Stolen bases, stolen bases, stolen bases. Did you hear that the Royals like to steal bases? Vroom. They get on, then they get over. They get on, then they get over. They're the future of baseball, according to Time. They're a completely new kind of baseball paradigm, and they ...
... stole about 30 more bases than the 2012 Giants did. About an extra six stolen bases every month in the regular season. About one or two a week. Do you remember watching the 2012 Giants and thinking, "Boy, this team is fast" or "Man, if they could steal about 30 more bases next year, they would be unstoppable"?
That's not to minimize the mark -- not only were the Royals the thievingest team in the league, but they stole at a very high percentage. And the raw numbers are still impressive. No team in San Francisco history has stolen more. Only the 1986 Giants came close. So the Royals' collective team speed is legitimate, and it stands out even more in an era without a lot of running teams.
However, here's the starting nine for the Royals tonight and through most of the World Series, presumably:
- Alcides Escobar
- Norichika Aoki
- Lorenzo Cain
- Eric Hosmer
- Billy Butler
- Alex Gordon
- Salvador Perez
- Omar Infante
- Mike Moustakas
I'm going to do my best to present comparable Giants players to these players, in terms of stolen base success only.
- Gregor Blanco, 2012
- Reggie Sanders, 2002
- Angel Pagan, 2012
- Miguel Tejada, 2011
- Bengie Molina, 2009
- Hunter Pence, 2014
- Buster Posey, 2014
- Edgar Renteria, 2009
- Pablo Sandoval, 2014
This is for perspective. If you built that team in a game of Strat-o-matic or What If? Sports, you wouldn't have done it with runrunrunrunrunrun in mind. It's a team with solid patches of above-average speed. It's not filled with burners, though. These aren't the '85 Cardinals. They aren't the '97 Cardinals. Speed is a strength for the starting lineup, but it's not an identity. The Giants have a solid defensive catcher against the run. It should be a fair fight.
With that settled, I'm going to go back to drinking mouthwash to dull the nerv ...
Well, there's more. Earlier this year, I wrote about Billy Hamilton and the Giants, and they might have been among the most annoyed words I typed in the regular season.
There was a point in this game where a recap like this was going to be about Billy Hamilton, because the Giants had absolutely no idea what to do with him. It's like they played on a rock in the middle of the Galapagos Islands, completely unaware that other people played baseball with stolen bases, and when they made their first road trip off the rock, it was absolute panic time.
No, wait, the Giants were like a horribly anxious fast-food manager trying to get ready for the regional manager's visit.
"He's coming in five minutes, people! Everyone, make sure their stations are clean OH GOD I BURNED MY HAND WITH THIS HOT OIL keep it together keep it together. Okay, we need to make sure this goes off smoothly because WHY IS THERE A FRY BASKET ON MY FOOT. THAT SHOULD NOT BE THERE. He's coming in five minutes, people!"
It's just Billy Hamilton, you morons. He's not a game-changer if you don't screw up everything within 50 feet of him.
And throughout the season, Dee Gordon was absolutely obnoxious against the Giants, stealing 10 bases against them without getting caught. The Giants aren't an awful team against the run, but they have problem with the quickest of the quick. They look silly against such players. The elite runners tend to run unfettered through the meadows against the Giants, possibly on account of them being elite.
The Royals have at least one of those, possibly two, on the bench. Jarrod Dyson generally comes in the game late as a Norichika Aoki replacement -- a luxury that's nice to have. He stole 36 bases in 43 attempts, despite getting just 290 plate appearances on the season. He's an annoying runner in the mold of Gordon, if not Hamilton.
Which brings us to Terrance Gore, who is a mutant. A speedy little mutant skittering up your walls and hiding your car keys. And Ned Yost can put him in ... whichever ... spot ... he ... chooses. If Billy Butler singles in the ninth. If Mike Moustakas singles in the 11th. In comes Gore. Things get intense at that point. I don't trust the Giants to handle it well.
The Royals' team speed is both overhyped and underrated. I'm not going to spend most of the first seven innings worrying about Vince Coleman clones. When it gets to the later innings, though, I'm terrified. The best way to fight this weapon is to prevent the runners from getting on base.
Have you thought about that, Giants? Have you thought about not allowing runners at all, especially in the late innings? Well, think harder about it. The Royals have speed in the lineup, but nothing more than, say, the Phillies. It's not like we spent the days leading up to the Phillies series worrying about Ben Revere and Jimmy Rollins. Once Yost gets to deploy his mutant army of speedsters, though, everything can change, and quickly. That's one of my big Series worries.
Hopefully, Buster Posey ain't havin' it. None of us are especially into havin' it, truth be told.