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How the running game could be a factor

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Them runnin' Royals may not get many baserunners, but they should make the few they get count.

Ed Zurga

Small-ball as a macro-strategy has been pretty discredited by sabermetrics. Risking outs on the basepaths generally isn't worth what is gained - usually an extra base. Outs should be hoarded, the way Billy Butler hoards the potato salad in the post-game buffet.

However in the post-season, things change. Every game is hugely important. Macro-strategy goes out the window and teams must play for now. It is truly OUR TIME. Even the sabermetric forward-thinking Boston Red Sox only won a World Championship in part because Dave Roberts stole second off the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. Accordingly, stolen bases could be a huge factor in today's game.

The Royals have been a speedy team for decades, but this year they have truly excelled at base heists. The Royals had the second-best stolen-base rate in the American League (surprisingly, behind the Yankees) at 81%, swiping a league-high 153 bases. Five Royals reached double-digits in steals with Omar Infante close behind at nine steals, and that's not including perhaps the fastest man on the entire roster (and perhaps the entire league), rookie Terrance Gore. Gore appeared in just eleven games down the stretch, but was successful in all five of his stolen base attempts.

Athletics catcher Derek Norris had the worst stolen-base success rate against him in the American League for catchers with at least 60 games caught. Norris allowed an 83% success rate, giving up 60 stolen bases in just 93 starts. Norris has also been nursing a sore-shoulder, as a result of a collision at the plate. Geovany Soto has been receiving many of the starts at catcher down the stretch. Soto, acquired in August from Texas, has been better but is not terribly better at throwing out runners. In his career he has allowed runners to be successful 73% of the time, although he nailed 10 of 23 would-be base-stealers this year in limited action. A's catchers as a whole threw out just 22% of baserunners, the third-lowest in the league.

Jon Lester allowed just six runners to steal on him, but only two were caught while he was on the mound, for a 75% success rate. In the last three seasons combined, would-be base-stealers were successful swiping bases on Lester 77% of the time. This year, Lester has not attempted a single pick-off all season.

Ned Yost drives us nuts with the small ball, but today the stolen bases could be huge.