• 57°

Merrifield first in stealing bases; season over for Martin twins

There’s an art to stealing bases. Whit Merrifield of the Kansas City Royals is Exhibit A. Although he ranked 61st in the big leagues in 2020 on Statcast’s average sprint speed leaderboard, he still tied for second in the American League in stolen bases. He led the majors in steals in 2017 and 2018.

And through May 22, he was leading the majors in steals in 2021. He has 13, getting caught just once. Isiah Kiner-Falefa of Texas and Fernando Tatis of San Diego are tied for second with 10.

“I spend probably an hour every night and then another 15 to 30 minutes on the day of the game watching videos, to find the keys and tendencies (of pitchers) and figuring out good times to run,” Merrifield told The Athletic. “And the reason stealing bases is going down is because guys don’t want to do that anymore. They’d rather worry about hitting home runs.”

Through Saturday, Merrifield was batting .250 (42 for 168). While that mark is below the one-time All-Star’s standards, keep in mind the league average is .237.

He has 10 doubles, four homers and 24 RBIs. He has nearly as many walks (17) as strikeouts (20).

Season Ends For Twins

After playing significant minutes down the stretch in 2020, Caleb and Cody Martin saw their playing time reduced in their second season with the Charlotte Hornets. The additions of Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball had something to do with that.

But the twins never complained. Their accepted their roles, waited for their opportunities and remained good teammates.

The up-and-coming Hornets played .500 ball for most of the year. They dropped their last six games to finish 33-40, including a 144-117 season-ending loss at Indiana in the tournament play-in game on May 18.

Caleb appeared in 53 games with three starts. He averaged 15 minutes in those 53 games. He averaged 5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists. He shot .375 percent from the floor (96 of 256), .641 percent from the free-throw line (41-64) and .248 percent from 3 (31-125).

Cody appeared in 52 games with 10 starts. He averaged 16 minutes, 4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He shot 83 of 188  from the floor (.441 percent), 25 of 43 from the line (.581) and 16 of 58 from deep (.276).

“Our role is to adjust to the situation, regardless of whether that is one of us playing a lot and one of us not or we’re both playing,” Caleb told the Charlotte Observer. “I think that’s why they like us – because we adjust to the situation. I’m not going to complain. I’m always going to work and prove to whoever (is coaching) that I belong on the court. But if I’m not, I’m going to root as hard as I can (for teammates).”

Cody said: “That’s just part of being a professional, making sure you’re ready and staying sharp whether I’m playing or not. I think I impact the game – impact winning – whether I’m on the floor or off the floor. That’s pointing out things I see (from the bench). It’s my job to do whatever I can to help us win.”