With the crackdown on performance enhancing drugs in baseball, power numbers have begun to substantially decrease. Instead of the days where players such as Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa were putting up video game performances, power numbers have dropped to the point where there have been only two 50 home run seasons since 2008, both in the American League. While baseball is not back to the lack of power that existed in the late 1970′s through the 1980′s, the days of players regularly hitting 50 or more home runs may well be.
With that being the case, there has been a renewed focus on speed. While Billy Hamilton gets a lot of attention due to his exploits on the basepaths in the minor leagues, he is not the only player to personify the new wave of fast, base stealing ballplayers. The Royals Jarrod Dyson is another one of those players, whose speed and athleticism are helping to bring the game back to a style closer to how it was played in the 1980′s.
Last season, Dyson was successful on 34 of his 40 stolen base attempts, ranking seventh in the American League in steals despite playing in only 87 games. That marked his second consecutive 30 stolen base campaign. In his career, Dyson has stolen 84 bases, while being caught only 13 times, leading to the fifth highest percentage of successful steals amongst current players at 86.6%. As first base coach Rusty Kuntz said, Dyson has become a weapon for the Royals.
“Dice (Dyson) is one of those rare guys that we have who has that speed element,” Kuntz said. “There’s only a handful of guys like him who can steal on any pitch in any situation. He puts so much pressure on a defense, where everything has got to go perfect to [catch] him.”
While most teams have a player here or there that is capable of being a weapon like Jarrod Dyson on the basepaths, the Royals speed game is much more than that. Norichika Aoki was acquired to give the Royals a true leadoff hitter, and another element of speed. Eric Hosmer, Omar Infante and Alex Gordon, while not in the same class as Aoki or Dyson, are capable of stealing a base occasionally.
Perhaps more than any other team in baseball, the Royals are leading the shift towards that style of baseball. As it become more difficult to find players that hit 50 home runs a year, teams have needed to adjust their strategies. As the Royals have never been confused for a collection of power hitters at virtually any point in franchise history, it may be surprising that they have not fully embraced this style of play earlier than they have.
With a renewed emphasis on speed throughout baseball, players such as Jarrod Dyson are finding their abilities to be appreciated more than they had even a decade ago. For now, Dyson is a perfect complement to the type of theam that the Royals have constructed – one built around getting on base and putting pressure on the opposition.
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