BOSTON -- Ian Kinsler certainly has some pop in his bat these days. But his legs are still churning too.
Kinsler was dancing off second base with the intent to try to go to third in the first inning of Friday's 10-0 Rangers win and it clearly bothered Red Sox starter Andrew Miller. As Kinsler got a lead, Miller stepped off to look him back. He came off the rubber with the wrong foot and was called for a balk.
"I was trying to steal a bag," Kinsler said. "He kept me from stealing, but obviously it surprised him because he balked."
That's what Kinsler does. And he certainly knows how to steal bases too. The time he was caught stealing a bag was April 15 at Yankee Stadium. The Rangers were 10-3 and in first place by two games at that time.
He's stolen 22 straight bases, the longest single-season steals streak in club history and one shy of matching his own overall record (Sept. 4, 2007-June 5, 2008). He has 129 career stolen bases, tying Oddibe McDowell for third-most in Texas history behind Bump Wills (161) and Toby Harrah (143). He's also been successful on 129 of 141 steal attempts, the third-best rate among active players with at least 120 attempts.
So besides speed, what makes Kinsler so good at swiping bases? We asked baserunning coach Gary Pettis.
"Ian is able to process information at first base as soon as he gets it," Pettis said. "Most of the time I give him information prior to him going there, but there are times when we have pitchers that maybe we haven't seen or they have changed something in their pickoff move or delivery. I may see it at first base and I give it to him and he can use it right away. He'll see it on that first pitch and on the next pitch, he's gone. It happened the other day against the Angels. There was something we saw in one of their guys and he was gone. I said the same thing to some other people and they didn't see it right away."
As for baserunning in general, Pettis said Kinsler knows the right path to take.
"He cuts the bases extremely well," Pettis said. "His turns around the bases are extremely sharp and he anticipates very well. He knows where the outfielders, are and that helps."
Pettis has seen Kinsler improve his base stealing each season. The numbers bear that out. He had 11 steals in 120 games in 2006, then 23 steals in 130 games in 2007. He put up 26 stolen bases in 2008 and a career-high 31 in 2009. He had 15 in an injury-plagued 2010 season.
"He's gradually gotten better," Pettis said. "He sees things better and quicker. He listens and then processes things and makes it happen. He thinks like a pitcher out there very well, paying attention to what a pitcher might throw in a certain situation. Sure, he gets some lucky breaks with a bad throw here or there, but he's aggressive and puts pressure on the defense to make those throws."