In the playoffs, Acuña looks to continue stealing bases…and pitching
ATLANTA – The image of Ronald Acuña Jr. stealing second base and then holding the bag over his head in triumph is an iconic moment in the Atlanta Braves’ season.
The theft did more than just elevate Acuña as a member of the 40-70 club. He also homered in the go-ahead run in a 6-5 win over the Chicago Cubs on September 27.
Baseball has changed and players who are fast enough to change games are benefiting from it.
Fans who usually only care about baseball in the postseason will encounter a different sport. Players are running much more than they were a year ago thanks to new rules that also promise to have an impact on the playoffs. There were 3,503 stolen bases in the regular season, a significant increase of more than 1,000 over the previous year. This is the highest total since the record of 3,585 was set in 1987.
This trend is expected to continue in the playoffs.
“They’re going to release players like they’ve been doing all year,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Teams like Arizona are going to fly all over the place. “I don’t really see that changing as far as the season goes.”
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said before the American League Wild Card Series opener against Toronto that the speed potential of backup outfielder Andrew Stephenson was a differentiating factor in him earning the last open spot on the AL team for these games.
“I think speed and defense are always something to consider in a postseason scenario,” Baldelli said.
The new rules highlight the speed factor.
MLB used larger rules, a stopwatch for pitchers, and, most notably, a rule that limited throws to tie a runner with two, in an attempt to surprise them, for each plate appearance. The larger size of the pads reduced the distance between the bases somewhat, but it shortened further as racers felt more able to take the lead.
Acuña led the major leagues with 73 stolen bases, while hitting 41 home runs. The Braves stole 132 bases, a big jump from 87 in 2022, and still ranked 10th in the majors. Cincinnati led with 190, followed by Arizona (166), Kansas City (163) and Tampa Bay (160). The Diamondbacks and Rays compete in the Wild Card round, while the Braves, the NL East champions, went straight to the Division Series.
It’s a dramatic change from 2022, when the Texas Rangers led with 128 steals, a total that would have ranked 12th this season. The Rangers stole two bases in their 4-0 win over the Rays in the AL Wild-Card Series opener on Tuesday.