The 1986 Giants were notable for not following a 100-loss 1985 team with 100 losses of their own and for assembling a young team that would energize a new generation of fans (it me).
Robby Thompson debuted this season along with Will Clark, but it was Thompson who left an infamous mark. On this date in 1986, he was caught stealing 4 times in a 12-inning game against the Reds in Cincinnati. Pretty disastrous, but per Baseball Reference’s box score, the only one that really hurt was his caught stealing in the top of the 9th, which dropped the Giants’ win probability by 14%, making it only the 5th-biggest play of the game.
You might jump to the conclusion that all of these were the result of non-statistical 1980s gut baserunning combined with rookie exuberance, but according to the Chronicle’s... chronicle... of the game, all 3 of the 4 came on busted hit and runs (including one in the 9th inning!). Jeffrey Leonard, who had been slumping terribly, couldn’t make contact. Yes, all three times. And then John Franco picked off Thompson in the 11th.
So, it’s Roger Craig’s fault. Or, at least it reflects the different management style of the era. We’ll see Bruce Bochy try a hit and run once or possibly twice in a game, but I can’t imagine a scenario where he’d ever try it a third time just to see if it would work. He’s stubborn, but not that stubborn.
The Giants regularly stole over 100 bases a year back in the eighties. They’re, of course, much less common now, because the risks outweigh the rewards. Guarding an offense’s 27 outs a bit more carefully has been a fantastic change in mindset this century. It’s even overpowered the obviously value of stealing bases. Still, if you’re wondering, the Giants managed to swipe 118 back in 2012 (thanks to Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco) and they nabbed 93 in 2015 (Nori Aoki, Blanco, Pagan, and Matt Duffy with over a dozen each), so it’s not a forgotten maneuver, it’s just far less common and depends on the talent available.
Thompson stole only 5 more bases in the 1986 season and was caught 6 times. I’m not going to look through all those box scores to see how many of them were the result of busted hit and runs, though. He ended 1986 12/27 in steals and was 91/138 over the remainder of his career for a 103/165 total. That 62.424% success rate makes him the 619th best base stealer of all-time, just ahead of Yadier Molina (59/93) and 10 spots below Gerardo Parra (83/132).
Yesterday, we marveled at Gorkys Hernandez hitting 10 home runs. Will a Giant steal 10 bases this season?