The story in baseball right now is the new rules. Most of that story has revolved around the pitch clock shortening the game and the shift ban raising some BABIPs (shoutout to Jarred). But the trifecta of (a) the pitch clock, (b) limited opportunities for the pitcher to disengage the rubber, and (c) bigger bases has also opened the running game back up for the first time since the last time Mariners were in the playoffs. Oh, wait, I keep forgetting, since the time before the last time the Mariners were in the playoffs.
Take the Mariners, for example. Through their first ten games last year, Seattle had five steals in six attempts (Jarred 2 for 3, Julio 2 for 2, J.P. 1 for 1). Through the same number of games this year, they’re 11 for 13. For the folks who need remedial math, that’s more than double. But it’s not like the floodgates have opened, it puts them on pace for about 175 steals over the season. In my view, that’s perfect. It makes stealing a part of the game again without having the run game run amok.
But there is one steal I want to focus on because I don’t think it really had much to do with the new rule changes at all. This week’s Play of the Week goes to Ty France for emulating his namesake. Back in the winter of 1805, Napoleon’s France had defeated the Austrian army and seized Vienna. Not unlike Ty France’s double on April 3, this set France up in a great spot. But France was unsatisfied.
To get even more, France feigned weakness. Abandoning the Pratzen Heights just west of Austerlitz to make the French army seem in dire straits, Napoleon successfully drew an Allied attack. This let hime outflank the Austrian and Russian armies on both sides, causing the center to flee in chaos. The result was a decisive victory and a treaty that finally gave formal control of Italy and Bavaria to France.
Likewise, France feigned weakness for years. He was caught stealing twice in both of his attempts in 2019 and hadn’t tried to steal since then, abandoning the running game. But then on April 3, he ran.
The element of surprise. It works–in this case to the tune of Ty France’s first career stolen base. Seems that the Disney franchise didn’t heed its own warning: Be prepared.
Ty’s not the first one to pull this off. Even as the running game dwindled over the last decade, the great ones were always able to steal a base or two per season, catching guys napping. Adrián Beltré stole a base in every year of his career. The master was Albert Pujols. Over his final seven seasons, the flat-footed lunk of a designated hitter somehow nabbed 14 bags on 16 tries. That’s despite a sprint speed that was, uh, this:
Or perhaps it’s not despite that sprint speed but rather because of it. If you’re paying attention but the battery is not, you can grab the occasional extra base with impunity. Ty France isn’t quite that slow, but he is the guy who somewhat famously received a speed rating of 11 in MLB The Show. What are the odds that he would not only take off, but take off for third base? I’d love to see this become an occasional part of Ty’s game, if for no other reason than to start seeing his “ain’t I a stinker” smirk. Get them to ignore you and you can take whatever you want, you little scamp.
Teo Two Taters
Luis Castillo three-whiff strikeout of Mike Trout