Friday, July 6, 2007

Cubs' baserunning continues to struggle

After four weeks of playing good baseball, the Cubs made two outs on the bases while trying to advance to a base that was completely meaningless. It's one thing to make a poor judgment decision and get thrown out, but it's a completely different thing to try to take a base that doesn't improve your chances of winning the game, whatsoever.

In the second inning of what was then a 0-0 game, Angel Pagan was caught stealing third base with two outs in the inning. While the risk would've made sense had the trail runner, Ryan Theriot, tried to advance from first and second, the steal attempt was Pagan's own decision. Breaking too soon for third base, Pagan was picked off by pitcher Paul Maholm.

Ballplayers need to understand the full risk of their actions. They ought to consider why they are attempting a play, instead of just doing so because they think they can make it. So long as Ryan Theriot remains on first base, there was absolutely no difference in the Cubs' scoring chances whether Pagan was standing on second or third base with two outs. He's going to score on a hit anyway and he's not going to score on an out.

Then, another one of pet peeves jumped out at me in the ninth inning. When will ballplayers know that running the bases in the ninth inning is completely different? Down by four runs, Ryan Theriot was doubled off of second base. I don't care how much it looked as if the ball was into left field, Theriot shouldn't have been off of the bag until the ball touched the ground.

He's not the tying run. If the Cubs were going to tie the game, Theriot would've eventually scored anyway, so why risk giving up an out? Theriot did the right thing by taking second base on the fielder's choice: it removes the double play (well, the ground ball type) and the force out at second base. However, Theriot should not have even taken a lead off of second base that was greater than three inches and Theriot should not even think about scoring on a gapper, let alone a clean single.

The Theriot mistake didn't cost us the game. There's no way to tell how the game would've changed had Pagan remained on second base. Does Bowen make an out to end the inning? Do the Cubs score to change the entire complexion of the game? Who knows?

But the risks that the Cubs took on the bases were risks that involved zero rewards.

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