Opponents aware of D-backs' speed

Opponents aware of D-backs' speed

PHOENIX -- The D-backs may try to steal as many bases in 2008 as they did last season, but no longer will they have the element of surprise working in their favor.

The D-backs stole 109 bases last year, fifth most in the National League. Eric Byrnes was far and away their leader with 50 as only Chris Young (27) and Orlando Hudson (10) reached double digits.

More important than the number of bases stolen, though, was their success rate. The D-backs were thrown out 24 times, which means they were successful 82 percent of the time. Studies have shown that to be worth the risk, a player needs to be safe at a 75 percent rate or better.

With a year of experience under their belts it's reasonable to assume that Young, Stephen Drew and Justin Upton could all see their totals increase.

The flip side is that the opposition is well aware of that fact as well.

"Now all of a sudden we're on the radar for that, though, and already this spring we're seeing teams slide-stepping a little bit more and using inside moves and so forth," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said. "A little bit more difficult when you're on the radar screen to do it, but we think we have the talent level to be able to continue to get a little better with that."

The D-backs made running the bases aggressively a point of emphasis last spring and did a good job of going from first to third and moving up on balls in the dirt during the season.

They've focused heavily on it again this spring, but Melvin held a meeting recently to remind them that it's possible to be too aggressive on the bases.

The meeting was the result of several baserunning gaffes that have plagued them in the first couple of weeks of Cactus League action.

"We've probably taken it to a little bit of an extreme," Melvin said. "We've been doubled off with nobody out five times, just being a little over aggressive so we addressed that. I certainly expect us not to get doubled off with nobody out. I think it was more because of trying to get good jumps and break up double plays and go first to third."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.