Albies shows ‘fearlessness’ that can’t be taught

His full name is Ozhaino Jurdy Jiandro Albies. His last name is pronounced “ALL-bies.” He was born Jan. 7, 1997 in Willemstad, Curacao. Two key former Braves from Curacao are Andruw Jones and Andrelton Simmons. The Braves signed him in July 2013. He made his major league debut Aug. 1, 2017. Albies' home run off Tony Cingrani on Aug. 3 was his first major league homer. That also was the first homer hit by a player born in 1997. He is a switch-hitter, learning to do that in 2013.

It was a routine comebacker to the mound with a runner at third base in the first inning Thursday. A bouncer fielded by the pitcher, a play that’s normally an easy out at first base after he looks to the runner at third to make sure he’s not going anywhere.

But Ozzie Albies was the runner at third in this instance, and he doesn’t view “normal” the way most others do. The Braves’ dynamo of a second baseman had bigger things in mind. Thievery. Pushing the envelope. Like he always does.

Brewers veteran pitcher Jhoulys Chacin fielded Freddie Freeman’s bouncer, took a cursory glance toward Albies near third base, then turned and lobbed a throw to first base for the out. As soon as the ball left Chacin’s hand, Albies took off. Raced for home. Surprised Chacin, the Brewers and just about everyone else at Miller Park.

Everyone except perhaps Braves third-base coach Ron Washington and first base coach Eric Young Sr. They’ve seen Albies on the bases a lot. They know how he thinks.

“Fearlessness. That’s the best word I can describe it,” said Young, who also is the Braves’ base-running coach. “Not afraid to do anything at any moment or any time. Constantly paying attention to everything that’s going on. He’s aware of what everybody’s doing. Being prepared like that makes him fearless, so he’ll do anything at any moment.”

Albies slid and scored, the Brewers unable to scramble and get an accurate throw to the plate from first base quickly enough. Chacin’s soft toss took plenty of time to reach first and Albies’ muscular, piston-like legs didn’t take much time to get his 5-foot-8 body to the plate.

Ozzie Albies slides safely at home plate after a daring dash in the first inning of Thursday’s game at Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

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His daring dash gave the Braves a 2-0 lead, one that pitcher Max Fried couldn’t hold in a Braves loss. Despite the defeat, Albies’ play was nonetheless impressive.

“That was alert,” Young said. “In his mind he was saying, ‘If he lobs it, I’m going. If he throws it hard I’ll just stop.’ We don’t practice that. You can’t teach that. You either got it in you or you don’t. He’s got it.”

FanGraphs has a statistic known as BsR (Base Running), which takes into account all of a player’s impact on the bases – stolen bases, taking an extra base, being thrown out, etc., and distills it into one number, ranking the player above or below average.

Albies ranked 11th in the majors at 4.2 before Friday, just behind one veteran speedster, Dee Gordon (4.5) and ahead ahead of another, Lorenzo Cain (3.9). Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte (5.2) ranked fourth in the majors before Friday.

The difference between Albies and those other three, besides experience -- he’s only 21, in his first full season -- is stolen bases. He had a modest eight before Friday, while Inciarte was tied for the major league lead with 23 steals, Gordon had 22 and Cain 16.

So it’s a testament to how much impact Albies has had by being relentless in other areas, especially turning singles into doubles, going from first to third on hits to left field, scoring from first or second base on hits that others typically wouldn’t try to score on for fear of being thrown out at the plate.

“Your instincts – some guys just got it, some guys don’t,” Young said. “He’s not afraid to make mistakes on the base paths. And you know what? It’s OK to have an aggressive player like that. You don’t want to take that away, that’s the way he plays. As a coach, I love it. I love it. He makes everybody aware when he’s out there.”