The Oklahoma City RedHawks are a good example it's not mandatory to hit home runs to win.
Off to a 13-10 start, the RedHawks are in 13th in the 16-team Pacific Coast League in homers but are third in stolen bases.
A day after stealing four bases in a win over New Orleans, speed once again played a role in Oklahoma City's 5-3 win over the Zephyrs on Sunday afternoon at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
“With the makeup of this team we're going to have to manufacture runs,” said manager Tony DeFrancesco. “We lost (center fielder Robbie) Grossman (to the Astros), but we still have a lot of guys who can run. I think that's the game we're going to have to play, bunt, hit-and-run and steal.”
Stealing four more bases in Sunday's win, the RedHawks have 28 for the season compared to only 16 homers.
Five players have swiped three or more bases. Jimmy Paredes and Trevor Crowe are tied for the team lead with six steals. Che-Hsuan Lin and Jonathan Villar have four each, Jake Elmore three.
“Seven of the nine guys in our lineup are more speed guys than power guys,” Elmore said. “We're utilizing the hit-and-run, stealing bases. That's the makeup of this club.”
Paredes, one of the hottest hitters in the PCL, batting .360, displayed what speed can do in the third inning when he scored the go-ahead run to snap a 1-1 tie.
With one out, Paredes ripped a ball into the right-fielder corner. As soon as he left the batter's box, Paredes was thinking triple. Paredes' speed paid off when he tagged up and scored on a shallow fly ball to center.
In the first inning, Crowe scored on a ground out. Villar stole second and scored one of two insurance runs in the fifth.
“We don't have a bunch of big boppers, but we have a lot of guys who can swing the bat that can run,” Crowe said. “More than anything it's being aggressive. Taking the extra base is more attitude and mental preparation than skill. We've made some mistakes on the bases, but we've made them aggressively.”
Speed also plays a role defensively, an underrated element.
Featuring exceptional speed in the outfield, the RedHawks the first month of the season have made several highlight-reel catches, including some diving grabs to douse rallies.
“Defense is so important,” Crowe said. “Keeping the double play in order, infielders knocking down base hits, outfielders getting to balls in the gap, speed is huge on defense when it's used properly.”
Speed benefits a pitching staff, allowing pitchers to attack the strike zone, knowing speed can turn hard hit balls into outs.
“We say it all the time, but defense and pitching is the name of the game,” DeFrancesco said. “As of late, we've been playing some good, fundamental baseball.”