Lost in the intrigue over the Yankees running wild on the basepaths — they entered Friday with the seventh-most steals in baseball — was the fact opponents had been even more successful stealing bases against them.
Baseball’s new rules, which have introduced larger bases and limited pickoff throws, have incentivized action that the Yankees’ catchers had not yet been able to neutralize.
The Yankees are one of three teams (along with the Royals and Tigers) that have yet to throw out a base-stealer.
The Yankees have stolen 13 bases in 17 tries, but opposing runners are 12-for-12 against Jose Trevino and Kyle Higashioka.
“It’s something we’re aware of. It’s something where it’s on the forefront of our minds,” catching coach Tanner Swanson said before the Yankees lost to the Twins, 4-3, Friday night in The Bronx. “It’s something we work on in our throwing program.
“We just haven’t made good throws, to be honest.”
Swanson placed blame on the precision of the throws, which is more fixable than a lack of arm strength.
Trevino began the season 0-for-10, while the league average is 16 percent.
Seemingly every team is enjoying more success offensively on the base paths, but the Yankees had been inordinately hurt in the first couple of weeks this season.
The Yankees have not been surprised by the soaring steals.
They saw how base-runners took advantage of the new rules in the minors last season and in spring training this season.
Swanson said there were internal conversations and Zoom calls during the offseason to try to get ahead of the expected uptick of stolen-base attempts.
“For both [Trevino and Higashioka], it’s been an offseason objective to improve in this regard, as throwers,” Swanson said of the catchers, who led a Yankees team that nabbed 36 percent of base-stealers last year, which was second-best in baseball. “I think in a lot of ways they’ve done that. We just haven’t made really accurate throws in the early sample so far.”
Trevino threw out 33 percent of base-runners last season, making a leap after he had gunned out just 15 percent with the Rangers in 2021.
After Trevino came over in an April 2022 trade, the Yankees put him on a plyometric program to increase his arm strength.
He registered 74-mph throws to second in 2021, but that was bumped up to 77.8 mph last season.
In the early weeks of this season, Trevino’s arm strength is a bit down.
He is averaging 77 mph on throws to second, and Swanson signaled the wrist injury he suffered this spring could be a factor.
Trevino, asked how the Yankees can improve throwing out runners, said, “I think too many ways to pinpoint right now.
“I think just the new rules are showing things are going to be a little different,” said Trevino, who started Friday after he had missed the previous two games after fouling a pitch off his foot. “But I think we’re going to be just fine.”
Neither Trevino nor Higashioka is known for his arm.
Both, however, routinely are atop the framing leaderboards as catchers who best turn borderline pitches into strikes.
To be in the best position to frame pitches at the bottom of the zone, Higashioka’s stance is especially low and Trevino often squats with one knee on the dirt, a trend that had been out of fashion.
According to Swanson, the pair does not need to make an adjustment to focus on nabbing base-runners more than stealing strikes.
“We don’t see a big discrepancy between guys throwing from a knee vs. guys throwing from their feet,” Swanson said. “We’re now able to prioritize the catch, the reception, while still being able to react to the stolen-base attempt.“
The results have been poor early, but Swanson is not concerned.
“I’m confident that it’ll even out over the course of time,” Swanson said. “In the early going, it’s definitely something that we can do a better job at.”