Way back in April, we talked about the success the Nationals were having with their running game early in the season. Though the team didn't set out to be one of the National League leaders in stolen bases, it has gone in that direction, mostly as a function of speedier personnel than in years past.
And toward the end of the season, the Nationals are still one of the best running teams in the NL. They're third in the league with 105 stolen bases and have only been thrown out 39 times, good for sixth-best in the league. Four players - Nyjer Morgan, Roger Bernadina, Ian Desmond and Adam Kennedy - have double-digit steals, and a fifth (Josh Willingham) would have likely gotten there if his season hadn't ended last month with knee surgery.
Sabermetricians usually argue that a 70 percent success rate is necessary to make running worthwhile, and the Nationals are currently stealing bases at a 73 percent clip. But take out Morgan's 33-for-50 mark, and the Nationals are 70-for-92 - a 76 percent success rate. Desmond is 16-for-20, Bernadina is 16-for-18 and Kennedy is 12-for-14.
The Nationals still have some things to clean up, though; they've been picked off 22 times this year, with 13 of those coming from Morgan. They also have slightly fewer baserunners score than the league average; 29 percent of their baserunners reach home, compared to the league average of 30 percent.
But as they pursue leaner, more athletic players, it's safe to say the Nationals' ability to run probably isn't going anywhere. Danny Espinosa went 29-for-40 in stolen base attempts last year and 25-for-36 this year in the minors, so he'd add some aggressiveness to the lineup if he's in it next year.
There are varying opinions on the effectiveness of the stolen base, and it hasn't led to an increase in runs this year. Love it or hate it, though, the Nationals' propensity to run probably isn't going away.