Dodgers News: Mookie Betts Not Sure if Changes Coming to Baseball Will Affect Stolen Base Game

Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts doesn’t think the new rules limiting pickoff moves will lead to him stealing more bases in 2023.

Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts was named the fourth-best player in baseball on MLB Network’s Top 100 Right Now list, and as part of the episode announcing the Top 10, Betts and his LA teammate Freddie Freeman joined the broadcast. One of the things mentioned was that Freeman actually had more stolen bases than Betts in 2022.

This is surprising simply because it’s never happened before. Betts is a former 30-steal guy who bats leadoff and is known for speed. Freeman is a gigantic human being who hits the ball hard and had never stolen more than ten bases in a season before last year, averaging just under five per year during his time in Atlanta.

But in 2022, Betts stole 12 bases and Freeman stole 13. Both Betts and Freeman assured the hosts of the show that the flip-flop was likely a one-year anomaly, but it led to a discussion about stolen bases. Betts was asked if the new rules coming to MLB in 2023 — specifically, the limit on how many times a pitcher can attempt to pick off a runner — would lead to him trying to steal more bases. Mookie reply revealed a bit about where he sees himself at this point in his career.

“That’s asking a lot. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve slowed down… I don’t know. Maybe. We’ll see. I’ll get over there to first and… I really don’t get that many opportunities because Freddie usually swings in the first two pitches so it’s hard for me. … But, probably not.”

Several times during the interview, Betts mentioned not being as fast as he used to be, and that’s true. In 2015, the first year for which we have Statcast sprint speed data, Betts averaged 28.7 feet per second, the 62nd-best mark in baseball, putting him in the 91st percentile. He’s never been that high again, and after dropping down to 27.1 Ft/s in 2021 when he was battling a hip problem, he rebounded last year, but only to 27.3. That ranks 296th in baseball, putting him in the 49th percentile.

So it’s not surprising Mookie’s stolen bases have fallen, too, and it’s not clear these changes will mean enough for him to steal significantly more bases. As Betts mentioned, Freeman swings early in the count quite a bit, and with his extra-base power, Mookie is essentially in scoring position when he’s on first base.

The incentives just aren’t there to steal these days, and the speed might not be, either.

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