Speed game has yet to get going for Yankees

More science, more baseball, more success
Update: Jeter has small crack in ankle, out until after All-Star break
(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

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.

More science, more baseball, more success
Update: Jeter has small crack in ankle, out until after All-Star break
  • Eddard

    Nuney’s been injured some so that takes away one speed threat. Ichiro never gets on base so there’s another one gone. Gardner has had his struggles as well, plus he’s been hitting directly in front of Robbie where you might not want to take the bat out of his hands.

  • trr

    “didn’t think we’d be sitting here halfway through April just six stolen base attempts to the team’s credit”

    Who thought we’d be leading league in home runs? You never know about this game…anyway, I’m sure the running game will come into prominence at some point this season. Meanwhile, let’s enjoy this better than expected start

    • The Real Me

      “You know what they say Suzyn … “

  • Bill

    I think the problem with gardner is having cano bat behind him. He can’t steal 2nd because than the other team will simply pitch around robbie taking the bat out of your best hitters hands. Kind of a catch 22 in my opinion if you want gardner stealing as long as cano is in the 2 hole

    • Jim Is Bored

      There’s an argument to be made that his speed would be better utilized elsewhere. But since he’s also one of our better OBP guys, I’m happy that he’s in front of Robby. Youk would also be an interesting choice for leadoff.

      • Luis Castillo (Not the one who dropped the ball)

        Gardner hitting 1st and Youkilis 2nd in front of robbie would be 0k too…

        • Jim Is Bored

          I’m so happy we’re discussing lineup choices again, and stolen base concerns, rather than which AAAA Free Agent we should or should not have signed.

    • WhittakerWalt

      While I can see that strategy coming into play in later innings, that should never be the case leading off the game. Any manager who would walk the second hitter of the game, to put two runners on with no one out, should be fired.
      Of course, I could totally see Girardi doing that.

    • mitch

      Definitely possible, but i’d rather Gardner push the issue and see what happens. Cano walking too much is a better problem to have than Gardner not stealing.

  • Luis Castillo (Not the one who dropped the ball)

    WTF Gardner?? you are really shitting the bed for my fantasy team with “0” flippin’ stolen bases…

  • Adam

    Is it just me, or does Gardner appear much slower this year? Just based on where he is on infield grounders relative to the first base bag. Maybe I’m just crazy.

  • MannyGeee

    Also, ICHIRO hasn’t been lighting the world on fire at the dish, besides the Nunez injury(ies) and Gardner batting in front of Cano.

    Also, Gardner has stretched a couple of singles into doubles, so that would cut down on the SB attempts…

    Regardless, I am ecstatic that at this point of the spring (when everyone expected the Yankees to be 2-160 already) is that we get to nitpick about them lack of stolen bases because we lead the league in Home Runs. Pretty cool

  • greg

    Garnder had 4 steals in the month of april in 2011 and ended the year with 49….its a long season.

  • LarryM Fl

    You have got to get on base to steal a base. Gardner is experinecing a slow start. Ichiro can’t fine first base. Nunez can not stay in the lineup when these three get a better on base % then we’ll have a running game.

    Nunez is such a raw talent. If he can every refine this talent. He may just turn into a quality player. This year with no sight of Jeter on the horizon may be his opportunity.

  • Monterowasdinero

    What is not appreciated or seen in the boxscore vis a vis speed is a play like last night’s when Nunez scored from 2B on Gardy’s shallow, sharply hit single to LF . Very few guys on our roster would have scored to tie up the game.

    Speed can help in so many ways on offense and defense. Ichiro is extremely hard to double up which keeps innings alive (for example).

  • nsalem

    Cervelli has a lifetime .420 OPB versus LH pitching. Until if and when this regresses he may be the right person to hit in front of Cano.