The Go-Go Rays
Early on, there is one obvious difference between how the Rays got out of the gate to start the season. In 2014, the Rays relied upon their bats to score runs and rarely ran. This season, Kevin Cash and the staff are taking a different approach.
The Rays attempted five steals last night against Toronto, and if not for an awful call and even worse review of the play, would have been successful on all five attempts. Those five attempts pushed the team’s stolen base attempts up to 12 over the first 9 games, which equals the attempts the team made over the first 28 games in 2014.
Five different players have attempted steals this season: Desmond Jennings, Steven Souza Jr, Logan Forsythe, Tim Beckham, and Brandon Guyer. Noticeably absent from that list is arguably the fastest player on the team, Kevin Kiermaier. Kiermaier has reached base 11 times this season, but 7 of those instances have been extra base hits. Jennings leads the team with five attempts, including three successful swipes of third base. The knee issues that clearly plagued Jennings in the second half of 2014 appear to be behind him.
It is too early to say whether Kevin Cash is going to have a lead foot this season and let the Rays run at will on the bases to help manufacture runs. Joe Maddon frequently said he took a libertarian approach to the running game and gave more red lights than he did green lights to runners. Cash certainly could be more aggressive this season, but he also has better athletes on the roster right now. A fully healthy Jennings has made a difference as well as the athletic youth that has been added to the roster.
The Rays attempted 90 steals in 2014. If we were to play the pace game, the 2015 Rays are on pace to attempt 243 steals. The last time the franchise attempted that many steals was in 2009 when Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, Jason Bartlett, and Ben Zobrist led the charge. Jennings doesn’t have a clear cut partner in crime to steal bases as Crawford did with Upton that season, but the early season aggressiveness has helped create runs as the new lineup continues to form its identity.