Before every game, the Cincinnati Reds have a base stealers meeting. Reds base running coach Collin Cowgill breaks down the tendencies of every pitcher the Reds could face in that game, and they go over just about every situation that could come up.
How often do pitchers pick off to second base? How does their approach change with two strikes? How quick are pitchers’ deliveries to home plate?
The Reds go over every situation so they can identify their best chances to steal a base in every game. But when the Reds got swept by the Brewers after the All-Star break, the Reds’ base runners saw Milwaukee’s pitchers go away from their scouting report.The Brewers’ pitchers changed their entire game plan to contain the Reds’ running game.
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“Their pitchers were quicker to the plate,” Reds infielder Spencer Steer said. “They were paying attention to us at second and making it harder to steal bases. But we’re still looking to do it. We steal more bases than anyone. It’s definitely a part of our offense.”
The Reds face the Brewers again starting Monday at American Family Field in Milwaukee. The Reds only totaled 10 hits in the three-game series against the Brewers when Milwaukee swept them in the middle of July. When an offense is slumping, base running becomes even more important as a team looks to manufacture runs.
The Brewers prevented the Reds from taking many extra bases.
Usually, the Brewers’ starting pitchers take about 1.6 seconds with their motion out of the stretch. The longer a pitcher’s “time to the plate” is, the easier it is to steal off of him.
Against the Reds, Steer said the Brewers’ starting pitchers cut their times to the plate down to 1.3 seconds. The Brewers’ pitchers sped up their delivery to limit the impact of the Reds’ speed, and it worked. They also attempted pick offs more regularly. The Reds, who average over a stolen base per game this year, only stole one base over that entire three-game series.
The Reds entered the series against the Brewers prepared to take advantage of opportunities on the bases. But the Brewers used an approach that caught the Reds by surprise.
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“Our team is seeing,” Reds manager David Bell said, “That just because a team doesn’t, say, pick to second base a lot or do a lot of inside (pickoff) moves, or even though they’ve come into series with us and haven’t done that a lot, they do it a lot for us.”
This season, the Reds have been the fastest team in baseball. According to MLB.com’s Mike Petriello, the Reds have an average sprint speed of 28 feet per second, which is a foot faster than the big-league average.
Even though the Reds’ best base stealers, Elly De La Cruz and Matt McLain –– didn’t start the year on the Reds’ big league roster, Cincinnati led MLB with 117 stolen bases entering the Reds’ game on Sunday. Over the last month, the Reds have stolen 35 bases. No other team has stolen more than 25. The scouting report is out, no secret.
Base running is the Reds’ biggest strength, and teams have tried to make adjustments to stop the Reds’ running game. The San Francisco Giants attempted disguised inside pickoff moves to second base all series against the Reds last week, even though they have hardly done that all season.
When the Arizona Diamondbacks prepared to face the Reds, they made containing Cincinnati’s running game a priority.
“Knowing the way that they play, it stresses communication between the pitchers, the catchers and the infielders,” Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed said. “We’re making sure we know who their runners are and when they’ll try to go. We got to make sure we’re not letting them take any extra bases.”
Even though the Reds have been picked off slightly more often since the All-Star break, Bell has kept encouraging the Reds to run. Recently, they’ve been looking for ways to take third base even more consistently. The Reds have won a lot of games because of their base running, and they’re staying aggressive.
Opposing teams have adjusted to the Reds’ running game, and now the Reds get to adjust to that adjustment.
“Other teams are a lot more cautious,” Reds shortstop Matt McLain said. “They're picking off a lot more. They’re throwing more fastballs in certain counts when they know guys are going to run. They know that we’re running. That’s a good thing. It puts more pressure on them.”
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: The Reds expect a base running chess match with the Brewers