SAN DIEGO -- The Los Angeles Dodgers led the National League in stolen bases in 2014. Then they traded speedster Dee Gordon to the Miami Marlins and now they’re last in the majors in steals. It’s that simple, right?
Not quite. When the Dodgers were 9-for-20 in stolen-base attempts earlier this season, the new front office led by president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman asked for a little meeting with manager Don Mattingly and his staff and "suggested" the team go a bit easier on trying to steal bags. Typically, front offices with an analytics bent tend to discourage trying to steal bases, particularly if the success rate isn’t astronomically high.
The Dodgers are 14-for-30 in stolen-base attempts, the worst percentage in the majors. Mattingly said he is in agreement with Friedman and his group that stealing bases simply isn’t worth it in most cases given the team’s success rate.
The lack of a running game is a major departure from the Dodgers’ approach historically. Maury Wills changed the game in the 1960s with his game-changing speed and disruptiveness.
“I don’t think we’re a stolen base club,” Mattingly said.
Rookie Joc Pederson, the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter, stole 30 bases at Triple-A Albuquerque last season, but he has not adjusted to pitchers with slide steps and better moves to first base in the major leagues. He is 2-for-7 in stolen-base attempts this season. Mattingly said Pederson was caught while attempting to steal off Odrisamer Despaigne, a pitcher Mattingly said has a slow delivery time to the plate.
“It’s not so much that they’re against stolen base and I’m not against stolen bases, but you’re definitely against giving up outs,” Mattingly said. “If you’re not 80 to 85 percent, you shouldn’t be running, and we’re not 85 percent. I don’t think anybody on the team is 80 to 85 percent.”