rate
Ignoring Red Sox / Orioles games: .676 attempts per game, 84.8% success rate
2022: 2,486 SB, 811 CS in 4860 games - .678 attempts per game, 75.4% success rate

Most pitchers are doing fine at controlling the run game; not catching as many basestealers as last year but the rate of attempts are similar which is half the battle. The Red Sox just suck at it so far (credit to Baltimore for taking advantage as well). Like any effects from the shift, you really wouldn't notice the changes if you weren't looking out for them and there wasn't the obvious change of not being able to throw pickoffs endlessly.

Edit: I think I am double-counting games here, got confused. But, the comparison to 2022 should be the same math.
 
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RS2004foreever

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Per Buster Olney, through the first days of the season (35 games in '23, 34 in '22). Up over 2X.
SB attempts 2022: 26
SB attempts 2023: 56
 

mauidano

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Bases are bigger, only one throw over, etc. I am surprised there is not a bigger gap over last year. It's crazy to see some of the highlights of guys just running at will. We are far removed from Maury Wills, Lou Brock and of course Rickey.

Let' see how the catchers adjust. There may be more throws down to first from the catcher or at least should be.
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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I bet the gap is going to widen. It’s possible that only a few teams were prepared to take advantage. The Orioles were ready from the first inning. Now everyone is on notice of something they maybe should have thought about before but didn’t. You can bet that every single team is now thinking hard about baserunning under the new rules.

Maybe defenses will adjust more quickly. But I bet by the end of April this will totally be a thing.
 

8slim

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I bet the gap is going to widen. It’s possible that only a few teams were prepared to take advantage. The Orioles were ready from the first inning. Now everyone is on notice of something they maybe should have thought about before but didn’t. You can bet that every single team is now thinking hard about baserunning under the new rules.

Maybe defenses will adjust more quickly. But I bet by the end of April this will totally be a thing.
I hope it does widen. I miss the days when stealing bases was an integral part of the game. It adds a lot of excitement.

That being said, the rules that advantage steals have been in place in the minors for a couple years. I don't recall people saying that got out of hand to the point of absurdity. I'm not expecting this to resemble a little league game.
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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One thing that is interesting is that teams are likely to be way more analytical about it now than they would have been a few years ago.

Let’s call WPA the added win percentage that a steal adds in any given circumstance. Let’s call WPS the win percentage subtracted for getting caught. And let’s call chance of success CS, so that chance of failure (CF) is simply 1.00 - CS.

The old school way to look at this would be that managers would be reluctant to try to run the game tying runner or would get irrationally focused on a small sample of results.

Now, I would think you have analytics people who would be fine with saying that if WPA x CS > WPS x CF you do it every single time. So that if there really is a significant change overnight in CS we are going to know about it fast. Guys are too smart. Obviously it depends on personnel, but whether or not it is a thing should be revealed very quickly and definitively.

(Not a math guy, so my formula may be dumb but hopefully the concept is close to what I am trying to say.)
 

pedro1999mvp

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I love the running game. I love that stolen bases are a part of the game again. But I feel like the Sox front office wasn't very proactive. I'm not saying we need to be a team with no power and a bunch of guys that can run, but having at least a couple of guys who move faster than a turtle would be nice. Tough to take advantage of the new rules when there isn't a single guy in the starting 9 who can run. Who even is our fastest guy/best stolen base threat? Is it Kike? Duvall?

Well, the actual answer, out of our starting 9 is that not a single one of them has ever had a double digit steal season. The career high for our starting 9 is Devers with 8 in a season (and Yoshida had 1 season of 8 in Japan). Don't get me wrong, this offense looks good so far, but it's a small sample size and the season is a long one. I think, long term, it would be nice to at least be semi-capable of taking advantage of these new rules, especially when the bats are in a slump, but instead this team might be one of the slowest ever assembled.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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I love the running game. I love that stolen bases are a part of the game again. But I feel like the Sox front office wasn't very proactive. I'm not saying we need to be a team with no power and a bunch of guys that can run, but having at least a couple of guys who move faster than a turtle would be nice. Tough to take advantage of the new rules when there isn't a single guy in the starting 9 who can run. Who even is our fastest guy/best stolen base threat? Is it Kike? Duvall?

Well, the actual answer, out of our starting 9 is that not a single one of them has ever had a double digit steal season. The career high for our starting 9 is Devers with 8 in a season (and Yoshida had 1 season of 8 in Japan). Don't get me wrong, this offense looks good so far, but it's a small sample size and the season is a long one. I think, long term, it would be nice to at least be semi-capable of taking advantage of these new rules, especially when the bats are in a slump, but instead this team might be one of the slowest ever assembled.
Lack of steals does not equate to lack of speed. In recent years, stolen bases have been a de-emphasized aspect of the game. Even guys who can run were discouraged from unnecessarily risking outs. So I wouldn't look at guys' career highs and declare them slow or not a threat to steal in this new environment.

Not to mention, there's plenty of speed on the IL and in AAA should the need really arise. I just don't see how any of those guys make the lineup better overall if they were inserted into it.
 

pedro1999mvp

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Lack of steals does not equate to lack of speed. In recent years, stolen bases have been a de-emphasized aspect of the game. Even guys who can run were discouraged from unnecessarily risking outs. So I wouldn't look at guys' career highs and declare them slow or not a threat to steal in this new environment.

Not to mention, there's plenty of speed on the IL and in AAA should the need really arise. I just don't see how any of those guys make the lineup better overall if they were inserted into it.
I was not ONLY using career high in steals. I actually started out using my own eyes. We are slow. Our team "speed" doesn't pass the eye test. So then I decided to look up stolen base numbers to justify it. And I know that stolen bases have been down for years. I fully understand that, but it's not like I was looking for a 20 or 30 steal season. I was looking to see if anyone had even broken double digits...not exactly a high standard.

I agree that we have some speed in AAA and on the IL. But will Duran get another chance? When will Rafaela be ready? Will Mondesi ever be healthy (I think the move to the 60 day was a bit surprising from fans who expected he could contribute by late April/early May)?
 

pedro1999mvp

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Oh, and I forgot to mention Hamilton at AAA. Is he even a major league talent? He's a borderline prospect. Maybe he will carve out a role. I hope he improves other aspects of his game and can help the big club. I'm always hoping for the best for the Sox, but there is a reason nobody with speed made the opening day roster. They aren't ready to be good major league players yet (or in Mondesi's case, not healthy yet).
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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I was not ONLY using career high in steals. I actually started out using my own eyes. We are slow. Our team "speed" doesn't pass the eye test. So then I decided to look up stolen base numbers to justify it. And I know that stolen bases have been down for years. I fully understand that, but it's not like I was looking for a 20 or 30 steal season. I was looking to see if anyone had even broken double digits...not exactly a high standard.

I agree that we have some speed in AAA and on the IL. But will Duran get another chance? When will Rafaela be ready? Will Mondesi ever be healthy (I think the move to the 60 day was a bit surprising from fans who expected he could contribute by late April/early May)?
How about sprint speed, as measured by Statcast? The following players on the current roster measured above league average (27.0 feet per second) last season: Connor Wong (28.8 feet/sec), Yu Chang (28.4 f/s), Raimel Tapia (28.2 f/s), Adam Duvall (27.9), Christian Arroyo (27.8 f/s), and Rob Refsnyder (27.1 f/s). Also rating above average but not currently on the 26-man roster: Jarren Duran (29.2 f/s), Trevor Story (28.5 f/s), Adalberto Mondesi (27.4 f/s). Falling just below average were Kike Hernandez (26.9 f/s) and Alex Verdugo (26.8 f/s).

It's not like they're a team of plodders. They can run.
 

Green Monster

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How about sprint speed, as measured by Statcast? The following players on the current roster measured above league average (27.0 feet per second) last season: Connor Wong (28.8 feet/sec), Yu Chang (28.4 f/s), Raimel Tapia (28.2 f/s), Adam Duvall (27.9), Christian Arroyo (27.8 f/s), and Rob Refsnyder (27.1 f/s). Also rating above average but not currently on the 26-man roster: Jarren Duran (29.2 f/s), Trevor Story (28.5 f/s), Adalberto Mondesi (27.4 f/s). Falling just below average were Kike Hernandez (26.9 f/s) and Alex Verdugo (26.8 f/s).

It's not like they're a team of plodders. They can run.
Am I reading that correctly, that the back-up catcher is the fastest guy on the current 26 man roster?
 

JM3

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There may not be a lot of speed on the Opening Day roster, but Adalberto Mondesi has a 43-steal season, plus they have Duran and Hamilton a phone call away at Worcester. It’s not like they don’t have weapons.
Story is also a pretty good base stealer - career high 27 in 2018. Had his lowest season since then last year, but was 13 for 13.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Am I reading that correctly, that the back-up catcher is the fastest guy on the current 26 man roster?
As measured by average sprint speed last season, yes. In fact, by that measure, he was at the fastest catcher in baseball last season. Just ahead of J.T. Realmuto who stole 21 bases (if that adds any context).
 

Green Monster

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As measured by average sprint speed last season, yes. In fact, by that measure, he was at the fastest catcher in baseball last season. Just ahead of J.T. Realmuto who stole 21 bases (if that adds any context).
I had no idea he was that fast......good to know
 

BravesField

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Unless my math is wrong, in 6 games opponents are 14 for 14 in SB against McGwire. Zip for Wong.

Sox are 2 for 2.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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There aren’t really any base stealers on the current roster, besides Tapia. Arroyo, Verdugo, Kike all have average or better speed but have never shown any inclination to run. Maybe things change when Mondesi / Story return but I don’t see this roster running much.
 

nvalvo

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Wong is super athletic. He played 95 games at C in college, but also 65 at SS and, 27 in RF and 10 in CF, and a handful at the other infield positions. It seems like the University of Houston put him at C because he had a good throwing arm, not because he couldn't run at all.
 

Whoop-La White

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What is the story behind all of these catcher's interference plays lately? I think there have been five or six instances between the Sox and their opponents over the last week. That's more than I think I've seen in the ten years previous. Part of me is wondering if the more aggressive running game means catchers are trying to "cheat" closer, but that means risking losing a finger on a swing, which nobody wants. I just can't tell if it's coincidence or if there's some other reason it's more prevalent this year.