Terry Collins wants Mets to be aggressive baserunners

Terry Collins shares a laugh with the players

Terry Collins shares a laugh with the players during a spring training workout. (Feb. 18, 2013) (Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa)

VIERA, Fla. -- Terry Collins wanted a perfect view. So on a sleepy morning early in camp, as his team endured a tedious baserunning drill, the Mets' manager moved to a spot near the bag at second.

As his players ran by, one after the other, Collins scrutinized the details. He checked out how big a lead they took at first base, how quickly they reached full speed, whether they took the proper path.

He believes there's an advantage to be seized on the bases -- 90 feet at a time.

"Two outs, runner on second base and there's a single, we have to score," Collins said later. "We cannot be holding runners up."

So throughout spring training, Collins has hammered home his message. When it comes to running the bases, he wants to see aggressiveness.

"I don't care if we get thrown out every game," he said. "They need to know what kind of leads they need to get to the next base."

The Mets aren't a team filled with burners. A year ago, they finished with only 79 stolen bases, second to last in the National League. They didn't add any speedsters during the offseason, making it unlikely that they'll do any better this season.

But Collins is concerned less about stolen bases and more about taking extra ones when given the opportunity. That means scoring from second base on singles and from first base on doubles.

"It's all mind-set," said first- base coach Tom Goodwin, who has overseen baserunning drills during camp. "You don't have to be fast to do this."

On the surface, hustle on the basepaths can determine the outcome of entire games.

Consider one of the most famous moments in postseason history. Collins was a coach with the Pirates in 1992 when the plodding Sid Bream hustled home from second on a single, barely beating Pittsburgh leftfielder Barry Bonds' throw and scoring the winning run in NLCS Game 7 to send the Braves to the World Series.

But more often, baserunning represents a less dramatic advantage.

According to statistics compiled by the site FanGraphs, through their decision-making on the bases, the Angels ran their way to an additional 18.3 runs last season. It was the best total in baseball.

By contrast, the Nationals cost themselves 17.6 runs on the bases, the worst in the game.

Statistically speaking, in the course of the season, the difference translated to about two games in the win-loss column.

The Mets ranked 19th, costing themselves 3.1 runs on the bases, a relatively insignificant number.

Of course, any improvement can help, especially for a club that ranked near the bottom of the National League in on-base percentage, slugging and runs per game.

"You're not going to learn how to run the bases unless you're aggressive," Collins said. "And you're going to get thrown out being aggressive once in a while."

The Mets already have provided a few examples, the latest coming during Thursday night's game against the Nationals.

In the first inning, Jordany Valdespin moved from first to third on Collin Cowgill's single off Stephen Strasburg. One batter later, Valdespin scored on Mike Baxter's sacrifice fly.

"You don't have to be fast to be a good baserunner," Collins said. "It's a matter of working at it and being good at your trade."

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