Fleet-footed Halos have need for speed

Fleet-footed Halos have need for speed

ANAHEIM -- After stealing more than 100 bases for a Major League-best ninth season in a row, it's well known throughout baseball that the Angels are an aggressive team that loves to run.

After all, their 148 stolen bases were the third most in the Majors this season, and they led all of baseball by advancing from first to third on a single 119 times.

And after stealing 17 bases against the Yankees in their 10 meetings this season, it's certainly no secret that they'll be running against New York any chance they get in the American League Championship Series.

"I think they know we're going to run if we get the opportunities, whether it's first to third or trying to score or stealing bases," leadoff hitter Chone Figgins said. "It's part of our game, and we're going to continue to do that."

That plan worked against the Red Sox in the AL Division Series as the Halos continued to use their speed and aggressiveness to pressure Boston. Los Angeles stole just three bases in four attempts in the ALDS, but stolen bases by Howard Kendrick and Maicer Izturis in Game 2 led to crucial runs late in the game and an eventual Angels win.

Los Angeles will continue that aggressive plan against New York, as the 17 stolen bases against the Yankees this year was the most the Angels had against any team.

And while the Yankees finished sixth in the AL by throwing out 29 percent of basestealers, they had trouble in games where efforts to control the run game got away from them.

Case in point, the Yankees were 5-11 when they allowed three or more stolen bases in a game and were 12-17 when allowing two or more stolen bases in a game, according to baseball-reference.com.

Steals for Angels since 2001
Year Steals MLB Rank
2009 148 3rd
2008 129 5th
2007 139 3rd
2006 148 1st
2005 161 1st
2004 143 1st
2003 129 3rd
2002 117 5th
2001 116 11th

It's something the Angels will try to exploit, whether it's Jorge Posada or former Angel Jose Molina behind the plate.

"It's just what we do -- it puts pressure on the defense," catcher Jeff Mathis said. "It's a major part of our game."

But Los Angeles will have to execute on those opportunities, as the Yankees did throw out the Angels seven times in 24 attempts and the Halos were caught stealing 63 times this year to lead the Majors.

"I think we have the ability to pressure the Yankees in a number of ways," manager Mike Scioscia said, "but we'll have to [execute] that."

The Angels' speed game is in contrast to that of the Yankees, who rely more on their powerful lineup to hit home runs and drive in runs. New York finished 11th in the Majors in stolen bases, but more than made up for it by leading in on-base percentage and home runs.

But both strategies worked this season, as the Yankees finished first in the Majors in runs with 915 and the Angels finished second with 883.

"Over here, we play with speed and I think we try to get a lot of hits in a row, while they rely more on the three-run homer," Torii Hunter explained. "They get guys on base and then have those big homers, while we rely on our speed and trying to take that extra 90 feet. So we just rely on our feet and small ball to get it done. And I feel like that always plays good."

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