Editor's Note: This is part of a series of entries about elements of the game that the Texas Rangers hope to improve upon heading into 2013. And since it's now 2013, we call them our Rangers Resolutions.
Today's resolution: Run the bases better
In 2010, when the Rangers won their first playoff series and made the franchise's first World Series appearance, they had begun to embrace the versatile offense that manager Ron Washington envisioned when he first arrived prior to the 2007 season. They didn't hesitate to take an extra base, prided themselves on being aggressive in moving up a bag on balls in the dirt and racing from first to third with regularity. Texas built upon that in 2011, going back to the World Series with a combination of speed and power.
But the Rangers weren't able to run the bases with the same abandon in 2012. Much of that was due to the fact that opponents did everything they could to slow down Texas on the bases. Pitchers threw over to first -- or at least made it clear they were paying attention. Outfielders were even more aware of the Rangers' desire to take extra bases.
Texas made mistakes on the bases, too. The Rangers were tied for the AL-lead in caught stealing, which would be OK if they stole a bunch of bases, too. But the Rangers were second-to-last in stolen base percentage (67.4 percent) in 2012 and third-to-last in stolen bases (91).
The club's success rate at stealing bases was its lowest since 2004 (65.7 percent) and the 91 stolen bases were the fewest for the Rangers since 2008 (81). In 2011, Texas had 143 stolen bases (fourth most in the league) and a 76.1 percent success rate at stealing those bases (third). They had 123 stolen bases in 2010 (fifth) with a 71.9 percent success rate (ninth).
So getting those percentages back up is a focus for this season. Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler, the two primary base-stealers for the Rangers, weren't able to swipe as many in 2012. Kinsler had 21 stolen bases, one year after he stole 30. Andrus also had 21, a drop of 16 from the previous season. In fact, it was the first time in Andrus' four-year career he hadn't stole at least 32.
As for taking an extra base on a hit, the Rangers still do it at a pretty high rate, but not as high as they were in the previous two seasons. As you can see by this chart here, put together by Mark Simon at ESPN Stats & Information, the Rangers didn't do it quite as often in 2012 as they did in 2011 or 2010:
Percent of time taking extra base on a hit (ie: going 1st to 3rd, 2nd to home, 1st to home)
2012 -- 40%
2011 -- 44%
2010 -- 42%
Washington recognized baserunning as an issue for his club in 2012 and besides making it a focus at spring training, has moved first base coach Gary Pettis to third base. Pettis is the club's baserunning coach and Washington feels moving him to third will allow the club to take even more advantage of that expertise.
"The name of the game is scoring runs. I think because of his baserunning prowess when he was a player, I think he’ll be able to react a lot more quickly with the ball is in the outfield," Washington said in early November, when he announced the change. "He’ll be able to take more chances and be able to tell if a runner can make it."
This is a club that loves to run the bases and put pressure on the opponent (heck, you even get a "Dirt Ball" T-shirt if you swipe a bag on a ball in the dirt). They have players that could begin to make more of a mark in that area, like Jurickson Profar (16 stolen bases in 126 games for Double-A Frisco last year) and even A.J. Pierzynski, someone that ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine says is a very smart runner who takes the extra base well despite not having great speed.
Expect the club to put an emphasis on this in spring training.