This sequence shows Joe Espada's perfect aggressive tone at Astros spring training

Expect the Astros to run a lot more under new manager Joe Espada than they did under Dusty Baker.
Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros
Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros / Bob Levey/GettyImages

For all of the strengths that the Houston Astros' offense has had in recent years, maximizing players' value in terms of baserunning under Dusty Baker was not one of them.

Despite the fact the new MLB rules seem to encourage players to steal more bases, the Astros ranked 18th in the league with 107 steals last season, and the more advanced baserunning metrics were even less kind. Houston did have a few guys that stole bagsin Kyle Tucker (30) and Chas McCormick (19), but overall aggression on the basepaths was not a high priority in Houston in 2023.

All of that seems to be changing under new manager Joe Espada, though. Espada previously said one of his goals for the Astros this season is to put pressure on the opposition with steals and aggressive baserunning.

Based on what he has shown so far in spring training, that's very much a focus down at camp.

Expect the Astros to run a lot more under Joe Espada in 2024

It's somewhat strange the Astros didn't run more under Baker given how adamant he was about how "horrible" baserunning has been in the modern game of baseball. However, that was exactly the case, as other than Dusty's first year as manager in 2020, the Astros consistently ranked near the bottom of the league when it came to baserunning, according to Baseball Savant.

Fans should expect a big change in that under Espada. While Houston isn't the speediest team in the league (21st in baseball in average sprint speed in 2023), they do have guys who are quick and, more importantly, possess high baseball IQ. A lot of what goes into aggressive baserunning is about game awareness and picking one's spots -- not raw sprint speed.

Will there be times when fans will bemoan the team making an out on the basepaths or a witnessing a TOOTBLAN for the ages? Absolutely. However, those moments will be outweighed by the times that a guy takes third and scores on a sac fly, gets a hustle double and scores on a single, or steals second and occupies the pitcher's attention enough to get them to make a mistake to the hitter.

It won't always be perfect, but Astros will end up better for it in 2024 and beyond if they stick to their guns.

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