Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The audacity of baserunning (revised)

There's a bit of Ring Lardner in me — not, I fear, the writing talent (I wish) but the love of the tactics of the deadball era — the bunt, the steal, the hit-and-run., of the pitching gem backed up (or spoiled) by a run poached by audacious baserunning.

Kelly Stoppach might be thinking: There's not
a lot I can do without the ball
That was Game 5 Tuesday night, as the Rangers supported Cliff Lee's fine outing with two runs scored from second base on ground outs to first base.

"Spring training mistakes" is how Rays manager Joe Maddon described those runs — and the mistake in both cases was on pitcher David Price, who took throws at first base but didn't check the runner from second.

First inning, Elvis Andrus on second, one out. Andrus takes off for third and Josh Hamilton grounds to Carlos Pena. Pena flips to Price, and Andrus never stopped running. He scored without a play. That, judging from a replay I watched this morning on, was the fault of first baseman Carlos Pena, who treated the whole thing as a routine 3-1 putout. He needed to make Andrus stop; he didn't.

Andrus is fast. It's not surprising that he'd take an extra base. Vladimir Guerrero, on the other hand, has been limited to DH duties for years. He pulled off a somewhat similar play in the sixth inning, scoring from second when Tampa Bay didn't get the call on an attempted 3-6-1 double play. Price on this one appeared to take a moment to look at the umpire, and that moment was all the gimpy Guerrero needed.

Those plays called to mind the Nick Punto-Derek Jeter play in the 2009 ALDS, when Punto tried to poach a run from second on a grounder up the middle. I defended Punto's effort at the time and credited Jeter with anticipating it. Most people saw it, and still see it, as a brain cramp on Punto's part, which is fair enough, since it didn't work.

And that's the problem with audacious baserunning. It's wonderful when it works, but an alert defense can, and will, make it look really stupid. The Rangers would probably do well to remember in the ALCS that the Yankees aren't prone to spring training mistakes.

1 comment:

  1. The could also be a case of good scouting.