TOOTBLAN [tt'bln] - (noun or verb) The act of an MLB baserunner committing a mental error that results in him being Thrown Out On The Basepaths Like A Nincompoop.
It has long been a hallmark of Mike Scioscia's tenure at the helm of the Angels that the offense would manufacture extra runs via a constant assault on the defense by way of aggressive running of the bases. Scioscia's Halos steal a lot bases and take the extra base on at every opportunity on a ball in play. That's how it is supposed to work.
As you may noticed this season, the Angels offense isn't exactly firing on all cylinders. As you may have also noticed, the trademark aggressive Angel baserunning has not been present thus far in 2013. Instead, the Angels have become one of the foremost purveyors of TOOTBLAN.
One of the most glaring deficiencies of the Angel offense thus far has been their near lack of stolen bases. Through their first 12 games, the Halos have swiped just three bases. That's it. Howie Kendrick has stolen two and Mike Trout has stolen one. This is not a product of bad luck as the Angels have collectively attempted just five actual steals. There are the three successful steals, a TOOTBLAN-rich Albert Pujols caught stealing attempt (he apparently thought that with his injured foot that has slowed him to a job, he might be able to get a steal via the element of surprise) and failed attempts by Kendrick and Luis Jimenez.
For whatever reason, the Angels just aren't running. Trout has been oddly reluctant to run though he has had a few hit-and-run situations erase some of his would-be attempts. Still, Erick Aybar never made an attempt before he got hurt and super speedy Peter Bourjos has also yet to try to swipe a base. There isn't even a real explanation for why the team has been so conservative other than maybe they have been on the wrong side of a multi-run deficit a several times thus far and don't want to risk giving away an out when what they need is a bunch of runs instead of one.
While this team has some real plodders like Pujols, Iannetta, Trumbo and Callaspo, there is simply too much speed here for things to continue like this.
If you check the stats, it looks like the Angels attempted seven, not six, steals. That's because they have one extra caught stealing on their record because Alberto Callaspo is an idiot. Despite him being one of the Angels slower and thus more conservative baserunners, Beto fell asleep while leading off second base in a tight game. The result is the TOOTBLAN you see above. This is just one incident, but symbolic of what appears to be some stark issues the Angels have had early in the season with maintaining their mental focus.
That pick off, by the way, came in a game that the Angels lost by one run. Two batter after Callaspo got caught TOOTBLANing, Mike Trout roped a double that scored the runner that had been behind Callaspo on the bases. What a difference that could've made.
Maybe that lack of focus stems from the team being frustrated with their play or perhaps putting too much pressure on themselves to hustle and make something happen. How else could one explain Josh Hamilton's TOOTBLAN of the Year nominated play here? The ball is in foul territory. He apparently thought there was two outs and thus needed to run out the ball, but even with two outs he should have realized that he was just burning calories by taking off like that on a foul ball. Unless, of course, he was just pissed the Angels just lost a game to the lowly Astros and he felt the need to run off some of his anger.
Some of the other issues have been just plain bad luck rather than standard TOOTBLAN. This is the problem with aggressive baserunning. When it doesn't work, it really stands out. Conger did nothing wrong the other day when he tried to leg out a double. In fact, he should be applauded for his hustle. He just somehow managed to mess up his pop-up slide ever so slightly and briefly lost contact with the bag. Half the time an umpire might not even catch it, but this time he did. Oh well.
Similarly, there was a play against Texas where Howie Kendrick got gunned down at the plate. Howie did exactly as the Scioscia mantra dictated and dug hard to try and score, putting pressure on the defense to make two perfect throws in the relay to get him out. Sure enough, they did. Anything slightly off target and Howie scores.
But at least those two were trying to push the envelope. That hasn't been the case for the rest of the team. In a stat that shocked me, the Angels have only taken the extra base in 22% of their opportunities, which is dead last by a wide margin in the entire AL. We are dealing with a small sample size here, but that's way out of character for the Halos.
Mental lapses and indecision and/or passivity on the basepaths. That is the complete antithesis of everything Scioscia has preached for the last 13+ seasons. While it may not be the biggest of the Angels' problems, it definitely is a significant one that needs to be addressed quickly.
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