How Does One Pick Off Terrance Gore?

Probably my favorite sub-plot of this manic Royals conquest is the team’s 25th man, Terrance Gore, who had played in 11 major league regular season games before this most iconic of winning streaks. In fact, including his postseason appearances, Gore has played only 33 games above single-A, and is now a World Series contestant.

One way to easily identify Gore on the field is his uniform number 0, an under-utilized quirk that is an easy way to gain my affection. (Much respect also to Adam Ottavino.) There are other easy ways to identify him: he’s by far the smallest person on the field, somewhere around 5’7”, and he is only summoned off the bench in order to pinch-run in late-inning situations, and almost always for designated hitter Billy Butler. The substitution for Butler is doubly brilliant on the Royals’ part: slow Billy is taken off of the basepaths, and inexperienced Terrance does not have to play high-leverage innings of defense. In his sixteen games as a Royal, Gore has only been allowed two plate appearances, neither of them in the postseason.

Gore’s inclusion on the roster is a brilliant example of an entire Major League organization working in orchestration. Anticipating his usefulness as a playoff bench weapon, the Royals promoted Gore from High-A Wilmington to Triple-A Omaha at the beginning of August, and then from Omaha to Kansas City at the end of the month. Come playoff time, and Gore effectively replaced Raul Ibanez on the 25-man roster, with the hoodied Ibanez looking more and more like a coach as he watches and encourages from the dugout.

It has been easy to compare Gore to Herb Washington, a track champion and an Oakland A from 1974-75. In his two years in the big leagues, Washington appeared in 110 games, stole 31 bases, and ended up with more World Series rings (1) than career plate appearances (0).

To compare these two players is actually disrespectful to Gore. For Washington’s career, he successfully stole on 31 of his 50 attempts — an unremarkable 62% — and went 0 for 2 in the playoffs. To wit:

Gore, meantime, is a perfect eight-for-eight, including three postseason steals. For his professional career, he is now 176 for 193 in stolen base attempts, or an incredible 91.1% success rate. This compares favorably even to Billy Hamilton, who is 464 for 572 in his career, or 81.1% successful.

What’s even more incredible about Gore is that the umpires haven’t even really needed to be there for his stolen base attempts: the defense hasn’t even gotten particularly close, even though they know exactly what Gore wants to do. To wit:

It would behoove advance scouts from both the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants to have some idea of how to pick Gore off. The video above doesn’t really help, and neither does this one. The next (and last) place to turn for help is that sample of 8.9% of Gore’s minor league stolen base attempts where he really did get picked off.

And here the mystery gets even murkier. This year, Gore went 36-for-40 in Wilmington, whose games are not available on MiLB TV. But, aha, for the Omaha Storm Chasers in August, Gore went 11-for-14, or 78.5%. For reasons that will immediately become obvious, though, the video clips of these plays offer little by way of instruction for the Cardinals and the Giants:

Caught Stealing #1
The scene: Omaha at Colorado Springs Sky Sox, August 8 (continuation of rained-out game on July 12)
The marksman: Brian Burres

This pick-off move from the former major league lefty leaves Gore on an island, although the camera doesn’t catch if the move froze Gore or if he started his run prematurely. What is impressive, though, is how Gore’s version of getting picked off ends with a bang-bang play at second.

Caught Stealing #2
The scene: Omaha v. Las Vegas 51’s, August 16
The marksman: Logan Verrett

This is the most impressive defensive play against Gore, with the righty Verrett catching the baserunner leaning after an elegant spin move. (Verrett also applies the tag on Gore.) If Verrett gets promoted to the big leagues and if the Royals face the Mets as part of interleague play, well then Gore had better watch out for that hypothetical.

Caught Stealing #3
The scene: Omaha v. Las Vegas 51’s, August 17
The marksmen: Noah Syndergaard, Taylor Teagarden, and Anthony Seratelli

This is the only normal-looking defensive play. Syndergaard’s pitch is middle-high, or in the perfect spot for Teagarden to grab it as he powers out of the crouch. It’s a close play — and MLB-caliber cameras and camera angles may just reveal that Gore snuck his foot in before the ball arrives — but Gore has been gunned down.

And so Taylor Teagarden, he of the 172 major league games and .202 major league batting average, has done what nobody has yet to do in the major leagues: throw out Terrance Gore.

The lesson from these scant videos, in the unlikely event that there is one: your best chance at getting Gore out is to not throw a pitch. If that ball heads toward home plate, you’re pretty much screwed. Unless you’re Taylor Teagarden. Good luck, Cardinals or Giants.

Actually, no. No luck to you. I, for one, would like to see Gore’s unexpected season of perfection to remain intact through the end.

Miles Wray contributes sports commentary to McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Ploughshares, The Classical and Hardwood Paroxysm. Follow him on Twitter @mileswray or email him here.

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Ruki Motomiya
7 years ago

Well, there’s 5 days until the World Series…quick, Giants, sign Teagarden or trade for him!