Brian Roberts may have lost a step in the field. He may not be hitting well this season from either side of the plate. The Yankees might better off giving more of his ABs to Kelly Johnson or Yangervis Solarte. However, he can still run the bases. On a night when the Yankees needed a spark, Roberts provided one. He had a great steal of third base in the ninth inning, setting himself up as the game tying run when Jacoby Ellsbury drove him in. Then he made a terrific sprint from first to third on a Solarate single to set himself up as the winning run. He ended up being stranded at third base. In the thirteenth, in the second rundown of the night with a man on third, Roberts ended up getting out of the pickle with a heads up dive into second base.
Good baserunning can be the difference being scoring a run or not scoring a run. It can be the difference between winning and losing. Bad baserunning can kill a rally quicker than an Aroldis Chapman fastball. In a pitching era, where runs and baserunners are at a premium, losing a runner to a pickoff or an ill-advised attempt to take an extra base can be demoralizing to a team. Likewise, the success of taking an extra base on a hit or a stolen base can energize and spark a rally. It would seem that the risk/reward of baserunning speaks for itself. If a player is called out, it was bad baserunning. If he was safe, then it was good baserunning. But that is a simple oversimplification of the art of baserunning. Good baserunners don’t just know how good an outfielder’s arm is, but they also know how good the cut off man’s arm is and the likelihood of the outfielder hitting the cutoff man.
Usually in order to get a good baserunner out, it takes a perfect play by the defense. Even in the major leagues, perfect plays are rare. There are too many moving parts. Take a runner stealing second. In order for the defense to catch him, the pitcher has to pitch the ball. Then the catcher must first catch the pitch which can be a 95 MPH fastball or a slider diving away or a splitter in the dirt. Once caught the catcher must then turn and fire the ball toward second base. The infielder covering second must then catch the base and apply the tag to the would be base stealer before he hits the bag. Everything has to go right for the defense to do all that in less time than it takes the baserunner to sprint 90 feet. The defense gets plenty of imperfect plays to get bad baserunners out throughout the majors, but getting a perfect play to get out a good baserunner is much rarer. And ladies and gentlemen, those are your Bomber Bites for Saturday, May 3rd!