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Elephant Rumblings: The stealin’ A’s are running up the charts

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Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

It’s the dang weekend, Athletics Nation!

The season is two months deep, and the A’s are a top-5 team in a surprising category: stolen bases. After Friday night’s game, the Athletics have tallied 36 stolen bags on the year so far, and they aren’t even just from the usual suspects. Nearly the whole lineup has contributed SBs to the box score so far this season.

In previous seasons the A’s have been known as a fairly stealing-adverse team. From 2016-2019 the A’s were consistently in the bottom five of teams for stolen bases. In fact, in 2018 the team ended the year with only 35 steals, the lowest amount in the majors by 10, and 1 less than this year’s squad already has accrued in just 54 games.

So what has the A’s near the top of the charts this year? Well, it could be a new approach from first-year manager Mark Kotsay, but the snagged bags were on the rise in 2021 as well. The team ended the year tied for 7th with 88 SBs, a rate of just over one every other game. This year the A’s are on pace for 114 stolen bases by season’s end, a number that would put them second on last year’s leaderboard.

Part of the success for the Athletics’ ability to channel Rickey Henderson in 2022 is picking their moments. The A’s have only been caught stealing 6 times so far, giving them an 86% success rate, tied for the best of the top 5 SB teams with the St. Louis Cardinals. Heads-up running and selectivity have been key for the A’s, especially as the roster isn’t stocked with a ton of speedsters.

Looking at base running sprint speed on Baseball Savant, the A’s currently only have 6 runners above the league average. Cristian Pache and Luis Barrera come in the lead for speed across the team, but Christian Bethancourt shows up in the top 5 for both catchers and first basemen. The whole team has managed to spread the wealth when it comes to stealing — Pache just entered the club for the first time last night, while Seth Brown and Sheldon Neuse have 5 steals apiece. In fact, when you look at the current lineup, even considering platoons, the only regular without a stolen base is Sean Murphy.

It’s ok for Murphy though, as he makes up for the lack of legs with fantastic pickoffs — like how he caught Bobby Dalbec at first last night. While the A’s still struggle to get these runners back around home, if they keep creating more chances with runners in scoring position then hopefully more of them will end up in the runs column.

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