Athletics

Rickey: No one has my skill set, but Hamilton could challenge steal record

Rickey: No one has my skill set, but Hamilton could challenge steal record

MESA, Ariz. -- Rickey Henderson had a singular set of baseball skills that blazed his path to a Hall of Fame career.

Ask the A’s legend if he’s seen anyone, from his era or since, with the same combination of base-stealing ability, power and plate discipline as he had, and he’ll answer honestly.

He hasn’t.

But, when it comes to pure base stealing, Cincinnati Reds speedster Billy Hamilton has caught the attention of the all-time steals king. So much so that Henderson believes Hamilton has the capability of challenging his modern era single-season record of 130 stolen bases, which Henderson set in 1982 with Oakland.

“His (chances) are based on how many times he can get on the base paths,” Henderson said on the latest A’s Insider Podcast. “I think if he gets on the base paths a lot, he’s gonna challenge that record.”

Worth mentioning here: No player has reached even the 100-steal mark since way back in 1987, when St. Louis’ Vince Coleman swiped 109 bags. The highest number in recent years is the 78 that the Mets’ Jose Reyes stole in 2007, and even that’s going back a decade.

Hamilton, just 26, is young enough to still have his best stolen-base years ahead of him. But Henderson’s mark of 130 is more than double Hamilton’s best total so far, which was 58 last season. If you’re curious, Hamilton’s best year for on-base percentage — outside of a big league cameo in 2013 — is last year’s .321.

Working in his favor is that Hamilton got his 58 steals last season in just 119 major league games. Were he to be in the lineup for a full season and run with abandon, surely he could boost that total significantly.

But the attitude toward stolen bases has changed over time also, as Henderson points out. He believes all of the data available, including pitchers’ delivery times to the plate, persuades teams to be stricter on the bases even with their best running threats.

“They control the base runners nowadays based on the times, the watch, and they think the pitchers are getting the ball to the plate quicker,” Henderson said. “… When I was coming up, we had no times, so it was mainly on instinct.”

In Hamilton, however, Henderson sees somebody with not only the speed to pursue 130, but also the attitude to do so. Henderson got to know Hamilton when the center fielder was in the minors and Henderson was spending time with the A’s Single-A Stockton affiliate in his duties as a roving instructor.

“When I look at him, I analyze how he goes about his business when he’s on the base paths, it really reminds me of myself,” Henderson said. “He’ll take off any time, and he runs until they throw him out. That’s what I always thought. I’m gonna run until you throw me out. And if you throw me out, I’m gonna get back up and run again.”

 

Report: A's believed Astros were stealing signs during late August game

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Report: A's believed Astros were stealing signs during late August game

The Houston Astros reportedly are in hot water over accusations of stolen signs, two months after the A's first noticed a separate suspicious incident. 

Sources told Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan that during a Houston-Oakland game in late August:

A’s players noticed Astros players clapping in the dugout before pitches and believed they were relaying stolen signs to pitchers in the batter’s box, sources said. The A’s called the league, which said it would investigate the matter. It’s unclear what the result of the investigation was or whether it remains ongoing.

On Saturday, Fenway Park security kicked out a man who claimed to be working for the defending World Series champions during the third inning of Game 1 of the ALCS, Boston Metro reported Tuesday. That man was Kyle McLaughlin, according to Yahoo Sports, and the site obtained a picture showing him pointing his cell phone into the Cleveland Indians' dugout during the ALDS. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers, who lost to Houston in Game 7 of the World Series a year ago, believed the Astros stole signs during the Fall Classic, according to Passan. Two MLB players said they've seen Houston players hitting a trash can in the dugout during games, and believe it's a method of passing on pitchers' signals, the report said. 

Passan did not identify the A's-Astros game in question, but the A's played the Astros in a three-game set on Aug. 27-29. Houston won two out of three, including an 11-4 rout in the series opener. 

MLB told Metro that "We are aware of the matter, and it will be handled internally."

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Chris Bassitt

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Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Chris Bassitt

(Over the next week, we will be examining each of the A's arbitration-eligible players to determine whether they will return in 2019.)

Chris Bassitt provided a nice boost for the A's in 2018, especially with all the pitching injuries they suffered. The 29-year-old right-hander appeared in 11 games, including seven starts, going 2-3 with a 3.02 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. He also pitched in 18 games for Triple-A Nashville, going 5-5 with a 4.30 ERA.

Bassitt notched 41 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings with the A's last season, limiting opponents to a .221 batting average. In parts of four Major League seasons, including three in Oakland, he is 4-14 with a 3.86 ERA and 1.37 WHIP.

Bassitt earned $545k in 2018 and is projected to get a raise to $1.6 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Why he might be a bargain

Bassitt could certainly provide depth to the A's starting rotation, as he did last season. With Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton, and A.J. Puk all expected to miss at least the start of the 2019 season, Oakland's rotation will be thin early on. Bassitt proved more than capable of serving as a spot starter and keeping his team in a game. He can also pitch out of the bullpen, which he has done 10 times in his career, including four in 2018.

Why he might be too pricey

$1.6 million is a high price tag for a fringe Major League pitcher. Bassitt has spent more time in the minors than the big leagues the past few seasons, and at the age of 29, he is no longer a young prospect. If the A's are even close to healthy, Bassitt will not have a spot in the starting rotation and likely won't factor into the bullpen either. He is a solid backup option, but that's probably all.

Verdict

Unless the two sides can avoid arbitration, Bassitt is unlikely to return to Oakland next season. The A's would probably be willing to give him a small raise from his $545k salary in 2018, but $1.6 million is too much to pay for a spot starter. If the number ends up being in that range, expect the A's to let Bassitt walk and instead turn to younger arms to fill his role.