Ausmus' impact on Tigers' basepaths
May, 18, 2014
By Buster Olney | ESPN.com
Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY SportsAnibal Sanchez allowed 25 stolen bases in 26 attempts during the 2013 season.BOSTON -- From the first day of spring training, the Detroit Tigers players say, Brad Ausmus talked about the running game.
But not only the running game of the Detroit baserunners, who were told to look for opportunities to take a base when they see it. Ausmus also wanted his pitchers to think more about the running game.
When pitchers threw their bullpen sessions in the spring, about a third of their work was done from the stretch, Alex Avila recalled. They simulated situations in which there was a runner at first, or first and third. They worked on varying their delivery times to the plate and on throwing to first base.
Last year, opposing teams ran aggressively against the Tigers. Detroit allowed 128 steals in 157 attempts, a staggering rate of 81.5 percent, which ranked 29th in the majors. Only two teams allowed more stolen bases.
This season, the Tigers have allowed 27 steals in 42 attempts, and their 35.7 percent rate of nabbing runners ranks fifth in the majors.
The pitchers have bought in to slowing down opposing runners, said Ausmus. That includes Anibal Sanchez, particularly, after he's had a lot of trouble with stolen bases in the past. Last year, Sanchez allowed 25 steals in 26 attempts.
This year, Sanchez's numbers aren't much better (six steals allowed in seven attempts), but Avila feels he’s throwing better, and has put in the work to improve. “Throwing out runners is a two-way street,” said Avila.
The Tigers added Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler during the offseason, and so it was inevitable that Detroit would run more and steal more bases. The Tigers’ baserunners generally have a green light to run, other than when they get a hold sign from the bench, and Torii Hunter believes the Detroit baserunners are assuming a natural aggressiveness.
Detroit leads the AL in steals with 36 -- one more than all of last season, when the Tigers finished last in MLB.
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