Thompson stole just his 16th base on Tuesday
Speed on the base paths can be a weapon that results in many problems for the opposition. Columbus Clippers outfielder Kevin Thompson has defined himself with speed ever since his career began in 2000. This season, however, has been a different story as the outfielder has racked up just 16 stolen bases on the year.
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Prior to this season, Kevin Thompson, 26, had been off and running whenever given the chance. After splitting time between Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton in 2003 and 2004, Thompson was explosive on the base paths, totaling 63 and 38 stolen bases respectively. 2005 was no fluke either as Thompson went on to swipe a combined 43 steals between Trenton and Columbus.
It is fair to say that Thompson’s speed numbers are down because of the fact that he has spent part of this season with the New York Yankees. However, even with missed time in Columbus, he is way off pace from his career numbers. It’s not difficult to figure out that 16 stolen bases in 77 games is not a Kevin Thompson-like season.
Thompson believes certain parts of the Columbus lineup can be a reason for the decline in speed numbers.
“Everybody is a lot faster these days and sometimes they don’t send me as much. With a guy as locked in as Carlos Pena, you have to leave the hole open on the right side,” Thompson told PinstripesPlus.com.
Thompson has still had the ability to utilize his speed in other phases of the game. He hasn’t lost a step in the outfield as he remains one of the faster outfielders for the ball club. Even though the stolen bases are down, Thompson’s speed alone can separate him from many other players.
Whether it’s running down a fly ball in the gap, stealing a base, or turning a double into a triple, Thompson is counting on his speed to be a huge factor in getting backing to the big leagues. The outfielder admits that great speed is a minority around baseball and it is a tool that can separate him from the pack.
“The separation is a huge factor because it is something a lot of players don’t have,” said Thompson.
Stolen bases can often times change the complexion of a game, especially in the late innings. Thompson takes pride in the ability to swipe a bag because he presents the threat to be a difference in the game.
The coaches can have a heavy influence on a player’s stolen base numbers because they can determine how often they give a player the green light to swipe a base. That has not been the case with Thompson. The outfielder admits he is on his own the majority of the time when stealing.
“I would say about 90 percent of the time I am going on my own and other times they will give me the hit and run,” said Thompson.
It’s easy to think that Thompson would be off and running a lot of the time on base, however, he has made the decision to put the team first. Thompson had made the decision to pick and choose when it’s time to steal and leave it up to his teammates to drive him home.
Thompson is looking to improve his overall game in the latter part of the season and not just in the stolen base department. In order to present the threat of stealing a base, Thompson must get it done with the bat. He is looking to improve on his .281 average and is focused to be more aggressive at the plate.
Thompson will never make it in the big leagues if his bat fails to be up to par. After all, a player’s bat often times determines their length of service in the major leagues. He has shown flashes offensively in Columbus and is working hard in his attempt to get back to the Bronx.
“I am just trying to be more aggressive at the plate and learning to swing at better pitches,” said Thompson.
Columbus manager Dave Miley believes Thompson’s lack of speed numbers are due to his missed time in Columbus when he was with the Yankees.
“He was up in New York for awhile so that may have had something to do with it,” said Miley.
Many players all around baseball who have the ability to steal a base at any given moment often fail to take pride in that aspect of their game. It is the extreme opposite for Thompson. The outfielder realizes that he has a gift that you cannot teach and focuses on utilizing his speed in all phases of the game every time he steps foot on the diamond.
There isn’t enough time left in the season for Thompson to get his speed numbers up to where they have been previously in his career. However, he is focused on using his speed to a maximum in order to help win baseball games.
“I definitely take pride in my speed because you realize that a lot of players can’t do what you do. If you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it,” said Thompson.
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