Thanks to the offseason losses and Spring Training injuries, it appeared as though the Yankees would be relying on speed to generate offense this year more than they have at any point in the last 15 years or so. Surprisingly great starts from guys like Vernon Wells and Kevin Youkilis have made the loss of power basically nonexistent — the Yankees have hit an AL-leading 20 homers. The speed game, however, has yet to show up.
The idea of creating runs though speed revolved around two players: Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki. Eduardo Nunez joined the mix once it became apparent Derek Jeter’s ankle would prevent him from starting the season on time. Gardner’s return from injury and a full season of Ichiro meant the team had two 30+ steal (maybe even two 40+ steal) candidates on the roster, and in the past Nunez has stolen bases at a clip that suggests 30+ is doable for him as long as he got enough playing time. A hundred total steals from those three seemed entirely possible.
Instead, 13 games into the season, the Yankees have stolen three bases as a team. Two of those steals came four innings apart in the same game, when Wells and Chris Stewart (!) took advantage of Ubaldo Jimenez’s slow delivery to take second base with ease. Nunez stole a base in the second game of the season and that’s it, three steals in 13 games. They’ve been caught three times as well (Gardner twice), and those six stolen base attempts are a bottom-five total in baseball. Definitely not what I expected.
The surprising power output means the lack of steals have not hurt the Yankees, but it is an area where they should be getting more production than they have. I don’t think any of us seriously thought Gardner would still be sitting on zero stolen bases 13 games into the season, especially since he’s been hitting reasonably well — .256/.333/.426 (110 wRC+). Ichiro has been awful, so I guess his excuse is that he simply hasn’t been on-base enough to use his legs. We’ll see how long that continues.
Moreso than maybe any other non-base hit offensive event, stolen bases tend to come in bunches. If the Yankees run into a particularly poor-throwing catcher at some point soon, Gardner would wind up stealing like six bases in a three-game series. It’s inevitable that he and Nunez and even Ichiro will get going on the base paths at some point, but I didn’t think we’d be sitting here halfway through April will just six stolen base attempts to the team’s credit. It’s not a huge problem or anything, but at some point these guys need to create some havoc with their legs to supplement the homers. It’s a big part of the reason why they are on the roster in the first place.