Thursday, October 22, 2009

On The Bases

Two of the most critical plays in the Division Series against Minnesota were base running mistakes: Carlos Gomez tripping rounding second base with two outs in the fourth inning of Game Two, and his subsequent failure to get himself caught in a rundown long enough to allow Delmon Young to score may have cost the Twins that game. In Game Three, down by a run with no one out in the eighth, Nick Punto got a little too aggressive rounding third base, and Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Alex Rodriguez combined to pluck the potential tying run right out of scoring position.

In Game Three of the ALCS, the Angels made a pair of base running mistakes of their own. Torii Hunter was erased on a pickoff/caught stealing while trailing 2-0 in the fourth. With the score tied in the eighth, Bobby Abreu erased his own leadoff double by getting nabbed retreating to second base after an overly aggressive turn.

While the Twins and Angels are heralded for "doing the little things right" these base running mistakes (not to mention the Angels' play in the field) have flown in the face of that. The Yankees had been relatively immune to such mistakes on the base paths until Game Four:
- Derek Jeter got picked off/caught stealing after a single to leadoff the game.

- In the fifth, Jorge Posada was on second base with no one out, and failed to score on double from Robinson Cano, victimized by a deke from Hunter in centerfield.

- The next at bat, Posada broke for home on Nick Swisher's tapper back to the mound. I don't know that I can fault Posada for breaking for home. Perhaps the contact play was on. The Yankees scored their first run of the game on a similarly aggressive move from A-Rod in the fourth. But the comedy of (baserunning) errors began thereafter.

Posada, knowing he was a goner at the plate, rightly froze and got caught in a rundown to allow the other runners time to advance. As Posada reatreated to third, he and Cano converged on the bag. For some reason, Cano hesitated and it took a terrible call from third base umpire Tim McClelland to keep the Yankees from losing two outs on the play. While Cano should have already been on the bag, he may have been crossed up by Posada continuing to retreat. Once Posada was sure Cano was at the base safely he should have given himself up. Meanwhile, Swisher failed to advance to second while all this was happening.

- As discussed earlier today, in the seventh Brett Gardner was caught stealing as a pinch runner for the second consecutive day, though this one wasn't nearly as costly as his CS in Game Three.
In the end, none of the Yankees' mistakes on the bases Tuesday proved to be too costly. They've subsisted this post-season largely on the strength of their pitching and on the long ball. But, as we've mentioned here a few times already, they've also had several breaks go their way. These little things matter. Giving outs away on the bases can prove very costly (just ask the Twins) and can make a team "unlucky" awfully quick. Here's hoping that Tuesday's poor base running was the first and last we'll see from them this month.

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