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November 28 2006

As Davey Lopes rides in to teach Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard or whoever else wants to learn how to swipe 47 bases when you're forty years old, you have to hope he's read the fine print.  Cause you break that thing you bought it and the Phils have been very good at swiping bags for a while now.

Here's a look at how the Phils have pilfered over the past five seasons:

 

Year SB NL-Rank CS NL-Rank SB% NL-Rank
2006 92 8 25 T-14 79 T-3
2005 116 2 27 14 81 1
2004 100 6 27 12 79 2
2003 72 11 29 15 71 5
2002 104 4 43 9 71 T-5

The Phils do a fabulous job at not giving away outs on the paths and using the stolen base as an effective tool.  For three straight seasons they've been in the top three in the NL in percentage of successful steals at over 75% and been in the bottom quarter of teams in terms of caught stealings. By number of bags they successfully steal they were down a bit last year but still have been in the top half of NL teams for three straight years.

With Bobby Abreu gone there's no question who the Phils' leading man is in terms of stolen bases these days.  Jimmy Rollins has finished in the top ten in the NL in stolen bases for three straight seasons, and even more impressive than the sheer numbers of stolen bases is how effectively he's used them as a tool to make the Phillies a better team and himself a more effective player.  Rollins was one of 11 NL-players to steal 30 bags last year.  Of the 11 none was caught stealing as many or fewer times than Rollins.

And he wasn't born this way.  Either it is a skill he's developed or his recent success is a coincidence.  Look:

 

Jimmy Rollins
Year SB CS
2006 36 4
2005 41 6
2004 30 9
2003 20 12
2002 31 13

Between '02 and '03 Rollins stole 51 bags and was caught 25 times.  He was successful just 67.1% of the time.  In '05 and '06 he stole 77 bases and was caught ten times.  During those two years he averaged about 38 steals a year and was successful about 87.5% of the time. 

Is there any chance Rollins got faster during 2005 when he was 26-years-old?  I don't think so.  But he's much more effective now than he was between 2002 and 2004.  The thing that's even more curious about the change is this -- the year just off the bottom, the one that's not shown, is 2001.  In 2001 Rollins tied for the lead in the NL in stolen bases with 46 and he was caught just eight times. 

Rollins' career as a base-stealer has been a roller-coaster ride.  From best in the league to bad to where he looks to have settled now -- one of the NL's most effective. 

Shane Victorino has outstanding speed that helped him twice steal at least 45 bases in the minors.  Last season with the Phillies he got 415 at-bats and stole four.  He was caught three times.  He turns 26 on Thursday and has 11 for his career.  You have to believe that as he tries to turn his potential into stolen bases he'll find the resources available to him include not just Davey Lopes but Rollins himself.

JD Drew may be close to signing with the Red Sox.

This article claims that David Dellucci has agreed to join the Indians and that Cleveland will pay him $11.5 million over three years to play left field.

54-year-old Steve Smith has been named the Phillies' third base coach.  Smith spent the past five years with the Rangers as a third-base coach and infield instructor.  If Ryan Howard had any defensive problems he might be able to help with them.

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