3 reasons the Diamondbacks have not created as much chaos on base

May 28, 2024, 5:25 PM

Jake McCarthy...

Jake McCarthy #31 of the Arizona Diamondbacks safely steals second base ahead of the tag by Otto Lopez #61 of the Miami Marlins during the sixth inning at Chase Field on May 25, 2024 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

The Arizona Diamondbacks’ “Create Chaos” graphic does not pop onto the big screen at Chase Field quite as often this season.

In many ways, the Diamondbacks remain a savvy base running club, evidenced by their 48% extra bases taken rate (second in MLB behind the Reds). First base coach Dave McKay has a knack for getting the most out of his runners.

But entering play Tuesday, Arizona ranked No. 27 in stolen bases with 23 at a 72% success rate, unthinkable given how aggressive it was stealing bags last season (166). The Diamondbacks won games that put them into the postseason on the backs of that chaos from double steals, hit-and-runs and a team-high 54 swipes from Corbin Carroll.

FanGraphs‘ all-encompassing base running stat BsR is comparable to WAR just on the bases. Arizona was first last year by a wide margin at 18.3. Anything over 8.0 is considered elite. This year, the D-backs rank No. 11 with 1.0. That is still above average but not the advantage it was, especially paired with catcher Gabriel Moreno controlling the opposing run game.

Diamondbacks assistant general manager Amiel Sawdaye went over three clear differences on Tuesday.

“I think it starts with obviously (Geraldo) Perdomo and (Alek) Thomas being out for such a long time,” Sawdaye told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke. “They were two guys when they got on base they were a threat even if they didn’t steal a lot, they got on base and they were a threat. Corbin obviously stole a ton last year. He was getting on base a lot and was able to steal.

“I think those three probably impact us a little bit. The way the team is constructed right now is different than the way the team was constructed last year when we were very ‘creating chaos.’ I think it’s a different group of players. It is what it is right now. We may look a little bit different in a month from now than we do today and maybe we change the way this team not only offensively but also on the base paths operate.”

Corbin Carroll is not getting on base at the same rate

Carroll has nine steals on 13 attempts compared to 16 steals by the end of May last year. Between the flat bat path and struggles with pitches up-and-in opponents have targeted, his on-base clip is nearly 100 points below where it was last season (.362 to .274). He was the engine of the offense in many ways last year. His performance thus far has naturally changed how the operation looks.

“He’s worked so hard, he looks for all the different things to make himself a better player and he’s gone through a prolonged slump,” Sawdaye said. “We’ve all seen the balls coming off the bat a little bit differently, not only in the game but also batting practice.

“Guys go through mechanical adjustments and also go through adjustments at the plate with the way pitchers attack them. He’s working his way out of it. It’s gonna be an uphill battle to get the numbers out to where he wants to see them.”

Carroll continues to draw walks and has showed out the speed with four triples over the past 10 days. The ball is coming off the bat hotter, but he has continued to fall further from the Mendoza line of .200 (.188 in 2024).

The rest of the team only has 14 steals, four from Jake McCarthy.

Injuries have taken speed away

Perdomo was third on the team with 16 steals last year and in general is a player who can apply pressure on defenses from the bottom of the order.

Thomas was less of a base stealer but is one of the fastest players in the organization. Neither has played a game since the first week of the season.

Top prospect Jordan Lawlar perhaps best rivals Carroll’s speed among Arizona’s position players. Although he was bound to start the year in Triple-A Reno, a thumb injury has shelved him over the past two months and eliminated roster depth.

Lineup construction and shortfalls

Carroll is far from the only player in a grind at the plate, as Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Eugenio Suarez and Blaze Alexander also have an OPS under .600 in May. Arizona hitting into 40 double plays this season — eighth-most in MLB — doesn’t help.

Arizona did not go out last season and add burners, bringing in power threats Joc Pederson and Suarez while re-signing Gurriel. Josh Rojas struggled to hit last year but was that prototype to adding chaos, while Tommy Pham stole 11 bags in only 50 games.

Pederson successfully added thump to the batting order (.935 OPS). Suarez and Gurriel have been stuck in mud after a blazing first week, though.

“I think we have some really good hitters in the lineup, obviously we’re gonna get some good hitters back at some point in the next few weeks and that’ll certainly help but we need to put together as a team consistent offensive at-bats day-in and day-out,” Sawdaye said. “They know that, we know that’s pretty much the key to us having some success.”

The Diamondbacks are a very strong base running team by most metrics, as even Statcast has them as the top team in value. But there is an element absent from last season when it comes to aggressiveness, and so much around the offense has led to it.

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