The Chicago White Sox have added former St. Louis Cardinal, Vince Coleman, to the organization as a base running consultant. Coleman, who also played for the Mets, Reds, Royals, and Tigers during his 13-year career, led the National League in stolen bases 6 different seasons.
The White Sox have made a lot of noise this winter acquiring key players in an attempt to contend for a championship trophy in 2015. Yesterday they announced another addition to the team, Vince Coleman. General manager, Rick Hahn, welcomed Coleman to the team at SoxFest Saturday morning. He will be utilized at the major league and minor league levels as a consultant, according to CSNChicago’s Dan Hayes. Though he will not be appearing in any games for the White Sox, his role will be vital to helping the team reach their full potential on the base paths.
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As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the White Sox look ready run in 2015. Alexei Ramirez, Adam Eaton, Micah Johnson, Carlos Sanchez, and Avisail Garcia all have the ability to apply pressure on-base, but after finishing next to last in Major League Baseball in UBR (Ultimate base running) and BsR (Base running runs above average) in 2014, the White Sox have set out to improve their base running abilities. Vince Coleman will help them achieve that goal. The former outfielder spent the last two seasons working with the Single-A Quad Cities River Bandits in a similar capacity. In three seasons prior to his arrival, the Bandits stole 281 bases in 443 attempts, a 63.4% success rate, according to MiLB.com. In just two years during his stead, the Bandits did a much better job living up to their moniker, stealing 293 bases in 414 attempts, a 70.7% success rate.
Vince Coleman broke into the league as a player in 1985 and proceeded to eclipse 100 stolen bases in each of his first three seasons. He stole more bases in his career than all but five major league players, and enjoyed an 81% success rate. It’s no secret the White Sox would like to speedsters like Eaton take better advantage of his natural abilities and prepare upcoming talent with similar giftedness, like Johnson, to do the same. Eaton’s discomfort on the base paths is well documented, as he owns a career 61.1% stolen base success rate. Below, Detroit Tigers’ starting pitcher Drew Smyly spies Eaton heading for second base prematurely, and catches him in a run down to end the inning.
Eaton isn’t the only that can use some pointers on the fine art of base stealing. Alexei Ramirez, who has been good enough to swipe at least 20 bags each of the last three seasons, can still improve on his 71.5% success rate. Avisail Garcia also has the ability to take an extra base when healthy. He stole four bases in only 46 games last season, and according to Daryl Van Schouwen from the Chicago Sun Times, “Avisail Garcia wouldn’t give the exact number but hinted he’s around 10-15 pounds lighter.” A healthier, lighter Garcia will benefit from Coleman’s tutelage by making him even more dangerous on the base paths. As the Sox prepare for the upcoming season, they may find themselves studying Coleman’s tendencies and gleaning tips from videos like this one below.
As you can see, Coleman was facing a left-handed pitcher, just as Eaton was when he was picked off by Smyly in the video above it. However, Coleman timed his jump perfectly and beat the catcher’s throw by a mile. As a result, Coleman was awarded his 100th stolen base in his rookie season.
I wouldn’t expect Eaton or Alexei to tally 100 stolen bases this year, but I do expect them to have more success when they do make an attempt. Last season the White Sox posted a 70.2% stolen base success rate, while making less attempts than any team in their division, according to Fangraphs.com. Just as he’s done with the White Sox bullpen, Rick Hahn has attempted to turn a weakness into a strength. This time, though, it’s an off the field acquisition that may prove to be difference maker. While some might look back on offseason signings such as Adam LaRoche as a home run if all goes well in 2015, don’t forget about the addition of Vince Coleman to the coaching staff; it may be the biggest steal of the them all.