Berti clinches MLB stolen base title with 41 steals

October 6th, 2022

MIAMI -- "A true basestealer is when you get out there and everybody in the ballpark knows you're going to steal a base, and you still have the capability of doing it." – Marlins first-base coach Keith Johnson

In an age of baseball where the art of basestealing has fallen by the wayside, Marlins utility player hasn’t gotten the memo. Berti secured the Major League stolen base title with 41 following the Marlins' 12-9 win over the Braves at loanDepot park, six more steals than Baltimore’s Jorge Mateo. In doing so, Berti also holds the distinction of the fewest games played (102) in a full season by a Major League stolen-base champion.

This marks the seventh time a Marlin has led the Majors in stolen bases; Berti joins Dee Strange-Gordon (2017, '15), Juan Pierre ('03), Luis Castillo ('02, '00) and Quilvio Veras (1995) as the fifth Marlin to accomplish the feat. In June, Berti went on a tear, stealing 18 bases in 26 games to set a club record, which overlapped with a stretch of 21 consecutive steals without getting caught.

"That's pretty cool," said Berti, who went 41-for-46 in stolen-base attempts (89 percent). "It still hasn't really sunk in just yet. To be able to do it, if you were to tell me at the end of the year that I would lead the league in stolen bases this year, I would have signed on the dotted line. So pretty special."

Berti spent eight seasons in the Minors before making his MLB debut as a 28-year-old on Sept. 26, 2018, with the Blue Jays, before he signed with the Marlins as a Minor League free agent that December. Since then, Berti has played everywhere on the diamond except first base and catcher, entering 2022 with 35 career stolen bases in a reserve role.

But Berti, who sustained a season-ending concussion on July 22, 2021, saw regular playing time this season due to injuries to infielders Jazz Chisholm Jr., Joey Wendle and Brian Anderson. Berti also was sidelined from May 7-26 with COVID-19 and from July 15-Aug. 11 with a right groin strain.

“Coming off the concussion, to be able to come out and play as much as I [have] this year -- definitely some areas I still want to continue to improve, but that's always going to be the case,” Berti said. “So build on this for next year.”

While Berti, 32, undoubtedly has elite sprint speed (29.6 ft./sec., in the 97th percentile), what has made a difference on the basepaths are the coaches along the way. Early in his career, Berti learned from Hall of Famer Tim Raines, who served as Minor League baserunning coordinator in Toronto’s system. Raines ranks fifth all time in MLB history with 808 steals.

The preparation Berti puts in with Marlins first-base coach Keith Johnson, who also helped Starling Marte win the title in 2021, has taken Berti to another level. In-game, Berti and Johnson will share their observations on the pitcher and catcher.

“Speed's always been kind of there for me, especially through college and then pro ball,” Berti said. “But the development of getting good reads and jumps and understanding what pitchers are trying to do in game situations and stuff like that has definitely taken some steps over the last 12 years of playing professional baseball.”

All of this made Berti a worthy recipient of the 2022 BBWAA South Florida Chapter’s Jeff Conine Heart and Professionalism Award and the Marlins' 2022 Heart & Hustle Award winner.

“There's no credit to be given to me,” Johnson said. “This is a guy who, from the time that he's been in this game to where he is now, has scraped, scratched and clawed to get to where he is and get to what he's doing. Who's to say he ever gets an opportunity to lead the league -- let alone Major League Baseball -- in stolen bases again? It's a tribute to him.”