By Dan Connolly
The Baltimore Sun
7:30 AM EDT, September 3, 2014
Within the last week the Orioles have added Jimmy Paredes, Alejandro De Aza, and Quintin Berry to their roster.
The moves address a major deficiency of this club: A lack of speed.
The Orioles are dead last in the major leagues -- by far -- in stolen bases. They have 36. The Miami Marlins and the Boston Red Sox are tied for the second-fewest with 49.
Five individual players had more than the entire Orioles’ team. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Dee Gordon leads the major leagues with 58 stolen bases, 22 more than the Orioles. David Lough and Adam Jones are tied for the Orioles’ lead with seven each.
Manager Buck Showalter is more interested in stolen-base efficiency than stolen bases. He doesn’t want to give away outs with so many players throughout the lineup who can hit home runs. I understand that, makes some sense.
Although this is what he said Tuesday afternoon: “I’m proud of the percentage at which we’ve stolen at.”
Here’s the rub with that: The Orioles were in the bottom third for stolen-base efficiency in the major leagues heading into Tuesday's game at 71 percent, 21st overall.
And that was before De Aza tried to steal third base with two runners on base and no outs in the fifth inning Tuesday night and was thrown out. The batter at the plate, Nelson Cruz, then singled up the middle, which likely would have scored De Aza from second had he been there.
So, yes, trying to steal doesn’t always make sense. And it should be done primarily by guys who can do it. It’s my same response to fans who decry Chris Davis, for instance, for not bunting in a traditional bunting situation.
Players should stick with what they can do best (the question as to why so many major leaguers can’t bunt is a discussion for another day). But, before this week. the Orioles had one player who is considered a legitimate stolen-base threat: Lough. And he is just 7-for-12 in stolen-base attempts this season.
Now they’ve added De Aza, who is 15-for-23 this year, and Berry, who was 25-for-31 at Triple-A Norfolk this season and is 29-for-29 at the major league level in his career, including the postseason. How is 100 percent for stolen-base efficiency?
Even if they are not stealing bases, the Orioles could use some faster runners on the basepaths. In the postseason, runs are at a premium, and having more guys who can move from first to third or second to home would be welcomed.
“It’s a tool that can help us, so we have added some foot speed,” Showalter said. “It’s a tool that we aren’t in an abundance of.”
Unless he doesn’t play well in the next month, you have to imagine De Aza makes the postseason roster. And Berry is an interesting call. He was on the Boston Red Sox's roster last year just to be a pinch-runner, and he stole three bases, one in each of Boston's postseason series.
The Orioles may decide they don’t want to use a playoff roster spot for that purpose. But at least they have the option now.
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