Tim Benz: ‘Gentleman’ on base paths, Pirates race to NL lead in stolen bases


Among all other things going right for the Pittsburgh Pirates so far in 2023, they’ve quietly become one of the best base-stealing teams in baseball.

During their 2-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday, the Pirates stole three bases, giving them 25 (in 30 attempts) on the season. That’s the most steals in the National League, even with fleet-footed shortstop Vanil Cruz most of the year. He had three stolen bases under his belt before breaking his ankle on April 9.

The Pirates’ success in stealing bases certainly has something to do with roster construction. Players like Cruz, Brian Reynolds, Ji Hwan Bae and K’Brian Hayes have speed. But manager Derek Shelton also credits the practice and training the players and staff have put into running skills.

“Its evolution is really moving forward because people are paying attention to it now,” Shelton said. “It’s not just, ‘OK, you’re fast.’ That’s your first step because we can measure it.In Statcast era, we can tell you if your first step is a good one or not. Or if your first step is bad. Those (those) guys stole bases because they were fast. But some of them had a bad drop-step. Some of them took a negative step. Some of them walked into it. Now we can measure all these things and communicate about them.

Shelton praised Tarrick Brock (first base coach/baserunning coach) and strength coach Terrance Branick for the team’s improvement when it comes to getting the most out of their players on the bases. A year ago, the Pirates ranked in the middle of the pack (14th) in Major League Baseball with 89 steals in a full season.

“T-Brock is really good at it,” Shelton said. “He does a really good job of studying not only when we should run and how we should run, but he has a son (TJ) who is an Olympic caliber runner, who runs at TCU. So he spent a lot of time around a lot of elite coaches in terms of how they run, what the explosion should be, what your first step is. So we are very lucky to have some of his tracks playing in the background.

Shelton admits that when Brock and Brannick talk about running, it “feels like a foreign language” to him. But players should be getting the message, especially when it comes to trying to win the race to steal the first four moves. One is trying to teach Art Broke and one is absorbing pirates.

“He gives us a lot of tips,” Bae said before Sunday’s game. “He knows what we have to do. We just follow it.”

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Brock says the biggest rule of thumb for getting a good jump is to avoid placing any rigid rules on runners.

“It depends on each runner. It’s like killing. There are no absolutes when it comes to hitting. Everyone stands differently. “It’s best for him where he can get his left foot over his right foot and keep it as low to the ground as possible and get going from that point of view,” Brock said Thursday ahead of the start of the Reds’ sweep of the Pirates.

Similarly, Brock says that if the Pirates are going to steal a base, he doesn’t want them to read the pitcher’s delivery, get married to the pitch clock, or lock in any one aspect of committing to stealing just because of a pitcher. . Has been thrown on base twice.

Also, he wants the Pirates to show good manners in the process.

“Base stealing is like being a gentleman,” Brock said. “If they give it to you on time, you take it on time. If they give it to you on order, you take it on order. If they give it to you on movement, you can take it on movement.

be a gentleman While stealing Aadhaar?

Good day, sir! I’ll take this 90 feet away from you. Many thanks and regards. Please convey my best wishes to all your relatives.

Bae leads the Pirates with five steals. He is followed by veteran Andrew McCutchen with three. McCutchen hasn’t had a season with more than eight steals since 2018. He says Brock’s influence goes beyond just technology.

“He understands the strategies, understands what the pitchers are doing. Giving the hitter a chance to see pitches. A lot has to do with it. The information we can get on a pitcher, his pick-offs, moves at the plate,” McCutchen said.

McCutchen said another trick Brock has drilled into Pirates runners is that he uses the new MLB rules to their advantage, whether it’s using the pitch clock as a timing aid or manipulating the disengagement and pick-off attempts allotted by pitchers. To do – which is. Now two per batter.

“Trying to get (home) to pick off early maybe, so you can have a little more leeway to get to the next base,” McCutchen said.

Under the new rules, if a pitcher decides to throw to base a third time during an at-bat, he must put out the runner. Otherwise, the runner is given a forward base. That’s why Brock wants his base runners to bait out pitchers early when they can.

“You get more leads. I know he’s not going to pick a third time,” Bae said with a disapproving laugh.

And then you’re leaving, Ji Hwan?

“Oh yeah,” he said with a little smile.

Perhaps not politely. But effective.

The Pirates are ranked first in most aspects of their game so far in 2023.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at or via Twitter. All tweets can be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless otherwise specified.

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