Alejandro De Aza's year in baserunning

The last 2013 regular-season photo of Alejandro De Aza is a fitting one. - Brian Kersey

The White Sox had a tough year on the basepaths, and their leadoff man set the table

Last offseason, we laughed at the bumps and bruises Alejandro De Aza endured throughout his first full season as a starter.

This year, De Aza provided another highlight reel of unfortunate moments. Unfortuntely, there's not a whole lot of amusement to be found.

Hey, at least TOOTBLAN is a funny word,

For the uninitiated, TOOTBLAN is an acronym for Thrown Out On The Basepaths Like A Nincompoop, and there's a website devoted to counting (and itemizing!) them. The TOOTBLAN Tracker anointed De Aza as its TOOTBLAN King of 2013 with a whopping 14 outs on the basepaths that weren't unsuccessful stolen-base attempts.

However, it's not complete, because the database seemed to stop logging them after Aug. 20. Fortunately, we here at South Side Sox keep pretty detailed game recaps for cases just like this one. A sweep of the gamers turns up three more instances for a grand total of 17. That seems to be all of them, because Baseball-Reference.com also counts 17 outs on the basepaths.

B-Ref also suggests that De Aza has some competition for the TOOTBLAN crown:

Rk Tm SB CS SB% PO PCS OOB OOB1 OOB2 OOB3 OOBHm
1 Jose Altuve HOU 35 13 73% 10 4 11 0 6 4 1
2 Alejandro De Aza* CHW 20 8 71% 6 1 11 2 4 3 2

Houston's Jose Altuve ran into as many outs on the basepaths, and he was picked off four more times. But it's possible those pickoffs didn't result in outs at the same rate -- either that, or Altuve backloaded his TOOTBLANs to an incredible degree (the tracker only counted 10 through Aug. 20).

I don't really care to know, because I've already watched enough bad baserunning for one night, and I'm passing the opportunity along to you, the viewers.

Below are De Aza's 17 outs, divided between GIFs and MLB.com highlights when available. I was curious just how many outs were truly De Aza's fault. He had an uncanny knack for being in the wrong place to such a degree that maybe events conspired against him more than usual.

The tape says .... not really.

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No. 1: April 9 vs. Nationals | Doubled off

With one out and a 3-1 count on Jeff Keppinger, De Aza takes off for third. Keppinger pops it up behind the mound, and De Aza can't get back in time.

Deaza_0409_medium

Verdict: Bad luck. Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone called this "bad baserunning" on account of De Aza failing to pick up the ball. Given his jump -- and that it wasn't a hit-and-run -- I don't see how he could've been expected to turn around any quicker.

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No. 2: May 16 vs. Angels | Doubled off

This is one of the lengthier doubling-offs you'll see.

Verdict: Bad luck. De Aza had to decide instantly whether the ball was going to one-hop Erick Aybar. He guessed wrong, but it was a guess either way.

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No. 3: May 17 vs. Angels | Picked off

C.J. Wilson walks De Aza with two outs, but finds a way to end the inning through him anyway.

Deaza_0517_medium

Verdict: No harm. He went on first movement against a lefty with an 0-2 count and two outs.

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No. 4: May 30 vs. Cubs | Extra base

Trailing the Cubs 7-2 with one out, De Aza follows a Tyler Greene walk with a laced single to left center. Alfonso Soriano cuts it off and throws to second in plenty of time to get De Aza.

Deaza_0530_medium

Verdict: At fault. There are times where making Alfonso Soriano make a play isn't an awful strategy. This was not one of them.

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No. 5: June 11 vs. Toronto | Picked off

According to B-Ref, Chien-Ming Wang has pitched in 136 big-league games, including 126 starts. It took 121 starts for Wang to pick off his first runner.

Deaza_611_medium

Verdict: At fault. Wang's throw to first wasn't all snappy. It was just a bad read.

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No. 6: June 18 vs. Minnesota | Extra base

With two outs and De Aza on second, Brian Dozier can't field Alexei Ramirez's chopper cleanly, and De Aza takes third. But the momentum carries Dozier in such a direction that he can make a throw behind De Aza at third to end the inning.

Verdict: At fault, but leniency granted. This one took extended deliberations, because I can see runners with enough speed getting caught in the same fashion. There are two outs, the play's behind him, and the throw would be going to first if Dozier came up with it cleanly. I'm guessing a lot of runners drift past the bag under similar circumstances, but the play doesn't end up involving them.

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No. 7: June 21 vs. Kansas City | Fielder's choice

With runners on second and third and nobody out in the first inning, De Aza breaks for home on an Alex Rios chopper to third. Miguel Tejada is playing back, but he snaps off a good throw and beats De Aza home.

Verdict: Depends. If the contact play was on, then this is just a good play by Tejada and De Aza's just following orders. De Aza didn't hesitate breaking home, so it seems like it was premeditated.

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No. 8: June 30 vs. Cleveland | Picked off

Not by a pitcher, but by catcher Yan Gomes.

Verdict: At fault. Gomes caught him.

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No. 9: July 6 vs. Tampa Bay | Doubled off

The White Sox trail the Rays 2-0, but they have runners on second and third and nobody out. Then Rios hits a line drive to Evan Longoria, who beats De Aza back to third base in a diving duel for the double play.

Verdict: At fault. A great play by Longoria to be certain, but there was no reason for De Aza to take additional steps after the secondary lead.

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No. 10: July 9 vs. Detroit | Doubled off

De Aza takes off on a hit-and-run, and Ramirez hits a jamshot popup to first. Prince Fielder snags the ball in foul territory and flips to Justin Verlander for the double play.

Verdict: Bad luck. Seems like De Aza could've picked it up quicker, but it would've taken terrific reaction time to get back.

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No. 11: July 14 vs. Philadelphia | Doubled off

De Aza strays too far from second on an Rios liner to the other side of the bag. Chase Utley catches it, then takes it to the bag himself for an unassisted double play.

Verdict: At fault. This isn't the usual lineout double play. Given the height of the liner, I could understand it if De Aza took a step toward third. His distance from the bag is a little hard to justify.

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No. 12: July 23 vs. Detroit | Picked off

Rick Porcello catches De Aza off guard with a pickoff move before he comes to a set.

Verdict: At fault, but a good move. That's a nice throw from Porcello, considering his starting position.

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No. 13: July 26 vs. Kansas City | Picked off

Three days later, James Shields, which you can see at the 0:33 mark of this video.

Verdict: At fault. Getting picked off by Shields isn't necessarily embarrassing, since he has one of the best pickoff moves in the league (especially for a righty). This one is, because this was Shields' second consecutive try, and it almost worked the first time.

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No. 14: Aug. 11 vs. Minnesota | Fielder's choice

The classic breaking to third on a ball hit in front of you.

Deaza_811_medium

Verdict: At fault.

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No. 15: Aug. 26 vs. Houston | Fielder's choice

By the time De Aza reads Ramirez's squibber to the right side, it's too late.

Verdict: At fault. Although it did lead to a De Aza grimace.

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No. 16: Sept. 12 vs. Cleveland | Fielder's choice

Alexei Ramirez hits a pop fly into no man's land down the left field line. It drops, only to look like any other 6-4 in the scorebook.

Deaza_912_medium

What was De Aza doing?

Deaza_912_2_medium

Verdict: At fault. Yup -- no, wait, unless -- maybe -- yeah, it has to -- now that I see it, definit-- then again...

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No. 17: Sept. 30 vs. Kansas City | Doubled off

On the last day of the season, Avisail Garcia hits a smash right to Alcides Escobar, who flips the ball to second to get the final out of the first inning.

Verdict: At fault. Just a classic case of not knowing defensive positioning.

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Final count:

  • At fault: 12 times.
  • Bad luck: Three times.
  • No harm: One time.
  • More information needed: One time.

Sounds about right. What's funny is that he made it through the first quarter of the season with only one out on the basepaths -- probably because he didn't get his OBP over .300 for good until early June. Once he rediscovered his form at the plate, he lost all of it elsewhere.

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