They’re not a team made up of speed, but they’re showing aggressiveness.
“What you don't want to see is to have this type of program in spring training and then drop back to Plan B in the regular season," manger Clint Hurdle said. “We can't afford to do that. We've got to stay aggressive and look to pick up 90 feet whenever we can, with whoever is on base."
In 2008, speedy Willy Taveras led the major leagues with 68 stolen bases. It stands as quite an accomplishment, especially considering he posted just a .308 on-base percentage as a leadoff hitter.
His offensive struggles kept him from a spot with Colorado in 2009.
Hurdle made it an immediate emphasis this spring to be more aggressive and steal more bases.
This doesn’t mean that they are the quickest team out there. The Rockies have been caught stealing 18 times, which is tied for first.
What it does mean is that they are being aggressive and attempting to steal more bags than any other team.
Despite ranking among the top teams in 2008 with 141 stolen bases, the Rockies were not a team full of speed. The team’s top two players based on stolen bases are no longer with the team (Taveras and Matt Holliday). Out of the rest of the team, only four players successfully stole more than two bases—Clint Barmes with 13, Scott Podsednik with 12, Ryan Spilborghs with seven, and Jeff Baker with four.
The Rockies had one player with speed, but not an entire team that could catch an opposing pitcher off guard.
Speed can be an essential element to the game.
In 2007, Taveras and Kaz Matsui led the charge for Colorado with a strong 1-2 punch. With the two players at the top of the lineup, it became a key component to scoring early runs.
There were multiple games where Taveras would get on base to start the game, steal second and then either score on a Matsui base hit, or move over to third on a groundout. This would bring the heart of the order to the plate with just one out and a runner 90 feet away from scoring.
Other times, the top of the order was even successfully able to steal both second and third base during the same at-bat, allowing the runner to score on a base hit or sacrifice fly and giving the Rockies the lead two batters into the game.
Team speed was something that the Rockies missed last season, and in result, their offense never got going.
Let me reemphasize that 2009’s team is still not a team made up of speed.
No player on the current team has stolen more than 15 bases in a single season and the team leader for most career stolen bases is Todd Helton, who has a modest 36 in 12 seasons.
What this team is, however, is a team that’s willing to take that extra step while leading off in order to get a good jump off of a pitch or maybe two bases on a base hit.
If the Rockies keep up their spring pace, they will successfully steal 216 bases in 2009. That stat would rank first among any team this decade.
I think Hurdle is on track with being aggressive on the bases. There might be times where it hurts the team, but I think that in the end, it will pay off.
Hall of Famer Joe Morgan once said, "Whether you steal or not, you're changing the rhythm of the game. If the pitcher is concerned about you, he isn't concentrating enough on the batter."