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Thefts are coming, White Sox claim

4/16/2014

CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox have not sworn off the stolen base in the early going, but with decent speed and the best on-base percentage in the American League, it seems as if they have not reached their full potential in that department.

A check of the early numbers showed the White Sox's nine steals were tied for third most in the American League before play Wednesday, while their 82 percent success rate was sixth best among AL teams that had tried at least four stolen-base attempts.

Yet despite an impressive .418 OBP, speedy leadoff man Adam Eaton has only one steal in two attempts. Even more amazing is that his successful steal was of third base, not second. Alexei Ramirez, Leury Garcia and Marcus Semien all have more steals than Eaton.

Manager Robin Ventura was asked if steal numbers are lower than expected because the productive offense hasn't needed that part of its game yet.

"Well, you give guys an opportunity to swing the bat if they're swinging it good," Ventura said. "And we're not going to steal certain guys that aren't really base-stealers. So the guys that can steal, they're going to get a chance to go ahead and go, but guys that aren't your natural base steals aren't going to be going."

None of that explains Eaton's surprisingly low numbers. He has been wreaking havoc in all other areas on the field, yet hasn't tormented opponents with the steal yet.

One idea is that he is still learning that part of the game. Eaton stole 106 bases in four minor-league seasons but was successful in only 76 percent of his attempts.

"You want to be better," Eaton said. "The big league [success] rates are like 80-percent plus. For the minor leagues it's alright. You'd like to see better in the minor leagues of course, but I feel that's how I learn. You have to fail to learn."

In defending his minor league stolen-base percentages that weren't as high as he would have liked, Eaton said there were outside factors at play. He was encouraged to try different base-stealing strategies to find the one that best suited him so experimentation took its toll.

Eaton and Ventura said the team's best base runners all have the green light to steal when they see fit, so maybe Eaton's low numbers have to do with him not finding a style that suit him best. But he promises to not abandon that part of the game.

"You know how I am, I think the game all the time," Eaton said. "I'm always trying to think of a way to disrupt things, delayed steals, whatever. Always looking for something, some type of edge to steal a base and get to the next base. You'll never see me, hopefully not, where I don't take the opportunity to take the extra base."