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07/01/09 8:31 PM ET
Rangers make strides in speed game
Texas owns second-best stealing percentage in Majors
By Daniel Paulling / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- A Rangers' offense that has revolved around power the past few seasons has added speed to its arsenal. The Rangers have been successful stealing bases 85 percent (66-of-78) of the time this season heading into Wednesday's finale against the Angels, the second-best rate behind the Yankees in the Major Leagues. What's been the key to their success? It's not electrifying speed, said manager Ron Washington. He thinks only one player -- Julio Borbon -- on the Rangers' 25-man roster features that. Instead, the Rangers' success comes down to a simple stopwatch in Washington's hands or the hands of first base coach Gary Pettis. They base decisions on stealing bases based on how quickly a pitcher is getting the ball to the plate. "When I've got my watch, or Gary does, when the time is less than 1.40, we give them the hold sign," Washington said. "Otherwise, they all have green lights." Elvis Andrus has helped to maintain a high success ratio, going 15-for-16 in stolen base attempts this season. He was a perfect 4-for-4 against the Angels on Tuesday. Angels starter Joe Saunders was clocked at more than 1.60 seconds to home during the game. That was the third time a rookie has stolen that many in a game over the past 12 seasons. "I felt pretty good running," Andrus said. "I've been working a lot with [Pettis] on my jumps and everything. I'm still working with him on some things. It's just my first year." Still about two months shy of his 21st birthday, Andrus said he's still learning how to read pitchers' pickoff moves with help from Pettis. He feels he will steal more bases as he continues to learn their moves. "I always talk to him," Andrus said. "He knows a little bit. He was a great basestealer. He was a great player in those parts of the game." Pettis stole 354 bases over his 11-year career. He was caught 104 times for a 77 percent success rate. "Gary is good at pulling apart someone's move," Washington said. "He's done that before." Andruw Jones stole his third base of the season to give the Rangers five on the night. It was the first time the Rangers had multiple stolen bases in a game since June 19 when Andrus swiped two against the Giants. "It just happened like that," Washington said. "[Saunders] gave us an opportunity to run. The lull is when the guy is 1.39 [seconds to the plate]. He can throw a breaking ball and we still get thrown out. When he hits 1.42, it's good." Pettis continues to work with other Rangers' hitters on becoming efficient basestealers. Washington said David Murphy gets upright too quickly when stealing bases, rather than staying a little bit lower while building up speed. Washington said Michael Young could steal a few more bases if he wanted to, but that his third baseman only does so when the team needs him to. But if the stopwatch says a pitcher is a little too quick, the Rangers are going to stay put.
Daniel Paulling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.