Mets may cut back on steal attempts vs. KC
NEW YORK -- Moments before Lucas Duda hit the three-run homer that turned National League Championship Series Game 4 into a no-doubter, Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson danced dangerously far off second base. Anyone who doubted his intentions at that point did not receive the scouting memo, as Granderson took a secondary lead of more than 26 feet, per Statcast™.
Not only was it the second-largest lead that Granderson took all season, per Statcast™, nearly double his average, but it was also wholly indicative of the Mets' strategy that series. Four of Granderson's longest 12 leads this year occurred in that game, and four of his top six came against the Cubs.
It worked; led by Granderson's three stolen bases, the Mets swiped seven in the four-game sweep, after ranking 29th in baseball with 51 during the regular season. Yet as the Mets prepare to face the Royals in World Series Game 1 on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8 p.m. ET game time), don't expect them to employ a similar strategy.
"We went in there knowing that teams stole bases against the Chicago Cubs," manager Terry Collins said. "So we picked out three or four guys that have the ability to steal bases, that if you get on, you get a green light."
Someone such as Granderson, who led the Mets with 11 stolen bases during the regular season and once swiped as many as 26 in a season, will have that green light going forward regardless of anything the Royals and catcher Salvador Perez do. But Granderson and the Mets went into the NLCS knowing that the Cubs ranked 29th in baseball in caught-stealing percentage. The Royals were 14th -- not elite, but certainly good enough to give a team that runs as rarely as the Mets pause.
Collins likes to stress that the Mets are built around power hitting. Their offense clicks when they're hitting home runs. So against a team such as the Royals, who are more equipped to throw them out on the bases than the Cubs were, they will proceed with an extra degree of caution.
"It's based on who we play," Collins said.
"They're a team you can't fall into a pattern against," Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks said. "They're a smart baseball team, so they know the opportunities they can take."
The Mets also know their crimes of opportunity did not transform them into elite basestealers overnight. Consider: Granderson, who led the Mets with 11 regular-season steals, was tied for 70th in the Majors. Though the Mets consider him and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes capable of stealing at any time, they are not particularly keen on others in their everyday lineup -- even third baseman David Wright, who once stole 34 in a season, but has since endured back problems -- doing so at will.
If there is a lasting effect from the NLCS, infielder Kelly Johnson said, it could be the threat of the steal more than the steal itself. Swiping bags was not part of the Mets' regular-season arsenal. The Royals now know that if they let their guard down, it can be.
"Just the thought is going to be something that's big," Johnson said. "Whether it's making the pitcher think about the runner a little bit, or the bench coach or the manager thinking a little bit about putting a slide-step on -- something that's going to help the hitter out in the long run."