The Mariners were an abysmal team on the bases last season. Whether it was Robinson Cano forgetting which players were on base or Logan Morrison forgetting how many outs there were, the lack-of-focus mistakes, wasted outs and missed opportunities were an issue for a team that underachieved.
Manager Scott Servais knows all about the past problems despite being in his first season with the team. He’s read the reports and heard the stories. On Monday, he will address the team’s baserunning as a whole and individually in his morning “chalk talk” session.
“We are going to talk about baserunning today,” Servais said. “I’m actually looking forward to it. We have a different team and the ability to run the bases this year. Instead of coming here from day one and throwing the gauntlet down and saying, ‘this is what we are going to do and this is how we are going to do it,’ I’ve said to the group that we are going to sit back and watch as a coaching staff for 12 to 13 days, which we have.”
After that time period of watching, Servais and his staff, primarily first base coach Casey Candaele and third base coach Manny Acta, will share their observations.
“Where our primary leads are, where our secondary leads are, our lack of feel for reading balls in the dirt – different things like that,” Servais said. “We’ve got a little track record. We’ve got some data and we’ve got some things we can talk about.”
The changed personnel and additions of Norichika Aoki, Leonys Martin, Luis Sardinas and a full season of Ketel Marte should give Seattle a more athletic look on the bases.
“Obviously we have a lot more speed than we had last year,” Servais said. “I think the ability of guys to understand how to push the envelope to get a little more, and the value of getting a little bit bigger lead is big. A foot or six inches may not sound like a big deal, but when you are trying score somebody from first on a double, it’s a big deal, especially the secondary lead.”
But the coaching staff won’t just be using the small sample of spring games. Servais will tap into the data provided Baseball Advanced Media and the Statcast tool to offer up statistical analysis of players’ baserunning performance of past years. The data measures everything from a player’s lead off the bag, their distance and angle of their secondary lead as a pitch is thrown, the angle and efficiency of rounding bases and measures from every situation.
“We have the data and let’s just use it,” Servais said. “Part of job as a coaching staff – we maybe won’t understand the data all of the time, but when you have the raw data and numbers then how do you put it into play? That’s our job. How do we get better and use the information that we have?”
Servais gave examples as to some of the things that will be discussed.
“From a coaching standpoint, now we have enough to understand that Kyle Seager is aggressive, but maybe not the fastest guy and he likes to run the bases,” Servais said. “But Kyle Seager gets one of the best secondary leads of anybody on our team when you look at the data.”
And there is this:
“We have everybody’s average lead at first base over the last three years and how does that rank against the average in the league,” Servais said. “We have a number of our base stealers that are below average. If you are a base stealer, you should be quick enough to get out there and have enough athleticism to get back to the base.”
Ideally, those base stealers that get below average leads at first base will test out leads that are bigger than before. They also need to find their limits of where they can get to and still get back safely on a throw over.
“It’s ok to get picked off in spring training,” Servais said. “I know the fans go crazy and say, ‘here we go again with the Mariners’ baserunning.’ But, no, that’s ok to do that in spring training and get a comfort level than try to push it on guys when we get to Texas on April 4.”
Servais plans to use video and and data points to highlight his message.
“Data down to the inch where their leads are at, where their secondary leads are at, the angle of their secondary leads, how they are coming around second base, how they take third base,” he said. “It’s crazy how much stuff is out there. Fans have no idea. Some teams can use it. Some teams don’t want to use it. For me it’s a resource, why wouldn’t you? Some players will buy in, some won’t. That’s just society – some will believe in it and some aren’t. It’s up to us to present it, throw it out there and see if it helps. If it helps one or two guys, then it’s worth it.”