Speed Kills

Runnin' Hooks on Record Pace

By Matt Rogers and Travis Larner / Corpus Christi Hooks | July 22, 2014 12:58 PM ET

CORPUS CHRISTI - Speed kills.

Just ask any mom about to turn her 16-year-old son loose on the road with the rest of us. She might also counsel him on other types of "speed" and the accompanying risks.

But this isn't about a serious sit-down between parent and child. Rather, it's a reminder that speed kills on the baseball diamond, too.

Delino DeShields, Jr., Leo Heras, Andrew Aplin and Ruben Sosa are more than just the Corpus Christi Hooks' four outfielders. Each is ranked among the Top 10 Texas League base-stealers. Combined, they're 89 of 109 in stolen-base attempts, an 82 percent success rate.

Corpus Christi's 127 steals are 25 more than second-place Midland, and just 16 off the 2005 club record. DeShields' 41 thefts are good for second in the TL, four behind RockHounds outfielder Billy Burns. Heras, Aplin and Sosa are tied at 16.

Since June 25, when he arrived from High-A Lancaster of the California League, second baseman Tony Kemp has been anything but a fifth wheel.

The Hooks have never placed four among the TL's final Top 10. Josh Anderson (50), Charlton Jimerson (27) and Mike Rodriguez (25) made the 2005 list at 1-7-10. Three years later, Wladimir Sutil (22), Eli Iorg (21) and Drew Sutton (20) duplicated the feat at 8-9-10.

The Hooks are running more than ever.

"Any time you can gain 90 feet without putting the ball in play, you're that much closer to home base," Hooks skipper Keith Bodie stated. "That's common sense, right?

"The composition of your ball club dictates the kind of baseball you play."

Bodie is rich in lightning and short on thunder these days. Though Corpus Christi has 72 home runs, 32 belong to promoted outfielder Preston Tucker (17) and first baseman Telvin Nash (15). No other current Hook has more than five jacks.

That's OK. Baseball, like life, demands we make the most of what we have.

"Speed changes the whole complexion of the game. It puts opposing defenses on edge. There's nothing you can do to stop it. You can stop hitting, but you can't stop speed…unless you can find a way to keep it off first base," Bodie said.

Speed is clearly at the top of his offensive arsenal in 2014. Bodie the manager - and the fan - loves the running game. His ability to look at baseball from a paying customer's perspective has endeared him to the Corpus Christi faithful.

"I just think that as a fan it's more exciting. I get a kick out of watching guys steal bases, go from first to third, stretch a double into a triple. It's an exciting brand of baseball."

The '14 Hooks are also proficient at giving themselves up for each other or bunting for base hits because Bodie's boys are adept at bat-handling.

DeShields tops the league with 14 sacrifices and injured middle infielder Nolan Fontana has 11, as does Sosa. Shortstop Jio Mier, now at Triple-A Oklahoma City, had eight. As a team, Corpus Christi sports a TL-best 73, 17 ahead of Northwest Arkansas.

"(Astros minor league field coordinator) Paul Runge calls them free at-bats," Bodie explained. "Say you have a runner at first and nobody out, or at first and second with no one out, or at second with nobody out. If you can't bunt for a hit, it becomes a sacrifice. Our guys are good bunters and we do a lot of that because we have to create runs. There are different theories about giving up outs. Some say outs are the only commodities you have on offense and you have to be careful where you give them up.

"By the same token, you have to travel 360 feet to score a run. Again, any time you can gain 90 feet, you're 90 feet closer to home plate. If you successfully sacrifice a runner over to second, it takes one hit to get him in. If you don't, it takes two."

Bodie loves the daring of his base-burglars and revels in having a fundamentally sound club that consistently executes well.

It minimizes the risk and raises the reward.

"Here's the biggest thing. You've got a man on first with nobody out. If you don't steal him, he'll never get to second with nobody out. Say we walk and on the first pitch we steal second. That next pitch is a ground ball to the second baseman that would've been a double play. Instead, we got one out with a man on third base."

Bodie's passion for and enjoyment of managing speed is clearly evident as he enthusiastically touts its advantages.

"The opponents of bunting for hits, moving runners over, well I want to manage against them because they're going to make it easy for us. All we have to do is control their bats.

"If you have speed and you're a threat to steal, you're changing the game. You don't even have to steal a base, just the threat of stealing, because the pitcher tends to throw over more. He may even pitch out or throw more fastballs to the hitter. The whole game changes. If you're facing a station-to-station ball club, you can have your way with their hitter, you can do what you want. You can throw a breaking ball in the dirt on the first pitch if you want to, whereas, if you got Billy Burns on first, you're not doing that."

Because speed kills. And, that's why Bodie loves to bunch his sprinters.

"That way, they're all on the bases together. You can steal two of them at once. It affects the way they're pitched to and the way the guys behind them are approached."

Speed. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

+ + + + + + + + +

Did you know?

Keith Bodie has managed some of the fastest farmhands in Houston Astros organizational history.

In 1987, Lou Frazier swiped 75 bags for the Asheville Tourists of the South Atlantic League, setting a new record for stolen bases by an Astros minor leaguer.

That same season, Craig Biggio began his illustrious career in Asheville after being drafted in the first round. In only 64 games he stole 31 bases. Biggio would retire second all-time in Astros history with 414 thefts.

In his third season as a manager, Bodie's 1988 Osceola Astros set a Florida State League record with 360 stolen bases, the most by any minor league team in recorded history. Four of the league's top six base thieves were on his club, and seven players swiped at least 20 bags. Frazier surpassed his own record and led the circuit with 87 steals. Tuffy Rhodes finished second in the FSL and ranks eighth all-time among Astros organizational leaders with 65 stolen bases.

Frazier's record stood for 24 years until current Hooks outfielder Delino DeShields, Jr., bested him with 101 stolen bases in 2012. DeShields needs 10 more stolen bases in 2014 to set a new Hooks record for most in a single season.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More