Running man: Parent wants to clear basepaths
Bench coach wants to take advantage of and slow opposition
CHICAGO -- When Mark Parent talked about improving the White Sox recent lack of success on the basepaths during Sunday's SoxFest finale, the team's new bench coach wasn't just focused on cutting down the opposition's running game.
"Take advantage of what they give you," Parent told MLB.com following the last town hall meeting at the Palmer House Hilton. "[Alexei] Ramirez stole a bunch of bases two or three years ago. He didn't hardly run any last year. They play behind Paul [Konerko]? Well, if Paulie is feeling good, take off.
"[Alex] Rios can run. Let's run him. You know [White Sox manager] Robin [Ventura] is all for playing the game a certain way, and you'll get to see in Spring Training he's far different than what you have seen."
Far different, in that Ventura isn't solely the laid-back leader with a wickedly dry sense of humor. That Ventura sentiment was echoed by general manager Ken Williams during Friday's town hall meeting, as he mentioned that the White Sox manager already stressed in a strong way during phone conversations that the White Sox will be working hard on fundamentals this February and March. Ventura's hard-nosed edge already has been evident to anyone who ever watched him play.
But Ozzie Guillen, who also tried to employ an aggressive managerial style during his eight-year stint on the South Side, found out an important lesson in 2011. It's hard to steal second or go from first to third on a base hit to right when nobody is on base.
As Williams said on Friday night, if the White Sox hit, they will contend. Parent's adjustment to that statement is if the White Sox hit, Rios might have a chance to top his career high of 34 stolen bases, Ramirez might surpass 15 for the first time in his career and Konerko might even reach five stolen bases in a season.
While the White Sox are running, the opposition has to be slowed down. Pierzynski, 35, finished 14-for-78 in trying to nail 2011 would-be basestealers when a throw was made. Tyler Flowers, 26, was a bit better at 6-for-26, checking in at 23.1 percent.
Take a look at stolen bases against White Sox starters, though, and it becomes clear that success and failure in this area can't be totally put upon Pierzynski and/or Flowers. White Sox catchers were successful just twice in 25 attempts with Gavin Floyd on the mound and just once in 18 with Edwin Jackson pitching.
Mark Buehrle (3-for-10) did his usual exceptional job of holding baserunners, while John Danks (15-for-23) was successful as well. So the goal for Parent is to make this change a collaborative effort.
"One thing we are going to do is something forgotten a little bit during the course of a season, even just throwing over to first, shortening guys up, slide steps from the pitcher," Parent said. "Even having pickoff plays with the second baseman, even third base, first base, whatever. Just to shorten guys up, maybe to secondary leads."
In the process of helping out the catchers, Parent believes the White Sox can slow down runners moving from to first to third on base hits, scoring from first on an extra-base hit or even a guy "wearing out the shortstop on a double-play ball."
With 427 career games behind the plate, Parent understands the frustration felt by Pierzynski with runners being consistently successful against him. With Parent having an exceptional 34 percent success rate at nailing basestealers, he's a good person to turn this negative into a positive.
"All of those little things that we will talk about and we'll fix and we'll work on," Parent said. "Those are little things that can develop into big problems if you don't take care of them. You saw what happened the last couple of years with the running game.
"I have to take a good look at A.J. and his mechanics. But there are ways to simplify things, and that's what people tend to do mostly is when they are struggling, they add more on to it. If you take it back to the simplicity of 'Catch it and get rid of it,' you are quicker and there's no 'Your shoulder and glove have to go up to a certain point.'
"No, as soon as you get the ball in your hand, and stuff like that," Parent said. "Just to make it a priority. Let's just fix it. That's what we are going to try to do."