Runnin' Phillies

Shane Victorino and the Phillies are tied for the league lead in stolen bases. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

SAN FRANCISCO — It's hard to label something "a trend" after only nine baseball games. That the Phillies are tied for the major-league lead in stolen bases is likely a byproduct of a small sample size.

They have attempted 11 steals and converted 10 of them successfully. Last season, in the Phillies' first nine games, they attempted 10 steals and converted eight. Then, by the end of 2011, only St. Louis and Chicago had attempted fewer steals in the National League than the Phillies.

So running early in April means little. But you can't help but wonder if Charlie Manuel will ask his players to take more chances on the bases. The manager has insinuated such a tactic could benefit the team, especially if Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, Juan Pierre, etc., are healthy.

It's no surprise that as the Phillies' core has aged, their volume of stolen bases has decreased.

2007 157 138 87.9
2008 161 136 84.5
2009 147 119 81.0
2010 129 108 83.7
2011 120 96 80.0

We start with 2007, which was the first year Davey Lopes coached first base. In four years (2007-10) with Lopes managing the base-running game, the Phillies posted the highest success rate in baseball. Even without Lopes in 2011, the Phillies were the most efficient base-stealing team in baseball. They just did it less frequently.

Their current rate (90.9 percent) leads baseball after nine games. And in 2012, the Phillies have attempted 1.2 steals per game, which would represent a higher rate than any of the seasons under Lopes.

Granted, there are greater risks. Theoretically, the more the Phillies run, the closer they should fall to the league average in stolen base percentage. In 2011, that figure was 72 percent. If that was the Phillies' clip in 2011, we're talking about 10 extra outs made on the bases.

With a depleted offense now, is it a risk worth taking?

Until the fourth inning Sunday, the Phillies were perfect in stolen base attempts. With two outs, runners on first and second, and Rollins at the plate, Pierre took off for third. He was easily thrown out. Rollins would have batted with a full count had Pierre not run.

"You got to make it there," Manuel said. "I can take the green light off there. Butthat’s a play where you’ve got to know what you're doing. He was throwing Jimmy a lot of change-ups and offspeed stuff. I bet Juan was trying to time him down. If you don't make it, that's not a good play."

Chances are, though, Manuel leaves the green light on for his best runners. It could be the difference between two singles yielding a run scored or runners on the corners.

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