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Ryan McMahon’s base-stealing frenzy

Okay, five is not really a “frenzy,” but McMahon says it’s a new facet of his game

Ryan McMahon is not known for his foot speed. In fact, here’s how he compares to other Colorado Rockies as measured by Baseball Savant. (The league average is 27 ft/sec.)

This table shows spring speeds for the Colorado Rockies. Notable is the only Alan Trejo and CJ Cron are slower than Ryan McMahon (25.9 ft/sec).
2022 Colorado Rockies Baserunning Sprint Speed
Baseball Savant

McMahon has registered a fairly tame 25.9 ft/sec. On the Rockies, only Alan Trejo and CJ Cron are slower.

With this in mind, it seems counterintuitive that McMahon is on track for his best career season in terms of stealing bases. Seriously. Here’s what FanGraphs shows:

This table shows Ryan McMahon’s career stolen bases. His record is six. In 2022, he has already stolen five.
Ryan McMahon’s Career Stolen Bases

McMahon’s best year in terms of stolen bases was 2021 when he stole six. In 2022, he’s already at five. If he continues at this rate, he’ll easily set a career high. Consider how it all unfolded.

After two unsuccessful attempts, McMahon finally stole his first base on July 2 in a game against the Diamondbacks.

Three days later, he did it again against the Dodgers.

Note the increasing confidence as McMahon accumulates stolen bases. He inches further from first base, daring the pitcher, determination in his stance: He really wants to grab another bag.

I’ll spare you stolen bases three and four, but here’s his most recent from Saturday.

It’s like watching a superhero discover he has a previously unrealized power and as he sees exactly what he can do with it. Again, McMahon has an average footspeed of 25.9 ft/sec. This should not be a big part of his game. Watching its evolution, however, is fascinating.

For McMahon, it took a bit of introspection.

“I just did a little self reflecting,” McMahon said, “and realized, ‘Hey, I think I can bring a little bit more to the team doing that.’” He added, “I’ve just really been trying to lock in and try to make a difference on the bases.”

To realize this new part of his game, he started working with first base coach Ron Gideon.

Part of this also stems from McMahon’s health this season: “My legs have been feeling pretty good,” he said, “so I’m just trying to go when they feel good, and when I feel like it’s a good opportunity to help the team.”

An understanding of pitchers comes in handy as well.

“You know, pitchers are creatures of habit,” McMahon said, “and their job is to keep you from stealing, but they also have to pay attention. When their minds kind of split like that, sometimes you can catch them asleep.”

In a league increasingly rewarding “action guys,” the Rockies have consistently lagged behind the rest of MLB. With 24 stolen bases, only the Twins have stolen fewer. (Miami is first with 75.) Currently, only Connor Joe with six has stolen more bases than Ryan McMahon — who is tied with the fastest player on the team, Garrett Hampson.

This table shows the Rockies total stolen bases in 2022. Currently, Connor Joe has stolen the most with six while Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson are tied with five.
2022 Rockies Stolen Bases

However, MaMahon is working to get the lead.

There’s no actual wager. Rather, it’s a competition McMahon and Joe enjoy. “It’s going to be more of a pride thing than anything, but we’ve been talking about it, so we’ll see what happens,” McMahon says.

Reader, I’m taking the over on Ryan McMahon.