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The San Diego Padres defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in extra innings on Sunday, improving their record to 13-11 by winning the four-game series. The Padres' go-ahead run was scored by Fernando Tatis Jr., of course, as he crossed the plate on an Eric Hosmer sacrifice fly after beginning the 11th inning as the mandatory runner on second.

Tatis crossing the plate is the image that will endure, but it's important to remember that the sacrifice fly was possible only because he stole third base. In doing so, Tatis contributed to the Padres' seeming commitment to aggressive baserunning, an oft-overlooked facet of the game that San Diego is excelling at so far this season.

Entering Monday, the Padres led Major League Baseball with 31 stolen bases; just one other team was within 10 steals of them, that being the Kansas City Royals, who have swiped 22 bags. Indeed, the Padres have stolen at least twice as many bases as 26 other clubs have to date, and they've done so while succeeding on 82 percent of their attempts, or three percentage points better than the league-average mark of 79 percent. 

The Padres are also finding ways to extract additional value during the run of play. Baseball Reference tracks an "extra bases taken" statistic that awards a baserunner credit if they outpace expectations on a particular play. For instance, a baserunner who goes first-to-third on a single, or who scores from first on a double, will be credited with an extra base taken. The Padres, to their credit, have taken the second-most extra bases (30) in the majors. They rank second in the rate version of that statistic as well, having advanced more often than expected on 53 percent of their opportunities. Even so, the Padres have made only four outs on the basepaths, two below the league-average total.

It's no wonder why Baseball Reference's calculations have the Padres tied with the Toronto Blue Jays for the most base-running value added through the season's first few weeks. How are they doing it? Let's break down three contributing factors.

1. Team-wide effort

In some cases, having one or two prolific thieves is enough to buoy a team's overall numbers. Take the Royals as an example. They're second in the majors with 22 steals, but more than half of those (12) have been executed by either Whit Merrifield (the majors' stolen-base leader) or Andrew Benintendi

The Padres' success has been more team-orientated. As of Monday morning, 23 players in the majors had stolen four or more bases this year; five of those were Padres. No other team had more than two entrants. Amusingly, that tidbit understates how contagious the stolen base has been for San Diego: six of their players have stolen at least three bags, and 10 have taken at least one.

PlayerSBCSExtra basesOuts on bases

Trent Grisham

5

0

2

0

Manny Machado

5

1

4

1

Wil Myers

4

1

5

1

Jurickson Profar

4

0

7

1

Fernando Tatis Jr.

4

1

3

0

Jake Cronenworth

3

1

5

0

Eric Hosmer

2

1

2

0

Tommy Pham

2

1

1

0

Ha-Seong Kim

1

1

0

0

A similar trend can be found in the Padres' extra base statistics. San Diego has had five players advance an extra base at least three times, and they haven't had anyone make more than out in the process. 

This appetite for aggressive baserunning isn't just a Tatis or Trent Grisham thing, it's a Padres thing. 

2. Picking spots

Stealing and running the bases is often viewed as an act that requires great physicality; you have to be fast, most reason, or otherwise you have no chance. In actuality, there's a mental component that matters, too. Scouts often talk about players with "smart speed," or those who are able to pick up on and retain information that allows them to play faster than their home-to-first times would indicate they should. Ben Zobrist is a good example of smart speed: he was never fast, but he was heady and he had a six-year stretch where he stole nearly 100 total bases and did it at a 75-percent threshold.

CBS Sports conducted a video review of the Padres' stolen-base attempts this season, and it's fair to write that the Padres are demonstrating smart speed by picking their spots on their stolen-base attempts. Whether it's because of the coaches, the advance scouts, the players, or some combination thereof, the Padres have been taking advantage of compromised defenses. Let's highlight two situations that stood out.

The first is when the Padres have runners on the corners. Most managers would forgo the running game by virtue of not wanting to fumble what could be a big inning. Jayce Tingler doesn't appear to subscribe to that philosophy. Five of the Padres' stolen-base attempts this season have come with runners on first and third, including all three of Eric Hosmer's attempts. Here's one of his successes, in which he could walk in safely:

The other situation that stood out is that the Padres are fond of double steals. They've already executed three this season, including on the play Sunday night that saw Tatis advance to third ahead of Hosmer's sacrifice fly:

Roughly a third of the Padres' steals have come in situations where they're forcing the catcher to make a decision. Do they throw to second base and risk the runner on third crossing the plate on a delayed double steal, or do they just eat the ball instead? Likewise, do they go after the lead runner, or hope to nab the trail runner? These are calls that the catchers have to make instantaneously, based on countless factors. No wonder the Padres advancing without a throw has become a common sight this year.

David Samson broke down the Padres-Dodgers rivalry on the latest Nothing Personal with David Samson. Listen below:

3. Picking on the Dodgers

The other component that bears mentioning is that the Padres have been taking full advantage of the Dodgers. They stole a season-high five bases on Saturday and Sunday, running their seasonal totals against the Dodgers to 18 steals on 19 tries. 

While the Dodgers don't need anyone's sympathy, the Padres' free-running ways do make you feel a little bad for catchers Will Smith and Austin Barnes in a sense. Another common base-stealing misconception is that the catcher is often, if not always to blame. The inverse is true, as it's on the pitcher to control the running game by being quick to the plate and by avoiding becoming predictable in their patterns. Seven of the Padres' steals have come against three relievers: Kenley JansenBlake Treinen and Scott Alexander, each of whom can be charitably described as being slow to the plate.

To wit:

Considering that the average margin of victory in the seven head-to-head games between the Padres and Dodgers so far has been 2.6 runs, and considering that every base and run is multiplied in importance in the kind of high-leverage situation those three pitchers tend to appear in, the Padres' aggressive baserunning doubles as a recipe for stealing a game here and there against the Dodgers they might not have otherwise. Consider Sunday's victory to be a validation of that theory.