In 2022, the Colorado Rockies have not been an effective base-stealing team: Their 36 stolen bases rank them 29th in MLB. (Only the Minnesota Twins have stolen fewer. For some context, the Miami Marlins have stolen the most with 105.) As a comparison, in 2021, the Rockies stole 76 bases, 15th-most in MLB. This is an area in which the team has declined significantly.
When it comes to creating offensive opportunities by stealing bases, the 2022 Rockies have missed out.
Consider how individual Rockies compare in terms of stolen bases as shown by Baseball Reference:
That Garrett Hampson is a leader with seven stolen bases makes sense. After all, he’s one of the fastest players in baseball. That Ryan McMahon, a substantially slower player, has tied him is rather a different matter, and it speaks to the strangeness of the 2022 Rockies. (I wrote about McMahon’s approach to base stealing here.)
But especially interesting are the three stolen bases of Wynton Bernard, who’s only played 11 games with the Rockies. In a fraction of the games played by most of his teammates, Bernard has stolen almost half as many bases as the Rockies’ base-stealing leaders.
In a kind of terrific grand entry, Bernard stole a base during his MLB debut:
Bernard had already stolen 26 bases this year with the Isotopes, so he was picking up where he left off. (Since 2012, the beginning of his MiLB career, Bernard has stolen 220 bases.)
It’s a part of his game Bernard has studied carefully.
First, he learned from two of the best: Kenny Lofton (622 stolen bases) and Vince Coleman (752 stolen bases). “They taught me like a lot of good stuff just like on different techniques,” he said.
Second, he recognizes that base stealing is complex work.
“There’s so much goes into it,” Bernard explained, “but just trying to read the pitchers is huge, and picking good times to go — going when they don’t think you’re going, and getting the green light.”
“Sometimes the pitchers will get in a rhythm,” he continued. “So [the] first thing I look at is a rhythm of when they’re going to get a pitch to the plate. And the second thing I’ll look at is the front leg. So, heel comes up, and I’m trying to try and take off.”
For Bernard, it’s all part of his attempt to be a complete player.
“I want to be able to do everything,” he said. “I aim to be one of the best, and I think that’s what you have to do in professional sports. You just have to try to be the best. So whether it’s getting on base, stealing a base; whether it’s hitting a home run, or it’s hitting the ball in the gap; playing good defense — I just want to try to be the complete player.”
He realizes, too, that he’s grown as a player.
“I know early on, like my first couple of years, [my game] was just based on speed,” Bernard said, “but I think over the past couple years, I’ve shown like I can hit the ball in the gaps and stuff and get those extra-base hits.”
In all parts of his game, Bernard is, as he puts it, “just trying to put myself in scoring position to help the team win.” Base stealing is a key part of Bernard’s philosophy.
Rockies fans will have to wait to see if Wynton Bernard can successful implement his philosophy at the major-league level. On Tuesday, he was sent to Albuquerque as the Rockies made room on their roster for Sean Bouchard.
With Bernard’s absence, the Rockies have lost a much-needed base-stealing presence.