During the 06/17/13 game where Peter Bourjos, Mike Trout, and Erick Aybar put tons of pressure the Seattle Mariners on ground ball, I realized that speed is completely underrated in today's game. Let me be clear - I LOVE SPEED in sports. However, outside of center field, speed has gone largely under-appreciated in the last decade. Managers aren't very likely to take advantage of speed on the base paths with steal attempts anymore because of injury concerns.
To fully understand how speed has gone under-utilized, let's take a trip down memory lane. First, let's stop at Vince Coleman's house. Yes, this is the first time you've read that name since a certain firecracker accident, but let us focus on his speed. While I realize the ground is about to shudder, but Vince Coleman is the most dominant base stealer in his prime...of all time. In each of his first three seasons, he stole over 100 bags. Compare this to a few stolen base "legends".
Rickey Henderson - Don't get me wrong, Rickey is the best lead-off man of all time. While he did have one season of more steals than Coleman ever did, Vince had over 100 in his first three seasons and had a better 4-year "run" than any time in Rickey's career. Lou Brock - His steals count was consistently good, but he only had one great year ('74) in comparison to Henderson and Coleman.
OK, I get it Vince was fast. Who cares, Joe?
In 1985, the St. Louis Cardinals went to the World Series. They were on of only two teams to ever steal over 300 bases. Three of their best known players, SS - Ozzie Smith (31), CF - Willie McGee (56), and LF - Vince Coleman (110) accounted for almost 200 of those. Coincidence? I don't think so. The Angels barely cleared 300 stolen bags in the last 3 seasons. In 2012, Mike Trout led the majors in stolen bases with 49 and he's considered a speed demon. He would've been third on this team.
The 2013 Angels have a similar threesome on their team: SS - Aybar, CF - Borjous, and LF - Trout...when Peter is healthy. The Angels should be using their speed to put more pressure on catchers and the corner infielders.
I know that most of you think that the argument to increase the use of speed on offense is completely irrelevant because "the game has changed". Yes it has. Power numbers are down now that the steroid era is (sort of) over. Pitching is big again and this means that speed on the base paths can be depended on more than consistently hitting the ball out of the park. The Angels need to go back to small ball in a season in which any chance of the post season is dwindling quickly.
I understand that some innings will come to an end when they get caught stealing, but how is this any different that Pujols making hitting in to double plays look like an art? It isn't, except that speedy guys will occasionally beat out the double play and extend the inning. On 6/18/2013, Josh Hamilton hit in to three double plays in 5 at-bats. Vince Coleman hit in to 3 double plays... IN 1985....and with over 600 AB's! He extended many innings by beating out double plays or by bunting and preventing the chance for one. Compare that to Albert Pujols, who regularly smokes the ball to the wall FOR A SINGLE. You can't tell me that speed doesn't impact the outcome of many games.
We still want our big guys to do their job, but let's make things a bit more exciting when we're in the speedy part of the lineup. Do you disagree? Tweet me @absolut_joe.
Joe Hewitt - @absolut_joe