The story behind how Jason Bay started stealing bases
|09.24.09 at 1:23 pm ET|
When analyzing Jason Bay’s game, baserunning usually falls way down the list of things that might help define the outfielder’s major league existence. But considering his base-stealing success, it shouldn’t be pushed to the back burner.
It’s not how many bases Bay steals — 13 this season and 66 for his career — but how successful he has been when he attempts to swipe a bag.
Since the beginning of the 2005 season, Bay has the best success rate when it comes to stealing bases of any player in the major leagues, having stolen 59 bases while only getting caught seven times (89.4 percent). This year he has been caught just three times in 16 tries.
But what is just as amazing is how Bay got his start in stealing these bases. It’s a story his former baserunning coach in Pittsburgh, Rusty Kuntz, loves to tell:
“It probably took him almost two seasons to give him the green light,” remembered Kuntz, who is now the Kansas City first base coach. “Jason isn’t in that burner category, so he uses what he sees to get his feet going. He had enough speed to be able to steal, so I kept telling Mac [then-Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon] that when we were doing drills this guy was off the chart in terms of his jumps. He’s reacting to it so much quicker than anybody else. I asked him to please give the green light and just see what he could do.
“We weren’t doing very well at the All-Star break, so finally I walked in and talked to Jason about it and he said he would love a green light. So I walked into Mac and said, ‘Can we just see what happens giving Jason Bay a green light?’ Mac says, ‘I’ll tell you what, he can have the green light until he’s thrown out.’ I told him that was a good deal for me. So I went back to Jason and said, ‘OK, we’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that Mac gave us the green light, so you can go any time you want. The bad news is that as soon as you get thrown out, that green light goes to red really quick.’ He said, ‘OK, I’ll take it whatever it is.’
“Well, he goes off and sets the record for most times without getting caught. By about the 20th base in a row Mac walked over to me and said, ‘Hey, remember I told you if he gets thrown out he’s got no more green light? Well, that’s off. Tell him to keep running because he knows what he’s doing.’ He just took off from there, and every once in a while he’ll text me back and say, ‘Hey, I got another one.’ He’s an above-average runner, but he doesn’t have that burning speed. He just picks his spots and he can read the key as good as anybody I’ve ever had. That’s the key for him, he sees it and those feet start moving.”
The record Bay tied was that for most consecutive stolen bases in a season without getting caught, going 21-for-21 to begin the ’05 season before being nabbed by Milwaukee’s Damian Miller on the third-to-last game of the season.
The ’05 season, however, clearly set a tone, as Bay went on to steal 11 bases in 13 tries the next year. He went 4-for-5 in ’07 and a perfect 10-for-10 last season.
“He’s an intelligent guy. He’s got the instincts,” Kuntz said. “He’s got all the ingredients you need as a player. I just gave him the information as far as what I’ve used in the past, in terms of looking for keys and different counts. I just gave him the information, and him being an intelligent guy he just took off with it. He was like a Rolodex in terms of taking in all the information. He got up to speed in about a month for what takes another player a year to get that.”
- Gary DiSarcina named Baseball America Minor League Manager of the Year
- Red Sox non-tender Ryan Kalish, Andrew Bailey
- Fall/Winter League Roundup: Jesus Loya solid at the plate in Mexico
- Help Wanted: Staff Editor, Scouts
- SoxProspects.com Podcast #48: The Slow Season
- Fall/Winter League Roundup: Attention shifts to Caribbean, Jerez shining in Venezuela
- Luis Ortega traded to Brewers for reliever Burke Badenhop
- Red Sox re-sign infielder Brandon Snyder
- Cecchini, Ranaudo, Brentz added to 40-man roster
- Red Sox 40-man roster additions expected