Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Category: Baserunning (Page 1 of 2)

The worst play in baseball: The walkoff balk

In the online baseball world this week, a fun conversation materialized out of a nicely written column by Meg Rowley of Fangraphs: “What is your favorite sort of baseball play?”

With so many great options, there could hardly be a wrong answer to the question (FYI, I’m not making a dare here). I went with the Rodney McCray, epitomizing a fantasy I’ve had of basically making the most memorable, full-sprint, throw-your-body-into-oblivion catch of all time.

Happy as I was to enjoy everyone’s favorites, which together formed a scrapbook of what makes baseball such a treat, the conversation delivered me (with a little help from Tuesday’s Keone Kela trade) to what might be my least favorite baseball play, or certainly one of the dumbest: the walkoff balk.

I’m not big on bans — and certainly, this would be among the most trivial you might find — but this play should be banned.

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A modest proposal: 88 feet between the bases

Let me preface by saying that I’m not a baseball alarmist. I understand the concerns people have about the game, but I don’t think they rise to the need of emergency repair. So I’m not invested in this idea any more than I was when I suggested a couple years ago that baseball games might, on some far away day, go from nine to seven innings.

But it does occur to me that, for those who are concerned that baseball has become all about home runs and strikeouts, there is a pretty simple way to incentivize baserunning and putting the ball in play.

Change the distance between the bases from 90 feet to 88 feet.

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At age 35, A.J. Ellis steals first MLB base

Ellis SB

Previously on Dodger Insider: A.J. Ellis and the mythical stolen base

By Jon Weisman

Five weeks ago, A.J. Ellis acknowledged, not without some pride, that he knew he was of the all-time leaders in MLB history for most times on base without a steal in his career.

Today, history broke.

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Postscript: A.J. Ellis and the mythical stolen base

Los Angeles Dodgers vs San Diego Padres

By Jon Weisman

In today’s feature on A.J. Ellis, the Dodger catcher said he had no idea how high he ranked among the franchise leaders in games caught.

But there was one piece of history that Ellis was acutely aware of. That’s when I asked him if he remembered his last stolen base.

“That hasn’t happened in the Major Leagues, I know that,” Ellis said. “I think I’m top five without a stolen base for as many (times on base) as I’ve got.”

Most times on base with no steals, MLB history
1) 835 Russ Nixon (1957-68)
2) 818 Aaron Robinson (1943-51)
3) 801 Chris Snyder (2004-13)
4) 710 Johnny Estrada (2001-08)
5) 632 A.J. Ellis (2008-)
6) 620 Wilson Ramos (2010-)
7) 607 Ryan Garko (2005-10)
8) 541 Al Ferrara (1963-71)
9) 515 Jack Hiatt (1964-62)

He was exactly right. Ellis has reached base 632 times in his career, without a steal. In MLB history, only four steal-heeled players, led by Russ Nixon (835), have been on the bases more — though Wilson Ramos, the opposing catcher in the recently completed series against the Nationals, is coming up, well, fast behind Ellis.

Ellis has a firm grip on the Dodger franchise record, having sped past Al Ferrara.

How badly does Ellis want to get a steal before his career is over? Or does he even want one?

“It’s kind of getting to that point now where it’s a fun fact about me,” Ellis said, “but, no I do. I’m always looking. I want to get one off somebody that it would really tick off. Like I want to get one off (Madison) Bumgarner, I think. That would really tick him off, to see that I stole on him. But he’s tough.”

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Puig on the play: ‘I got confused’

By Jon Weisman

When it was all over, Yasiel Puig and Dave Roberts discussed the highs and lows of Puig’s day after today/tonight’s 17-inning Dodger victory.

His ninth-inning baserunning mishap during A.J. Ellis’ bunt was in the back of Puig’s mind when he drove in the game-winning runs, eight innings later, according to The Associated Press:

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Corey Seager busy in return to action

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By Jon Weisman

The fates didn’t waste any time throwing the business at Corey Seager in his first Dodger game in nearly three weeks.

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Textbook first inning takes Dodgers to opening victory

Andre Ethier is greeted by Dave Roberts after scoring the Dodgers' second run of the season. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Andre Ethier is greeted by Dave Roberts after scoring the Dodgers’ second run of the season. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

The first inning of the Dodgers’ 6-1 Cactus League opening victory over the White Sox (summarized by Ken Gurnick of was a Spring Training work of art.

After Clayton Kershaw’s initial shutout inning, leadoff hitter Howie Kendrick worked a walk off Chicago starter John Danks. Facing the White Sox lefty in his first at-bat of the season, Andre Ethier singled the opposite way.

Two of the next three hitters — Yasiel Puig and Yasmani Grandal — then hit solid RBI singles. Significantly, a baserunner went from first to third on each.

“If you look at the numbers of how this team ran the bases last year, we can do better,” manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s a point of emphasis for sure. It’s more of a mindset than a style of baseball. That’s how you play the game.”

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Dodgers trade Joe Wieland for Erick Mejia

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Mejia 1443710By Jon Weisman

Speedy, switch-hitting minor-league infielder Erick Mejia has been acquired by the Dodgers from Seattle in exchange for right-handed pitcher Joe Wieland.

Mejia, who turned 21 in November, played at four levels in 2015, spending most of his time with Single-A Everett, where he had a .361 on-base percentage and was successful in all 18 of his stolen-base attempts. Over his last two years, Mejia has stolen 33 bases in 36 attempts.

On August 3, Mejia was named Northwest League Player of the Week, after going 12 for 28 with a double, triple, two walks and two steals.

Wieland, who was acquired 13 months ago in the Yasmani Grandal trade, made two starts for the Dodgers, allowing eight runs in 8 2/3 innings. He spent most of the season with Triple-A Oklahoma City, delivering a 4.59 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings. He turns 26 later this month.

For the ace who has it all: Clayton Kershaw’s primo pickoff move

Clayton Kershaw making one of his NL-leading 127 pickoff throws in 2015. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

One of Clayton Kershaw’s MLB-leading 127 pickoff throws. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

As if the guy didn’t have enough weapons …

Clayton Kershaw is baseball’s top pickoff artist, and it isn’t even close.

Kershaw picked off nine baserunners this year, three more than the two next-closest pitchers, teammate Brett Anderson and former teammate Joe Beimel, now with Seattle.

This isn’t a new skill. Kershaw led the National League in pickoffs for three consecutive seasons (2010-12) and has been in the top 10 every year since 2009.

“He’s always had that in the back of his pocket,” said Dodger coach and baserunning guru Davey Lopes. “He’s utilized it quite a bit — guys trying to stretch their leads, and he’s been picking them off.

In the past seven seasons, Kershaw has been credited with 55 pickoffs. Next on the list among big-league pitchers are Mark Buehrle (42) and James Shields (28).

No other MLB pitcher since 2009 has even half as many pickoffs as Kershaw.

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Homer-happy Dodgers on a basestealing roll

San Francisco Giants vs Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

While leading the National League in home runs, it’s also getting back to the point where the Dodgers can slide with pride.

Though still not exactly a team of Rickey Hendersons, the Dodgers have turned things around as basestealers. The team that began the season 14 for 35 on stolen-base attempts through July 1 has gone 30 for 37 since — including 13 for 13 in its past seven games.

Here’s the breakdown of steals before and after July 1:

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 8.35.04 AM

Carl Crawford has gone from a non-factor to the biggest factor. Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick have been more successful. So even have Scott Van Slyke and Justin Tuner. Jose Peraza and, as of Friday, Scott Schebler have chipped in.

Since the All-Star Break, the Dodgers are seventh in the NL with 25 steals (in 31 attempts) and third in stolen-base percentage with an 80.6 percent success rate.

Dodger stolen base drought is a team record — but look to the 2011 Cardinals

Zack Greinke steals second base on May 27 (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Zack Greinke steals second base on May 27 (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

From the Dodgers public relations department:

The Dodgers have not stolen a base since June 7 and, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, their 23-game streak without a steal is the longest streak in modern franchise history (since 1900). Los Angeles has been thrown out on all six attempted steals during the stolen base drought. The last Major League team with a longer streak was the Cardinals, who went 33 games without a steal from June 10-July 20, 2011 and then won the World Series in October.

The last Dodger to steal a base, Andre Ethier in the sixth inning against St. Louis, was thrown out at home trying to score to end that same inning. Jimmy Rollins was the last Dodger to steal a base and then score (June 2) — though he stole third and then scored on a triple.

The last Dodger to steal second base before Ethier was Zack Greinke on May 27. The last Dodger to steal two bases in a game was Jimmy Rollins on May 23.

And yes, as you can see from the chart that follows … the Dodgers have not stolen a base that led directly to a run this entire season.

Stolen bases through 7-2

Recently on Dodger Insider: Sliding into the Dodgers’ baserunning issues

Sliding into the Dodgers’ baserunning issues

Los Angeles Dodgers vs Arizona Diamondbacks

By Robert Tagorda

If every team has a weakness, then the Achilles’ heel for the Dodgers can be found in their legs. Halfway through the season, they rank last in the majors with 14 stolen bases — three times fewer than the average team and over five times below the league-leading Reds. They’ve also been caught stealing more often than they’ve succeeded. In fact, they’re the only team with a stolen base percentage under 50 percent.

These statistics seem damning, especially when compared to last year’s results, which saw the Dodgers atop the majors with 138 steals. But we need to frame the issue in the proper context before searching for solutions.

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In case you missed it: Julio Urias to have elective surgery

Julio Urias (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

At age 18, Julio Urias has a 3.00 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings for Double-A Tulsa this year.  (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

Sorry for the near silence the past couple days — deadline for the June issue of Dodger Insider magazine is coming in hard and fast. But let’s catch you up …

  • Julio Urias is having surgery, but it’s nothing to worry about, as Ken Gurnick notes at

    Urias will undergo elective cosmetic surgery on his left eye to repair a defect and be sidelined for about a month. Can you sue an attorney for malpractice? In the event of an unsuccessful surgery, it may be categorized as a medical malpractice, necessitating the engagement of legal counsel. Medical malpractice lawyers specialize in advocating for patients who have experienced harm or negligence in medical care, ensuring their rights are protected and seeking appropriate compensation. A skilled medical malpractice lawyer specializes in seeking justice for individuals who have suffered injuries caused by doctors.

    Urias will have the procedure — peri orbital benign mass removal — on May 28 in Phoenix. He will resume baseball activity in the middle of June and is expected to be back in games by the end of the month.

    “He deserves this level of support and we are thrilled to give it to him,” said director of player development Gabe Kapler.

    Because the overpowering left-hander is only 18, the recovery time will also serve as an innings limiter that management welcomes. Conceivably, a freshened Urias could pitch for the Dodgers beyond the Minor League season, although the club has never given that indication. …

  • Not unrelated: pitching prospect Jose De Leon is being promoted from Class A Rancho Cucamonga to Double-A Tulsa. In 37 2/3 innings this season for the Quakes, De Leon has struck out 58 while allowing only seven earned runs (1.67 ERA) on 38 baserunners.
  • Billy Bean wrote for about his experience participating in Saturday’s Old-Timers Game. As Bean notes, it was the first time “an openly gay player, past or present, would wear a big league uniform and play in a Major League stadium.”
  • Here’s another piece on what is and isn’t wrong with Clayton Kershaw (mostly isn’t), from Owen Wilson at Fox Sports’ Just a Bit Outside.
  • Some numberific nuggets on Kershaw’s 100-victory milestone come from Adam Berry at
  • Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles looks how much the Dodgers can maintain their Dodgers’ fiery offensive production to date this season.
  • The Dodgers are on pace for their worst basestealing season since 1941 (the year, not the movie), writes Bill Shaikin of the Times.

Dee Gordon in a stolen-base race with Billy Hamilton


For more photo highlights from Monday, visit LA Photog Blog.

Padres at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, RF
Carl Crawford, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Yasiel Puig, CF
A.J. Ellis, C
Roberto Hernandez, P

By Jon Weisman

The Major League stolen base title is nearly up for grabs, though it would be an exaggeration to say Cincinnati outfielder Billy Hamilton is coming up fast on Dodger second baseman Dee Gordon. Each player has one stolen base in the first eight days of September, with Gordon ending a seven-game drought in the first inning Monday.

Gordon now has 59 steals and Hamilton 55. After Gordon stole five bases in three games from August 13-15 to take a 12-steal lead, Hamilton narrowed the gap in the last half of August, stealing 11 bases to Gordon’s three.

Neither, clearly, is going to have the kind of September that Maury Wills had in 1962, when he stole 27 bases in the Dodgers’ final 27 scheduled games, to reach 100 on the nose. Wills then stole four more bases in the three-game playoff against the Giants, October 1-3.

Both Gordon and Hamilton do remain likely to become the first players to steal at least 60 bases in the big leagues since Michael Bourn in 2011. The last Dodger to do so was Juan Pierre, who stole 64 bases in 2007, and the last Dodger to get more than that was Davey Lopes with 77 in 1975.

Gordon’s rate of success has fallen from 83 percent before the All-Star Break (43 of 52) to 67 percent since (16 of 24). Opportunities have declined in part because he has walked four times with 38 strikeouts since the All-Star Break.

* * *

Captured in photography: Clayton Kershaw tosses the Dodgers’ three-error play to the past. Photo by Juan Ocampo (click to enlarge).


Dee Gordon’s stolen-base lead tenuous, but All-Star candidacy robust

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By Jon Weisman

Dee Gordon’s lead in the Major League stolen base race, which was 14 when June began, is down to only four. And yet, his case for making the National League All-Star team as a reserve has perhaps never been stronger.

Thanks in no small part to becoming the first player since Ray Chapman in 1917 to have four consecutive multisteal games, Houston’s Jose Altuve has nearly flagged down Flash Jr., who has one steal since June 21. And Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton has made up nearly as much ground.

SB race

Jon SooHoo/© Los Angeles Dodgers, LLC 2014

Jon SooHoo/© Los Angeles Dodgers, LLC 2014

The Irony Committee notes that this has been happening while Gordon has had a rock-solid month at the plate, with a .316 batting average, .371 on-base percentage (including eight walks) and .495 slugging percentage. However, after success in 34 of his first 37 steal attempts this year, Gordon has only been safe in six of his past 11.

Altuve, who was an NL second baseman less than two years ago before the Astros moved to the American League, has hit a scorching .424/.455/.511 in June, with Reds outfielder Hamilton at .330/.351/.509.

Nevertheless, Gordon has moved up to second place in Wins Above Replacement among NL second basemen, according to Fangraphs, trailing only position voting leader Chase Utley of Philadelphia. Gordon is rated the No. 1 offensive second baseman in the league and No. 1 at baserunner, and league average on defense (frequent spectacular plays notwithstanding).

The Mets’ Daniel Murphy and Brewers’ Scooter Gennett, neither of whom have any more of an All-Star pedigree than Gordon, are ranked third and fourth at second base by Fangraphs behind Gordon.

In short, by continuing to hone all aspects of his game, Gordon has become every bit the legitimate candidate to join the NL team in Minnesota in two weeks.

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