Life In The Fast Lane, 8/17

08/26/2011 2:16 AM -  Craig Davis

By: Andrew Satriano

The dog days of summer are certainly upon us, as we have recently passed the middle of August. With the hot weather here to stay, some of the game’s best players may find themselves struggling to do what they do best. That being said, we will take a look at the base stealers who haven’t let the heat get to them as well as those that have struggled and need to be avoided.

Opening up this week is Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin, who has been lights out along the bases. After playing half a season last year, Maybin has really proved his worth in his first full season as he has 31 thefts and is now in the top ten in that category. Maybin leads the majors with four steals in the last seven days and is on pace to finish the season with 41 steals. It should not go unnoticed that he has been caught stealing just three times this season and only eight times in his career compared to 50 career steals, so he definitely knows how to pick his spots. Looking further at the stats, he is finding himself on base a lot and he is starting to hit for power. With the Padres out of the race months ago, look for Maybin to continue to do what he’s been doing and he should never be counted out because of his speed. If available, pick him up immediately and use him in Rotisserie leagues.

Another young and possible star in the making who has had a great past couple of weeks is Jose Constanza, right fielder for the Braves. Since being called up at the end of July, Constanza is among the league leaders with five steals this month. If Constanza was with the Braves at the start of the season, he would have tallied close to 48 stolen bases by the end of the season – an amazing feat. He has hit safely in 14 of his career 18 games and is hitting .385, a very encouraging sign. Constanza seems to be getting better with every passing day and as long as he remains in the big leagues next year, it could be the start of a very promising career for the youngster. Because it is so early in his career, he may not turn into a big steals guy, but based on what has been seen so far, there is no reason to believe he will not continue using his legs advantageously this season and beyond. He could be valuable if you are trying to make a push for the playoffs in your league where steals matter, so don’t hesitate to
strike while the iron is hot.

Though Maybin and Constanza have looked good lately, there are guys who have looked equally as bad. The first example of a player who has not looked sharp around the bases this season is center fielder for the Phillies, Shane Victorino. After posting more than 25 steals the last four seasons, Victorino currently sits on 16 stolen bases and will really have to push himself if he wants to extend that streak to five. He missed a handful of games earlier this season because of a thumb sprain and is currently playing among an appeal of a three-game suspension, but one would expect his stolen base numbers to be higher than what they are. Over the last three years, Victorino has averaged more steals in the first half of the season than the second half, so that’s another negative for him. Victorino is hitting the ball very well and reaching base regularly, but before last night, his last steal was at the end of July. For this reason, don’t waste time on him right now as he simply does not look comfortable stealing.

Finally, after a hot start running the bases, Pirates left fielder Jose Tabata has cooled off significantly. After April 23, Tabata had nine steals, but nearly four months later, he has picked up just five more, bumping his season total up to 14. Most of that can be blamed on his quadriceps injury which has sidelined him since late June. Still, in the months of May and June, he was not running as much as he had in April. Tabata has recently returned to the Pirates lineup but as he recovers from his leg injury, it will be difficult for him to try and steal. He had much promise entering the season, but unfortunately his injury has damaged that. Hitting has also been a problem for Tabata, so don’t be surprised if he gets extra time off to clear his head and get back on track. At this time, Tabata cannot be trusted to run or perform on a consistent basis and the most logical idea seems to go after him next season. That wraps up this week – hope to see you back again next week.

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