'There's not much risk': Turner swiping bases at historic rate

October 8th, 2023

ATLANTA -- Everybody wanted to talk about "The Play."

Atlanta had runners at the corners with one out in the eighth inning Saturday night in Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Truist Park. Braves fans had been sleepy through seven innings, at least by Phillies fans' standards, but they understood the importance of the moment. They buzzed with anticipation. Then, smashed a 103.4 mph ground ball to 's left. They roared.

Turner dove, stopped the ball and flipped it to second baseman , who threw out Albies at first base to complete the double play and end the inning.

“Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time situations, and that’s what [No.] 7 did,” Phillies left fielder Brandon Marsh said, referencing Turner. “I’m glad he’s on our side.”

“I was like, 'Whoa,' and I was in the play,” Stott said.

Turner said afterward that he wants to be a complete player. He wants to hit, play good defense and run the bases. He is batting .455 (5-for-11) this postseason. He has stolen four bases, including two in Game 1, when the Phillies had a franchise-record five steals. If Turner steals one more base, he will set a franchise record for most stolen bases in a single postseason.

One of them could help send the Phillies to the World Series.

“You take your chances, you try to pick your spots," Turner said. "But you've still got to be pretty good."

Turner was 30-for-30 in stolen base attempts in the regular season, the most steals in a season in AL/NL history without being caught. He has also been successful in 40 consecutive postseason steal attempts, tied with Jimmy Rollins for the third-longest streak in MLB since at least 1951. The record of 50 consecutive successful steals is held by Vince Coleman.

Like every base stealer, Turner has taken advantage of baseball’s bigger bases and new rules limiting pick-off attempts and the amount of times pitchers can step off the rubber.

“I imagine there will be more stolen bases this postseason than ever,” Turner said last week. “I think it’s significantly easier to steal.”

In fact, Turner said he wanted to steal more this year, but he got the red light more than in past seasons.

“With Bryce [Harper] hitting behind me, we’re trying to let him hit,” Turner said. “I definitely could’ve stolen more. Usually when I get the green light now, it’s an obvious one. It’s pretty straightforward. There’s not much risk on my part.”

Turner stole second and third base in the eighth inning against Braves left-hander A.J. Minter, who is easy to run on. Base stealers went 15-for-19 (78.9%) against him this season.

Turner stole second base in the fifth inning against Marlins pitcher A.J. Puk in Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series. Baserunners were 8-for-9 (88.9%) against Puk. Turner stole second in the seventh inning against Huascar Brazoban. Opposing runners were 11-for-11 against him.

He is the first Phillies player with two multi-steal games in a single postseason, and he's the first player from any team to log multi-steal games twice in the first three games of a postseason since Rickey Henderson in 1999.

“Trea is an outlier,” said first-base coach Paco Figueroa, who handles the team’s baserunning. “Everyone in the league knows he’s going to run. In the past, everybody said Trea could steal 100 bases if he wants. Some people say he could steal more. He likes to steal. He loves it. But he’ll run when he feels like he can get it. Every good base stealer does that. He’s not going to run with his head cut off.”

Admittedly, Turner was not on base much at the beginning of the season. The Phillies were losing, too. It made stealing more difficult.

“It’s like hitting and fielding,” Turner said. “There’s a rhythm to it. Some pitchers are easier [to steal against] than others. Sometimes I feel I get stuck there [at first base]. Sometimes I feel like I can see everything clear. If you’re on base a lot, I feel like it becomes easier. If you’re not, you feel stuck. I’m a big rhythm guy.”

Turner has stolen 260 bases in the regular season. His stolen-base percentage of 86.1% is the fourth best in AL/NL history (minimum 120 stolen base attempts). Chase Utley is first at 87.5%. Jayson Werth is fifth at 85.2%. Shane Victorino is 16th at 83.4%.

Base-stealing guru Davey Lopes coached each of those players at various points in their careers. He was the Phillies’ first-base coach from 2007-10. He coached Turner with the Nationals from 2015-17.

“He would always yell at me, ‘What are you doing still standing here?’” Turner said. “I never stole enough for him. I would get back to first base and he would say, ‘You don’t see it?’”

Lopes was referring to the pitcher’s move to home plate.

“I feel like sometimes he’d almost lie to me,” Turner said. “Like, ‘There’s nothing there. What do you see?’ That’s probably why he was so good. One thing I picked up from him was the confidence and the ‘Just go’ type of deal. The second thing is, I looked in [to the catcher] one time and I got caught. He told me to never look in. He said when you’re stealing a base, that’s your job. Don’t look in. Just keep running.”

That’s Turner’s plan for the rest of October.