Contrary to popular belief, the stolen base isn’t dead in today’s baseball. You just have to maintain a high percentage.
The Cardinals are one of those running teams. Sure, it’s not the 1985 Redbirds, who stole like mad and homered about twice a week. But the 2022 Cardinals lead the majors with 26 swipes and they’ve been caught just three times.
Harrison Bader and Tommy Edman are two early winners as we examine the first month of the Oliver Marmol regime. Bader’s slash isn’t the prettiest (.239/.319/.348), but his defense keeps him in the lineup and his category juice (two homers, seven steals) keeps him fantasy relevant.
Edman was one of my preseason fades, as I feared he wouldn’t bat leadoff in 2022. He started the year buried in the lineup, but it didn’t last — he started fast while others didn’t. With that in mind, he’s been parked at the leadoff spot for two weeks, rocking a .292/.393/.458 line. He’s scored 18 runs, knocked three homers, stolen seven bags in eight attempts.
It’s encouraging to see so many winning teams aggressively running. It doesn’t have to be a discarded strategy that only losing teams embrace. The Cardinals, Rays, Brewers and Angels are your four top steal teams — and they’re all decent ball clubs. The Yankees and Giants are among four teams tied for fifth in this category.
Of course, not all teams are running
On the flip side, the Tigers and Red Sox aren’t running much (you can’t steal first base) and they’re not running well either. Both teams have four steals in eight attempts. The Rockies (5-for-10) and Cubs (7-for-14) are both .500 teams on the bases, and somehow the Twins have been caught eight times versus seven successful attempts.
Maybe it’s a good thing that Byron Buxton has just one steal attempt. Perhaps player and team realize that he’s more valuable to the club on the field, even if the running gets iced. Maybe these are his Mike Trout years.
My friend Patrick Davitt recently compared Buxton to Eric Davis, and I love that angle. Power, speed, defense, the idea that you’re watching one of baseball’s most exciting players at all times. But these guys can only help us on the field. Rather than dreaming about a 40-40 season for Buxton, I’m dreaming of a 40-8 season — with 150 games played.
I don’t ask for much. Can you give me this one, baseball gods?
The Doval leash gets longer
As long as I’m asking for baseball god favoritism, perhaps I should hit the Giants bullpen. Is Camilo Doval capable of running away with this closer job? He’s recorded five handshakes against two for Jake McGee, and McGee was roughed up Monday. At 35, perhaps McGee can’t overpower hitters any longer. His strikeout rate is a mess, not to mention an ERA over 9 and a WHIP just under 2. Even as the batted-ball data smooths out, he looks like an ordinary pitcher.
Doval has trouble throwing strikes at times (five unintentional walks over 12.2 innings), but he also misses plenty of bats (18 punchouts). A 2.84 ERA is in line with his peripherals. The Giants should be a playoff team, and there will be 40 or more saves to go around. I’m bullish on Doval moving forward.
The case for Brandon Drury
When you play in a mixed league, the idea is to churn the bottom of your roster, see if you can get lucky with a pickup or two. You don’t need a high hit rate on these pickups; if you find a few every month that stick, you’re doing well. When we see plausible upside, we act.
Brandon Drury, come on down.
Drury is getting run all over the Cincinnati lineup card, and he’s off to a .284/.337/.593 start with six homers. His career resume doesn’t support this at all, unless you want to consider the .274 average and .376 slugging percentage he gave the Mets in 88 plate appearances last year. He was around a league-average offensive player back in 2016, his rookie year with the Diamondbacks.
Drury qualifies at three Yahoo positions (second, third, outfield) and he’s slotted second in six of the last seven Cincinnati games. His hard-hit metrics support his lofty average and slugging. Given how difficult it is to find useful offense in 2022, I’m not thumbing my nose at this story. Drury can hang out on my mixed-league rosters for a while, and we’ll see where it goes.