"We were just playing our style of baseball," said Rollins, who led the Phillies this year with 31 steals. "Thank Davey Lopes."
An accomplished base stealer during his playing career - the former Dodgers second baseman once stole a then-record 38 consecutive bases in 1975 - Lopes has imparted his wisdom on the Phillies' running game, which has been exceptional in the 3 years he has been with the club as first-base coach. The Phillies have stolen 100 or more bases in those 3 years and have had the highest stolen base percentage of any team at 84.5 percent (393-465). While Lopes would not speculate on how the presence of the running game affected Kuroda, he did say that the steal by Victorino, "got us doing what we are capable of doing."
"What we try to do is get our top two guys on base [Rollins and Victorino] and cause some havoc," Lopes said. "Even if we do not end up stealing a base, the thought that we may do it could cause the pitcher to be quicker to the plate. And if he is quicker to the plate he could lose something off his pitch or could get a little wild. But we feel if the opportunity presents itself for us to run, we are going to run. That is just a big part of our offense. We're blessed with speed."
Standing at his station down the first-base line, Lopes keeps a stopwatch in one hand. When a runner gets on, he calculates the time it takes for the pitch to reach the catcher (say, 1.4 seconds) and adds to it the time it takes for the catcher to throw to second base (which he says is usually 1.9 or 2.0 seconds). In adding the two times together - say, 3.3 seconds - he then assesses if the runner can travel 80 feet within that time frame. He uses 80 feet instead of 90 because he assumes that the runner will get a 10-foot lead. But he said some pitchers begin to slow down in their delivery once they get deeper in the count.
"Sometimes pitchers are quicker to the plate earlier in the count, but as they get deeper in the count they get slower, slower and slower," said Lopes. "So you have to keep an eye on that. I can tell by watching them that they are getting slower. So I tell our guys, 'Be ready. He may give you a slow one.' ''
Certain ingredients other than just speed go into producing a successful base stealer. Lopes said that the better base stealers have the proper "mental attitude," which is to say "on the slightly cocky side."
Lopes added that, "A good base stealer controls the game when he gets on base," and that there is an art to base stealing that can be learned. While he said that no one taught him the fundamentals, he remembers that as a young Dodger player he got some tips from afar from the legendary Maury Wills.
"We never had a one-on-one but I heard him say a few things," Lopes said. "So I had no direct influence from anyone. Mainly, I learned through trial and error. I just seemed to have instinct for it. I had the ability to spot when the pitcher was beginning his move to the plate instead of throwing over to first base. I was blessed with that."
By the way, did Lopes remember who stopped his consecutive steal streak?
"Gary Carter," he said. "I was trying to steal third base. I had noticed how he kept lobbing the ball back to the pitcher. And I said, 'If he does that again, I'm going to run.'
"Well, he did but this time he threw it back harder and they got me."
He smiled and added, "But you could really say I got myself."