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How does Kyle Tucker steal so many bases?

The Houston Astros right fielder is not a particularly speedy runner, but manages to steal bases almost at will. So exactly how does he do it?

The Houston Astros right fielder is not a particularly speedy runner, but manages to steal bases almost at will. So exactly how does he do it?
Mike StobeAFP

Speedy baseball players, those who really tear up the base paths, are generally smaller guys. Lithe and short, more welterweight than cruiser. But Kyle Tucker is an outlier, an exception to the rule.

In right field, his defensive skill is backed by an ability to suddenly be on top of the ball, seemingly out of nowhere. And with the bat in his hand, he has become a standout on a team that has perhaps the most explosive offense in major league baseball.

Kyle Tucker has hit 15 home runs so far this season, and with a couple of weeks still to play before the All-Star break, that puts him on course for a potential 30 home run season. That isn’t the standout stat for Tucker, though. The true eye-opener is what he does once he reaches base. Kyle Tucker has stolen 14 bases in 2022. That now sees him tie his career high for a single season. In June.

In Mexico, a much-beloved comedy classic called El Chapulin Colorado (The Red Grasshopper) had a catchphrase which translates, “they didn’t count on my craftiness”, and that statement would be the perfect description of Kyle Tucker on the base paths.

He doesn’t seem a threat, but his aggression and pure baseball sense, sort of Spidey-sense tingly, gives him the jump on just about any pitcher. He isn’t the fastest guy on the field, in fact there are at least five other Astros who can outrun him in a straight sprint. But don’t underestimate his craftiness.

Dusty Baker sees Tucker as a stone-cold thief when it comes to second base. Turn your back and he will have it off you. “You have to have larceny in your veins. You have to like to run,” says Baker.

One thing that hides the threat is the sheer size of the man. Kyle Tucker stands 6′4″ tall. Baker understands why pitchers might not be prepared for his speed when they see his frame. “For a tall player, he’s top speed in a couple strides. That’s rare for a tall player. He’s not built like Rickey Henderson. Those shorter players can take off like that. It takes us longer guys usually longer to get going.”

Currently at ninth place in MLB stolen bases this season, Kyle Tucker is the only one who isn’t a speed demon. He reads the terrain and takes the base through sheer cunning rather than simply outrunning the pitch. His ability to read a pitcher’s timing is almost unique in the game today.

And while he is aggressive on the bases, he is not reckless. His 14 stolen bases in 2021 came on only 16 attempts. He picks his moment carefully. With a manager that appreciates aggression and a smart baserunner, Kyle Tucker, the most underrated and crafty of the Astros lineup, can be the weapon that they need to give them that edge. A thirty-thirty season might just be on the horizon.


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