Running Red Sox are becoming a threat on the bases
The Boston Red Sox are starting to steal bases
The Boston Red Sox have been a station-to-station team in recent years. Get on, then knock ’em in with an extra-base hit. The strategy has served them well, particularly when they play in the doubles paradise at Fenway Park. Every lineup will inevitably hit a slump where they struggle to string together hits though. That’s when teams need to find other ways to manufacture runs. One way to do that is by stealing bases to put more runners in scoring position.
Boston isn’t much of a threat on the base paths, ranking 26th in the majors with 19 stolen bases this season, per FanGraphs. That’s starting to change as the running game has become increasingly emphasized.
Through their first 32 games, the Red Sox were a meager 4-for-9 in stolen base attempts. They didn’t run often and they weren’t picking their spots wisely. In 28 games since then, the Red Sox are a perfect 15-for-15 in stolen base attempts.
The key contributor has been Trevor Story, who leads the team with eight steals. The prized free-agent acquisition was brought in to provide another power threat in the middle of the lineup but he also adds speed, an element the Red Sox have lacked in recent years. Story has swiped 20+ bags in three of the last four seasons, with the exception being the shortened 2020 season when he led the National League with 15. The Red Sox haven’t had anyone steal 20+ bases since 2018 and they didn’t have anyone on their roster crack double-digits in either of the last two seasons.
An extremely limited training camp after he signed late in the offseason led to a slow start for Story. You can’t swipe a bag if you aren’t on base. A sub-.300 OBP in April limited his opportunities, resulting in only one steal that month. Story has steadily increased his on-base percentage each month and he isn’t shy about running once he gets on. He collected five steals in May and already has two this month. He hasn’t been caught stealing yet this season.
Story’s aggression on the base paths might be contagious, as the rest of the team is starting to chip in. According to J.P. Long of Sox Notes, the Red Sox have stolen at least one base in six consecutive games, their longest streak since 2018 and tied for the longest streak by any AL team this season.
Boston swiped a pair of bases in the first inning of Saturday’s game against the Seattle Mariners.
Xander Bogaerts singled to center with one out in the inning and immediately stole second. He moved over to third on a ground out and scored on a Christian Vazquez single. Vazquez then stole second, and while he wouldn’t come around to score, getting into scoring position forced Mariners starter George Kirby to throw more high stress pitches during a 27-pitch first inning.
The Red Sox are second in the league in runs scored but that doesn’t mean they are constantly putting up crooked numbers on the scoreboard. They won a four-game series with the Angels this past week but they scored two runs or fewer in three of those games. Stealing bases increases scoring opportunities when the lineup stalls.
Draw a walk, steal second base, move the runner over and then bring him home with a sacrifice fly. Teams can score runs without the benefit of a hit. It’s not what this Red Sox lineup is built to do but it’s encouraging to know they are capable of it.
Stealing bases comes with some risk and they Red Sox want to avoid running into outs, especially when their best hitters are at the plate. They need to pick their spots wisely. Speed is an element this team could use more of though. The addition of Story helps and if Jarren Duran eventually sticks on the major league roster later this season, we should start to see more action on the bases.
The Red Sox already have a powerhouse offense but a more well-rounded lineup that can score in a variety of ways will make them more consistent.