Diamondbacks Will Need to Improve on Base Paths


You could put together a list of issues and inconsistencies that would help explain the disappointing 2012 season for the Diamondbacks. Their starting pitching was up and down, their star right fielder forgot how to hit for extra bases, and they consistently played down to their competition.

Arizona Diamondbacks left fielder

Gerardo Parra

(8) runs back to third base as San Diego Padres third baseman

Andy Parrino

(right) catches a throw from catcher

Nick Hundley

during the seventh inning at Chase Field. Image: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Another frustrating aspect that seemed to rear its ugly head much too often was their inefficiency on the base paths. Time and again they would literally run themselves out of an inning with poor decisions on the bases. The Dbacks finished 2012 having been caught stealing 51 times. That’s nearly the equivalent of two full games. Only the Pittsburgh Pirates fared worse with 52 CS. By swiping 93 bases on the season (12th in N.L.), the club posted a stolen base percentage of 65%, down from 71% in 2011. Both totals are below the league average but their 2012 total was [again] second worst to the Pirates.

"“We were terrible on the bases,” Gibson said. “Brutal. Gotta be much better there. That falls upon me to help correct that.”"

Now, Kirk Gibson prides himself on encouraging his players to be aggressive. It’s a small ball mindset that seemed to work rather well in 2011. To put it into perspective, the team was caught stealing four more times than this year’s team (55 in 2011) BUT they also swiped 133 total bases- 40 more than this year’s club. So who takes the blame? Matt Williams as the third base coach? Eric Young coaching from first? Are the players going on their own? I would probably lean towards Eric Young as he is the base running instructor as well and he was a master of the stolen base as a player from 1992-2006 trailing only Kenny Lofton in steals during those years with 465. Gibson- in true Gibby fashion- takes the blame stating, “Let’s put it this way,” he said. “It’s my responsibility to make sure we execute fundamentally, so ultimately you can put the blame on me.”

But I don’t think the blame belongs on Gibson’s shoulders. Judging by the timing of some of Willie Bloomquist’s(41% success rate) or Gerardo Parra’s steals this season I would assume they were just taking off on their own at times. But one major problem that I can identify is their lack of discipline with the “throw over.” For the second consecutive year the Diamondbacks were picked off [and caught stealing] 15 times, most in the National League each season.

The stat ‘Picked off Caught Stealing’(POCS), compiled by Baseball-Reference, accounts for the plays when a pitcher attempts to pick off a runner and the runner takes off for the next base only to be caught stealing. Overall, the team was picked off 24 times trying to scamper back to their original base. Think about that for a second. You could watch eight innings of baseball with the likes of Parra (8 times!), Ryan Roberts (5 times), or Upton (3 times) getting caught flat footed trying to get back to their bag only to be thrown out. So my question is, during these plays what was Eric Young doing? 24 times? Someone should be held accountable here and wouldn’t you look at your coaches first? I’m not [necessarily] asking for Young to be fired, but something has to give. In his two years as first base coach the Dbacks have led the N.L. in POCS.

When the best base stealer on your team is your first baseman you’ve got wonder if something is up. No disrespect to Goldschmidt who was an impressive 18 of 21 in steal attempts but for a manager who boasts aggressiveness on the bases, he didn’t have a base stealer in the top 25 in the N.L.

If the Dbacks want to be competitive in 2013 they’re going to have to spend a lot of time on this aspect of the game over the winter. Specifically on pick off moves. There is speed on this club already with Parra (15 SB to 1 CS in 2011), Chris Young (22 steals in 2011) and Upton (21 SB in 2011) but the inefficiency in swiping bases in 2012 did nothing to help this club in their quest to play in October.