Twins: No speed, no problem

Categories: Sports

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Image courtesy of Keith Allison
Despite being picked off nine times and caught four more, Span still claims nearly half the Twins' steals.
The Twins may be in the midst of a September playoff charge, but throughout the course of this campaign the club has evidenced little run on the base paths.

Entering this three-game set with the A.L. West-leading Rangers, the Boys have collectively swiped just 52 bases on the season, a mark bad for 12th in the league. At their present clip, they'd finish with a total of a mere 63 stolen bases on the season, which would chart as their lowest team total since the 1984 Twins bagged a mere (really) 39 steals for the year.

As a foot note (pun intended) the club the Twins may face in the ALDS, the Tampa Rays, lead all of baseball with a lofty 153 steals.  But if recent history has anything to say about the art of the steal, then the Twins' chase of a 2010 masterpiece won't be slowed by their flat feet.

Since the stolen-base heyday of Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman in the 1980's, the skill has taken a statistical descent in lieu of juiced-up power and, now, the dominant run of starting pitching. Such is the cyclical nature of sport. The dominant stealer will return at some juncture, although it will no doubt take a special individual talent to match the three 100-steal seasons of both Henderson (1980, '82, and '83) and Coleman (1985-87). Since Coleman's 109 steal campaign of '87, just two men have claimed 81 or more steals in a season. Those two guys? Vince Coleman, with 81 swipes in '88 and Rickey Henderson with 93 in the same season.

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Image via Wiki
Along with Coleman and Henderson, two others speedsters have had 100 steal seasons: Maury Wills, with 104 for the 1962 Dodgers and Lou Brock, who stole 118 bases for the '74 Cardinals.  Looking at the combined team finishes for these eight 100 steal seasons finds the swipers' respective clubs with four postseason appearances (including three World Series appearances).

Yet since the 1987 season, it may soothe some to know that of the 42 teams that have led both leagues in steals since Coleman last hit the century mark -- just 10 of those clubs have made the playoffs.  In addition, for those curious about what active MLB steals leader Juan Pierre and his A.L.-best 53 thefts may ultimately do for the White Sox' chances to steal the Central -- it may assuage backers of our tortoise Twins to read that in that same window of seasons, just five clubs (11 percent) with the league steals leader went on to the postseason.

And the Twins aren't alone with their empty soles (can't help myself).  Entering the weekend, they're one of 11 teams in baseball with fewer than 70 team steals.  It's true, that four of the eight current playoff-slot clubs do in fact rank in baseball's top-10 in steals, but of the other four none are pacing for the century mark.

Back in '87 only seven of baseball's 26 teams failed to reach 120 team steals on the season. Among them? The eventual World Champs. That portends nothing, of course. But it does offer a sound suggestion for a team that can't run and is slightly slumping with the wood: Hit more home runs.





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