Sunday, February 19, 2006

Where Triples Go To Die...

Chief among my sporting peeves is the sort of player that compresses a triple into a double. The dog. The gifted athlete that is all fuss and no muss. When Ricky Henderson played for the Yankees a group of us traded in our outfield seats for ones closer to where the real action was going to be. Ricky could steal a base at will. He knew it, his team mates knew it, and the other team knew it. What WE soon came to know was the fact that balls that were sure doubles for a man of his speed became singles, and triples trotted themselves safely to secondbase to casually await the outfielders hurried throw to third. Can't steal a base if you're already standing on it, and one base at a time is the far more leisurely way to go about one's business.

Now Rickey is the new baserunning coach for the Mets. The one man who should NEVER even be permitted to remark to a young player ANYTHING about teaching them. Phil Mushnick of the Post agrees:

New York Post Online Edition: sports

"Rickey Henderson has been hired by the Mets to school young players in base running. But Henderson was a great base-stealer, never a great base-runner, not even close.

Out of the batter's box, Henderson, a frequent home-plate poser, rarely seemed interested in reaching a base that he could steal. Consider that while his game was speed, power and longevity (25 seasons), he only had 66 triples in 10,961 at bats.

To grasp how incredibly few 66 is, consider that among career triple leaders, none in the Top 100 had fewer than 118. Roberto Clemente, in 9,454 at bats, had 166 triples. Joe DiMaggio, in only 6,821 ABs, had 131. Vada Pinson had 127 in 9,645. Heck, even lumbering Ralph Kiner, in a mere 5,205 ABs, had 39 triples.

Maury Wills, base-stealing king in the 1960s, had 71 triples in 7,588 ABs. For crying out loud, Wills had five more triples than Henderson in 3,373 fewer at bats.

Last year, Jose Reyes had 17 triples. Henderson never had more than seven in any season. What's Henderson going to do, teach the Mets to turn triples into doubles or doubles into singles?"


Anonymous said...

I think the good folks at New York Post are wrong about this.

Ricky Henderson would be an excellement choice to coach base running beause of the steal. That he didn't hit many triples doesn't surprise me.

Triples are incredible difficult to make and often there is a third element outside of htting and running, such as misplacent of the field by the manager, or a ball that bounces funny, that leads to a triple.

Henderson likely didn't make triples precisely because of his base stealing. When he played for Billay Martin, Martin likely told to just get on base, and then there is the way the opposing fielding is setup as well as plans by the opposing manager, such as make a cut off throw at third instead of second, to prevent the possibility of Henderson getting to third.

Fits said...

Yes, there WAS the Martin factor to consider, but Rickey's stay in NY was punctuated by constant references to his laziness. We turned in our good seats to watch him run...not after the ball in the outfield because that was embarassing to look at, and were at first content with his base stealing abilities. Being at the game we got to see him pull up on the way to second and stand there as the outfielders chased down the ball. We were stunned. Maybe he's hurt? Maybe Billy doesn't want him going flat-out?

Happened so often we soon went from incredulous to pissed. Martin WOULD say that Ricky on the basepaths meant the pitcher, the catcher and the whole damned infield was screwed but sweet moses on a pogo.

Run when you CAN. That's all we asked. And don't get me started over the Swoon-Over-My-Hammy...

Anonymous said...

I didn't know that about Henderson.

I just thought that since the guy was generally a leadoff hitter, very few who bat at the top of the order are known as, nor do they want to be sluggers. They don't need to be.

In fact, managers often select their leadoff hitter not solely because of their batting average but their on base percentage. The fella with the best chance of getting on base and then doing something while there is generally the top pick as leadoff hitter, and that make sense.

Fits said...

Yep X2. Onbase percentage is usually the be-all, end-all regarding leadoff men, who really only get to lead off once a game for sure, and complimenting the rest of the order with the leadoff guy is probably as important as the leadoff guy himself.

It's going go be interesting to see how Johnny Damon does with the Yanks. His OBP last year was lower than several of the other Yanks in the lineup, but he's a good base runner with decent instincts.