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Dave Roberts emphasizing aggression on the bases

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Rob Tringali/Getty Images

PHOENIX -- It was only for a few plays on Thursday, but the Dodgers looked like an aggressive team on the bases, in stark contrast from a year ago.

During the Dodgers' two-run first inning, there were a pair of singles that saw runners taking an extra base. Yasiel Puig singled home Howie Kendrick from second base, and Andre Ethier advanced to third on the single. Then Puig went from first to third on a single by Yasmani Grandal.

In 2015, the Dodgers had 295 singles hit with a runner on first base, and 76 times the runner advanced to third. Only three National League teams advanced to third base on a single fewer times than the Dodgers, and their 25.8-percent rate at doing so was below the NL average of 27.7 percent.

The Dodgers were also next-to-last in extra bases taken, at 37 percent of the time, below the league average of 40 percent of the time.

Sure this was the first inning of the very first spring game, and not very indicative of future outcomes, but perhaps it was hearing manager Dave Roberts talk about his emphasis on baserunning this season.

"If you look at the numbers and how this team ran the bases last year, we can do better. It's a point of emphasis for sure," Roberts said. "It's more of a mindset than a style of play. That's how you play the game of baseball."

It makes sense that Roberts would emphasize baserunning. It is how he made his bones as a player. Roberts was not only a volume stealer, but was effective as well, stealing bases at an 80.7-percent clip. He also took the extra base 51 percent of the time, compared to a 33-percent league average during his 10 years in the majors.

That said, the Dodgers' roster will go a long way in determining how good their baserunning is. But that brings me back to Roberts' quote, "It's more of a mindset than a style of play."

In 2015 the Dodgers were dead last in the NL in stolen base percentage (63 percent) and were 13th in the league with 59 steals. They made 56 outs on bases, slightly above the league average of 53.

The baserunning was bad enough that the Dodgers made a ultra-rare coaching change in mid-August, with Ron Roenicke coming in to coach third base, pushing Lorenzo Bundy to a different role, not that the bulk of the problems rested on the rotation of Bundy's arms.

The Dodgers did show improvement, at least in stealing bases, as the season wore on. They were a putrid 21-for-45 (46.7 percent) through the end of July, then 38-for-48 (79.2 percent) after the beginning of August.

Scott Van Slyke stole a base in the sixth inning on Thursday. He has nine steals in 274 career games.

Again, this was just one game, the very first spring game, and certainly not anything to over-analyze. But it will be interesting to see how much Roberts will be able to impose his aggressive mindset on the Dodgers this year.