In the off-season, new Mets skipper Mickey Callaway vowed that the Mets would be more aggressive on the base paths this season. Some were skeptical over this statement, since speed was not exactly a team strength in 2017. Also most of the new acquisitions were on the wrong side of 30, and were not exactly burners even in their prime. So far, in this early season, the Mets have been showing a stepped up running game, as Callaway promised.
In the opening game against the Cards, Asdrubal Cabrera advanced to second base on a short wild pitch, then moved to third on another short wild pitch during the same at bat. This was notable because the catcher was likely future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina, known for his quick release and strong arm. Cabrera is not fleet of foot, but he was alert and bold in his base running in the opener.
Also in that game, third baseman Todd Frazier scored from first on a double. It’s true that that kind of play happens a lot, but it has been less common for the Mets in recent years. Watching Frazier on the play, he broke immediately, and ran a very efficient route cutting the corners on the bases beautifully before racing home to beat the throw. During the off-season Callaway had said Frazier was a good base runner, and he showed it on that key play. Jay Bruce also picked up a stolen base in that game.
The hard-charging Mets kept up the running game in the next contest. Cabrera scored on a shallow sacrifice fly to left center, and Yoenis Cespedes alertly went from second to third on the play as the throw went to home.
The running did not always turn out successfully, Adrian Gonzalez tried to advance from first to third on a routine single by Juan Lagares, and Gonzalez was cut down at third. Lagares alertly did sprint into second on the play.
In the last game of the series, Cespedes borrowed a move out of Cabrera’s playbook by taking second base on yet another short wild pitch in the first inning. There was a base path blunder in the second when Amed Rosario was tagged out at first base via a nice pickoff move from Cardinal starter Luke Weaver to end the inning.
Of the Met base runners mentioned, only Lagares and Rosario have good speed, all the rest are below average, with the possible exception of Frazier. Speed is important in base running, but alertness, efficiency of route, the element of surprise and audacity all have their place as well.
The 2018 Mets don’t have the foot speed of mid 60’s Cardinals with Lou Brock and Curt Flood, or even the go-go White Sox of the late 50’s. But they can still use base running to their advantage, as they have demonstrated so far this season.