Delino DeShields wears number 90 on the back of his jersey for the year he made his Major League debut with the Montreal Expos. He wound up playing 13 Major League seasons with five different clubs and retiring in 2002. He amassed 463 stolen bases, 31st on Major League Baseball’s all-time list since 1898. That’s when the current stolen base rule was implemented. 17 years later, he will step onto a Major League field again. He was hired as the Cincinnati Reds first base coach on November 28th to join new manager David Bell’s staff.

“I didn’t really get interviewed…I got a phone call from Dave (manager Davie Bell), he asked if I was interested and that was that,” said DeShields in a phone conversation. He was interviewed earlier in the offseason for the field coordinator position but did not get offered that position. “I was wondering what was going to be next for me, but then Dave called and asked if I wanted the first base spot and I said no doubt.”

Before getting back to the big leagues, he again was like a player trying to work his way up. Not as a player, though, this time as a minor league coach. He’s spent the last 10 years in the Reds minor league system first as a hitting coach for Rookie-level Billings in 2009 and then manager in 2010. He went on to manage at Low-A Dayton (2011-12), Double-A Pensacola (2013-14) and Triple-A Louisville (2015-17) before serving as the organization’s roving bunting and base running instructor in 2018.

Also spending time in the Reds minor league system from 2009-2012 was David Bell. But Deshields doesn’t think that is the reason he got the phone call. He does believe that all of that work has him prepared for his first season as a Major League coach, though. “I don’t get this job without all of the seasons in the minor leagues. It’s gratifying to know that all of the work and all the bus rides [paid off]”.

DeShields’ will have a couple of responsibilities, but his bread and butter will be base running. He will be working with a team that finished 25th in baseball in baserunning runs according to Baseball Prospectus. They also finished 27th in advancing on base hits. That is where he believes they need to improve the most and it starts in Spring Training.

“The guys have to know that it is important to us, from the top down. We are not satisfied being that type of base running club. It starts with scoring on extra base hits from first base, running hard down the line, putting pressure on the defense. That is what we are trying to do. The work that we are going to put in [to be a better base running team] doesn’t happen at 7:05, it starts in Spring Training.”

Base running is hard to quantify in my mind, but FanGraphs has four current Reds that finished above average in base running last season (Jose Peraza 3.8, Phillip Ervin 2.4, Scott Schebler 0.3 and Scooter Gennett 0.1). That is based on stolen bases, taking extra bases, outs on the bases and avoiding double plays. The Reds non-tendered Billy Hamilton who finished at 8.4. A bad base running team by the metrics got worse by losing Hamilton. As the roster sits right now, adding Phillip Ervin to the every day mix and having Nick Senzel playing regularly should help fill the void left by Hamilton and help the base running improve overall through the length of the lineup.

DeShields expressed that it is all about the players buying in to working hard on the bases. Everyone will have the scouting report. But, it will be up to the players to take base running seriously, “especially at GABP where you have take advantage of every scoring opportunity.” He will also be going back to his playing days and watching tape on pitchers to help the players get a better jump, or find a tendency in a pitcher’s delivery that could give the Reds an advantage.

Along with his base running responsibilities, he will be working with infield defense. In my time with the Louisville Bats during DeShields’ tenure, he really worked with base running and infield defense, so it is a smooth transition. Taking the step to the big leagues, there will be more information available to him to help position the defense. This includes knowing his pitchers, and working with the analytics provided to him. DeShields added, “we have always had analytics in baseball, they were just called tendencies when I played.”

He will be working with a coaching staff that was put together this offseason. They all met at RedsFest a little more than two weeks ago. They used this time to get to know each other, but the communication didn’t end there. “We have a daily group chat with the coaching staff that goes on 24/7.” Hearing this didn’t surprise me at all. It went well with what I had heard about Bell’s time in Louisville as the manager. Front Office staff loved him because of the way he communicated. It looks like that has continued as he becomes a Major League manager for the first time.

About The Author

Ryan is die-hard Reds fan that was born and raised in Louisville, KY. He is a former Media Relations Director of the Louisville Bats who now spends his evenings on the couch with his wife, Kayla, and the dogs watching baseball.

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24 Responses

  1. VaRedsFan

    DD is saying the right things, but that won’t help them get faster. Stolen bases aren’t that important, but running the bases smartly is. Better leads and better jumps will help. Todd Frazier stole 20 bases just by reading pitchers and taking every little advantage he could.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Your first point is dead on. They need smart, not aggressive, base running as a principle. As an example, Frazier had 71 career stolen bases, he also got caught stealing 35 times. The latter far outweigh the former in value. Frazier, as with most players, shouldn’t have tried to steal bases.

  2. Mark Moore

    Interesting insight. It’s not a metric I’ve seen before, but it makes sense in that getting on is one thing, getting moved around is a product of both other hitters and how you approach the next 270 feet. I guess we all could imagine what Billy would have done if he were “on” more often …

    Here’s hoping DeShields can make a difference.

  3. CFD3000

    I don’t know if Deshields has some extra insight on baserunning skills or any extra ability to teach it to the Reds. It’s possible that since he was fast he relied more on that than mastering the subtleties. But I do know that an emphasis on this aspect of the game from anyone willing to study this detail of the game can only help. The Reds have not been good on the bases, and the fastest ways to improve overall are to work on the things you’re worst at. So I don’t know if I should be excited about Delino Deshields, but I’m definitely pleased that this will be an area of emphasis in 2019.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Speed and base running provides surprising little value in run scoring, particularly at a time when hitting home runs is ascendent. The out is far more important than the extra base. For example, all of Hamilton’s base running added up to 8.4 runs above average, which doesn’t even add up to a single win.

      That said, if DeShields brings *intelligence* to base running (not raw aggressiveness) it can’t hurt to have someone emphasizing it.

    • Big Ed

      Good baserunning is primarily about getting a proper secondary lead, rounding the bases correctly, understanding where the defense is playing (particularly the fielder nearest you), and thinking through various situations between pitches. And old-fashioned hustle, which allows for example a guy to turn a single that is slightly bobbled into an extra base.

      Plus, a guy has to understand the baseball equivalent of down and distance. If a decent base stealer is on first with a tough lefty on the mound and Jesse Winker up with an 0-2 count, it may be prudent to try to steal even if the chance of success is barely over 50-50; the worst that can happen is that Winker reloads the next inning with a new count.

      Much of it is just competitive instinct and concentration. Properly done, it amounts to a run here and there, stops a few double plays and other outs, puts some pressure on the pitcher, etc. There is no excuse at the MLB level not to play the game properly.

  4. WVRedlegs

    DeShields will help the Reds base running about as much as he helped Billy Hamilton with his bunting. That was a resounding success. DeShields was to suppose to fix Hamilton and his bunting a few off-seasons ago, but just made it much worse.
    This is the one area David Bell has really let his comfort bias affect his decision making. Just a terrible decision to have DeShields anywhere near the Reds players.
    Who will he throw under the bus first?

    • LWBlogger2

      Hard to say on DeShields. He’s not really the kind of player or coach that I like but I don’t know him or enough about him to form an informed opinion on how he’ll be as a Reds 1B coach. He’s basically doing Benevides’ job so I guess we’ll just have to see if the results are there. Will the Reds make fewer outs on the bases AND be able to advance more often? That’s going to be the criteria. As for the bunting, he failed miserably with Hamilton but it begs a question. Was the failure with Hamilton mostly on DeShields not being able to teach it? Was it on Hamilton for not absorbing and mastering what DeShields was trying to teach? Was it a little of both, with DeShields not being able to instruct in such a way that Hamilton could understand and Hamilton not working hard enough on his craft?

      I don’t like what he did to Stephenson a couple years back but there is a lot of talk about accountability and about calling players (and coaches/manager) out more often. I don’t agree with the public forum that DeShields used with Stephenson but he was holding him accountable.

      We’ll have to wait for the results to know if DeShields will be a benefit, a liability, or have no discernible effect.

  5. jreis

    I just hope Deshields can encourage the reds to stop the jogging on the base pads. as a fan, that is the most disheartening thing over the past 5 years, the jogging from 2nd to 3rd on a hard hit single. at least make the guy make a throw to the plate. he may air mail it, who knows?

    I love Brandon Phillips but I always felt that he brought this lazy, aloof culture to cincy and after Rolen left he kind of went unchecked. he could get away with it because of talent but I always felt he kind of rubbed off on Votto, Bruce in a bad way.

    The biggest jogging culprits from last year were Suarez, Winker, Votto. scary because they have the highest obp.Votto’s runs/on base percentage was awful. if he can even improve that a fraction our offense would be so much better.

    • Big Ed

      I agree that Votto is a certifiably bad baserunner. He never got back any confidence on the base paths after injuring his quad a few years ago. Wade Boggs was a bit like that in his latter days. It would take two triples to score him from second.

      I don’t expect guys to all-out sprint routine grounders to shortstop in an ordinary spot in the game. They would risk pulled hamstrings if they did. I do expect them to run hard enough to be able to take advantage of a bobble or a throw a bit off-line.

      • LWBlogger2

        That’s about my expectation too. We never know however if there is already an injury that players may be worried about aggravating. I remember people getting on Griffey for not hustling and then finding out that he was told not to hustle by the manager because of his hamstring.

  6. Tom

    Votto is as poor a base runner as any player I’ve ever seen. He’s proven his defense is very practice dependent – when he works hard, he’s gold glove. When he hasn’t worked hard or the quad limited his mobility, he’s very bad. I wonder if it’s the same for the basepaths for him?

    I’ve joked that when he’s finally on the ballot for the HoF, the one outstanding question will be the TOOTBLANs.

    That said, he’s still an “inter”-national treasure!

  7. roger garrett

    Not sure how this helps.Running the bases to me is instinct more then anything and hard for me to fathom anybody being taught how to get a lead,go from first to third on a single,read the ball off the bat etc etc.Guess it won’t hurt but guys that are good base runners just have that knack.

    • LWBlogger2

      It does seem hard to coach, especially to players who have been playing their whole lives and have made it to MLB. Maybe some tweaks can be made but getting these guys past habits etc, will be hard.

  8. Matt Hendley

    So what were the rules prior to 1898? In regards to SB

  9. Mason Red

    Unfortunately the off season continues to be a snoozer.

  10. Seat101

    If during this time of the season, I start to feel there’s a light at the end of the tunnel or there’s a little sunlight heading my way and I’m starting to feel better about everything… I come here to read the comment section. That brings me back down in a hurry.

    • WVRedlegs

      Great. Victim shaming now. The Reds front office are the ones who ratcheted up the expectations with all their blustery talk. All talk and no action. The Reds front office are the ones who leaked names to the media of prospective players they were interested in.
      And now you want to blame the fans for all the disappointment??

      The Mets new GM is fully capable of making trades and free agent signings, but his counterparts in Cincinnati are too afraid to pull the trigger.

      • Seat101

        Honestly, I was being tongue-in-cheek. I am pretty sure your “victim shaming” response it was tongue-in-cheek also.

        I have high hopes for the front office but I guess a slightly longer time frame before I get the pitchforks and torches and join you.

        All I want for Christmas is Scooter to be traded, the Reds to get a #2 starter and an adequate centerfielder.

        World peace and a winning lottery ticket would be nice as well

      • WVRedlegs

        Seat, so am I. Just joshing with you. Lack of meaningful activity has me out of sorts. I need a bran muffin.

      • Doug Gray

        You can’t know that the Reds leaked names or if the other teams involved leaked names. And if history tells us much of anything – it probably wasn’t the Reds doing ANY of the leaking. You don’t tend to hear about anything they do until it happens. If they were the source of leaks, we’d not have moves come out of nowhere with them all of the time. But we do.

  11. Bill J

    Frank Robinson wasn’t the fastest runner when he played, but was one of the best base runners in the game during his time.

    • Big Ed

      Barry Larkin was a great baserunner, too; very confident and aggressive, and rarely wrong.