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Amid league-wide spike, why don’t SF Giants steal more bases?

Amid league-wide spike, why don’t SF Giants steal more bases?

SAN FRANCISCO — When Blake Sabol swiped second base in extra innings the other night, he set himself up to score the winning run just a few pitches later. He singled, stole second, advanced to third on a balk, and was mobbed by his teammates as he crossed home plate moments later.

“I don’t think we win that game without Blake Sabol,” manager Gabe Kapler said a day later.

It was an aggressive move from a dynamic athlete — especially so considering his primary position is catcher — two qualities the Giants have lacked this season.

Sabol’s stolen base was the Giants’ first from a player other than Thairo Estrada since July 22 — 45 games and almost seven weeks ago.

Estrada, who stole his 21st bag Monday, matching his career-high from 2022, has accounted for 42% of all the Giants’ activity on the base paths. The club ranks last overall, with 50 total, fewer than two individual players (Ronald Acuña Jr., 65, and Estuary Ruiz, 58) and 10 away from the next-closest team.

When Estrada missed a month with a broken hand, they went 27 straight games without even attempting a steal. No other team had fewer than six successful attempts.

The Giants’ lack of running stands in stark contrast to the rest of the league, where new rules to increase activity have had their intended effect. Runners’ 80% success rate is at an all-time high, and the league is on pace for its second-most steals of the live-ball era, surpassing 3,000 last week.

Kapler pointed to personnel when he was asked about the dry spell on the bases a couple weeks ago in San Diego.

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“I think we’d like to steal more bases,” he said. “We really have one base stealer, one traditional base stealer, and it’s Estrada. I would put (Austin) Slater in that category as well, but he just hasn’t been healthy enough for most of the year to steal bases.”

Speed isn’t the only factor when it comes to stealing bases, but it can be a limiting one in its absence. At an average of 26.8 feet per second, the Giants have the fourth-slowest group of base runners, according to Statcast’s sprint speed metric.

“So we could try to force stolen bases in there somehow, some way,” Kapler said. “We try to take advantage of what other teams are doing on the mound but also not at the risk of just getting blown up for the fun of stealing a base. It can be tempting at times when we’re not scoring runs to push that button. But sometimes it’s really just inserting ourselves when we don’t have the pieces to make it work.”