Rosenthal: How the Yankees turned a weakness into an advantage and cut off the stolen bases of opponents

Three Runs by Homer Aaron Judge On Tuesday, he shot the green light with three runs Jaleber Torres Wednesday. The Yankees They are still Yankees, ranked third in majors in Homer. But these Yankees are a better 22-8 in the Major League because they are more than just another incarnation of the Bronx Bombers.

The 2022 edition plays more like an inverted perfectionist, doing the little things as well as the big things. The team’s tireless attention to detail appears in all aspects of the play – defenseAnd Basic And in a particularly unexpected twist, the running game for opponents is closed.

Equally Unexpected: The coach leading the Yankees’ growing focus on firing key players trying to steal is new base/off third-court coach Luis Rojas, who has been part of metsThe organization when this team allowed more stolen bases than any other bases in 2018 and 2019.

Rojas, 40, helped the Mets improve significantly in dominating the running game in 2020 and 2021, the two seasons he spent as head coach. But when the Yankees interviewed him for a coaching position last season, the topic of protection from stolen bases wasn’t even a topic of discussion.

The Yankees announced Rojas’ appointment on November 15. In December, after the owners’ shutdown began, he was at Yankee Stadium, and met with Yankees manager Aaron Boone. Their conversation turned very intimate, and the two took to the field and talked through various offensive and defensive plays.

Back inside, Boone and Rojas started talking to some Yankees analysts about controlling their running game. Rojas made it clear that he took on that responsibility with the Mets, who last season finished 20th in steals allowed – a huge improvement over years past.

As Rojas recalls, Boone said, “Do you want to do it? Let’s go. Go ahead and do it.”

Last season, the Yankees fired just 17 percent of base-stealing opponents, the second lowest in the majors; It allowed 86 base thefts, the ninth highest overall. Not all wrong trapped Gary Sanchezwho expelled only five out of 55 from stealing bases. Kyle Higashioka Only five out of 38, Rob Brantley bowled two of five, with the pitcher throwing to account for the other five stealing.

This season, with Sanchez trading to twinsand Higashioka and Jose Trevino Sharing hunting duties, and the Yankees made use of the PitchCom to enhance communication between their hunters, pitchers, and middle players, the Yankees allowed the fewest number of stolen base attempts (13) and the fewest base bases stolen (seven, tied to A).

The Yankees’ quality control and catch coach Tanner Swanson said Rojas are the “glue” of the team’s efforts to dominate opponents’ running game. The process involves much more than simply shooting the ball catchers quickly and throwing the ball with precision. The attackers must keep the contestants close. Bowlers must catch the runners, display effective throwing motions and quickly deliver the ball to the board.

Rojas gather ideas, assure players of the importance of thwarting the base’s stolen attempts and welcome input from other employees. While he’s the one sending the go-ahead to the catcher, he’s quick to point out that the Yankees’ efforts are collaborative. Presentation coach Matt Blake, said the mentality was, “This is a problem. We need to toughen this up.”

Boone and his coaches began discussing ways to better protect against stolen bases at off-season meetings at Yankee Stadium and at Zoom. They outlined their plans during a meeting with players in the middle of spring training, then extended that focus to the season. Before each series, the Yankees would review their performance in greater detail than in the past. They also use the latest technology to their advantage.

With the PitchCom, the catcher uses a transmitter attached to his wrist or shin guard to communicate directly with the shooter and up to three other defenders. The greater ease of communication enables teams to implement a robust series of tactics to counter potential thieves.

Swanson sets up a list of Yankees to book and pick at PitchCom, which allows for 27 options — nine types of pitches, nine different locations and nine separate instructions for controlling the game. Other coaches study the conflicting behaviors of the key players and brainstorm with Rojas about different strategies that might work against specific key players.

Of course, it wasn’t just the Yankees’ dawn last winter that they needed to do a better job controlling their running game. Boone recalls a turning point that occurred in Boston in September of the 2020 season that was cut short for the pandemic. The Red Sox went 6-for-6 on the stolen bases in the series’ opening game. The Yankees won, 6-5 in 12 innings, but a known weakness became impossible to ignore.

“It was one of those things that turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to us,” Boone said. “It was right before the playoffs. We weren’t just saying that. It was like, ‘I see it now. I got that instant buy from the guys, and stick with it.’”

The Yankees did not allow an attempt to steal the base in a two-game wild card series victory over Indiansand only one stolen base out of many attempts in the five game, the Division Series losing to rays. But the problem resurfaced in the regular 2021 season. The opponents combined were 31 for 39 in steal attempts against the three most used Yankees starters – 9 for 9 against Gerrit Cole15 vs 18 vs. Jameson Telon7 vs 12 vs Jordan Montgomerywhich acts as a left-hander with an advantage when the runner is at the start.

Each of these starters have now fielded six times this season. Cole has not yet allowed the attempted robbery of the base. The opponents are 2 for 2 from Taillon. Montgomery still has to allow a stolen base while selecting two contestants. The other two Yankees rookies, right Louis Severino and left, Nestor Cortes, had combined to allow one robbery in three attempts. The competitors are 4-6 against the Yankees table.

“We were more aware of the situation: ‘These are the guys that run. Here’s how to operate them. Here are the things you need to do when they’re on base. ” said Blake. “It doesn’t have to be men’s choice. We choose men. But you’re not trying to take them away. You’re trying to control them. It’s more managing attempts against us.”

Rojas said Taeyeon was one of the first shooters to tell him in spring training that he wanted to do better against the running game. Taillon said he previously had “long” mechanics, allowing opponents to run free, and noted that shooters need to increase their focus because “the running game is slowly starting to come back a little bit.” Maybe not so slowly: Major League Baseball Experiments with the palace in ways to enhance the stolen bases, from The second base moves inward To use larger bases.

Taillon mentioned another benefit of controlling the running game as well: disabling the timing of the hitters. Multiply Vladimir Guerrero Jr. In a quick move into the Yankees’ 5-3 victory over blue jays On Wednesday, which prompted Guerrero to hit his racket, then break it in his thigh. While Taillon allows two rounds in 5 1/3 innings, he also makes several floorballs from his quick step sliders.

“I’ve rarely done that in the past,” Taeyeon said. “It’s a weapon to get rid of the hitter.”

Rojas learned, during his time with the Mets, the value of such details. In 2019, he became the team’s major league quality coach after 13 seasons as a minor league coach and manager. That year, opponents stole 42 bases in 45 attempts against it Noah Sendergaard24 of 28 against Jacob Degrom. Upon taking over as Mets manager in the shortened 2020 season for the pandemic, Rojas realized that had to change.

“I take it really seriously. I take it personal. I tell the Hunters that,” Rojas said.

Every rule counts. Inverted perfectionists understand.

(Top image from Bo Bechet And Isaiah Keener Valiva May 4th: Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images