The Chicago Cubs a running team? Who knew
When the Chicago Cubs signed Joe Maddon on to be the new manager for the team, it was expected that there were going to be some changes to the philosophy. The team would use more defensive shifts, situational hitting, and an increase in stolen bases. I doubt anyone thought the Cubs would at any point in the season lead the league in stolen bases.
After the first 20 games of the season, they lead the National League in stolen bases with 25, only three behind the major league leading Houston Astros. The 25 swipes are only 40 less than the 65 they had in the entire 2014 season.
The last time they led the National League in steals was in 1939 when they stole 61. Of course there were only 124 games in a season and eight teams in the National League.
The more shocking fact is who is leading the Cubs in steals this season. Dexter Fowler and Anthony Rizzo are tied with the team lead with six each. Both are also tied for fourth place in the NL individual lead behind league leader Billy Hamilton with 13.
Fowler isn’t a surprise to be on top for the Cubs, but Rizzo is a shocker. Rizzo is not blessed with exceptional speed, but he picks his spots and he’s smart. He has already tied his career high of six steals that he set in 2013.
Vince Coleman, considered one of the best runners of his era with 752 steals in his 13 year career, talked to MLB.com‘s Brian McTaggart when he was brought in by the Astros to work with the team on base running. Coleman said, “Everyone can’t be fast, but it takes knowledge of what you look for,” Coleman said. “It takes exceptional knowledge, exceptional studying of the craft. You can’t be intimidated or have fear. You have to have confidence, which is a key component to being successful.”
The Cubs have several players who have the ability to swipe bases; Jorge Soler, Chris Coghlan, and Addison Russell come to mind, so it shouldn’t be as shocking that the Cubs are at the top of the National League and near the top in all of baseball in stolen bases.
Maddon is a smart manager, he’s going to make sure his team plays smart. They will be prepared for every aspect of the game. Knowing the pitchers, the defense, and the positioning will help even the average runner be a little better at running.
"“People ask, ‘How do you steal all those bases?’” he said. “But they never say, ‘What do you do to get on base?’ The first thing is, can you get on base a lot to give you the opportunity to steal so many bases? That’s what the guys are not doing. They’re not finding a way to get on the basepaths” Rickey Henderson – Ted Berg, ftw.usatoday.com"
The real reason for all of the success the Cubs are having at stealing is that they are getting on base early and often. If they can continue to draw walks and find ways to get on base, they’ll continue this trend they are on.