Selectivity in stealing helping Reds achieve greater success
Hatcher credited with team's improvement
MILWAUKEE -- Even in the lingering April chill, it's been perfect conditions for a short run.
With two stolen bases Tuesday night, the Reds improved to 16-for-16 in swipes, a franchise record to begin a season since the caught-stealing stat has been continuously recorded, beginning in 1951. The last Major League team to hit that mark: the 2007 Twins, who opened the year stealing 19 in as many attempts (courtesy of Elias Sports Bureau).
"We do a lot of research on our opponent," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "That's really how we make our decisions, because we're not necessarily a speed team beyond Billy [Hamilton]. We're not loaded with guys like Billy."
Hamilton, who led off Wednesday night's game with a single and stole his ninth base -- to make it 17-for-17 -- before scoring on Joey Votto's single, leads all of baseball, but he he hadn't even attempted one since April 14, all part of a learning process of greater selectivity. Price credited first-base coach Billy Hatcher with overseeing the operation after the Reds stole 122 bases last season (fourth-most in baseball) but achieved just a 70 percent success rate that ranked 20th.
"We had a new manager last year and gave these guys a little more leeway last year," Hatcher said. "They could run when they wanted to, and you wanted to see who could and who couldn't. Now, they're in the video room a little more watching video of the pitchers and video of the catchers. The only way you're going to get better is have some type of failure and be able to ... see what you can't do, and that's what these guys have figured out."
Price pointed out how Major League pitchers, paying attention to Hamilton in the basepaths, have established strong countermeasures such as pitchouts and slide steps. Hatcher felt Hamilton's presence on the squad made it slightly more difficult for the rest of the team to run wild.
"We come in here, and they're wondering if we're going to steal bases," Hatcher said. "Billy steals a lot of bases, so they focus on him and start focusing on the rest of the guys. If we didn't have him, I don't know if we'd be stealing more, but we'd be stealing some bases because they wouldn't be concentrated on us."
Price considered an 80 percent success rate to be a suitable goal.
"I think if our success rate over the course of time was ... in that 55-65 percent [range], I think you kind of feel like it's self-defeating," he said. "That 80 percent would be a really nice goal to shoot for. It's hard to attain."