October 28, 2013

No, the Cardinals are NOT a good baserunning team

Unfortunately, it's not just Tim McCarver yapping about this, for all the jokes we've had at Tim's broadcasting work over the years; Joe Buck's also made the claim. (Speaking of, Timmy's actually been pretty decent in the box this year, overall. Did good work on explaining the obstruction call. And, Ken Rosenthal has a good tribute column. Meanwhile, I'm wondering, who joins Joe in the box next year? Has an announcement been made that I missed, or is this still open? If he wanted to leave ESPN, I'd love to see Doug Glanville, myself.)

More unfortunately, the double steal by Pete Kozma and Jon Jay in Game 2 reinforced that idea. (Of course, Kolten Wong getting picked off to end Game 3 reinforced the idea they're NOT.)

There's this to add, too:
Jay said the steal call was not something issued from the dugout; Kozma read the situation on his own, and Jay alertly followed.
Really? Yes, it worked, but, that type of freelancing by young players is exactly part of why the Cardinals are NOT a good baserunning team.

Reality? The Cardinals, not just counting stolen bases but the total of baserunning, such as running through coaches' signs or not (and wrongly so), good or bad attempts to go from first to third or second to home on singles, etc.? The Cardinals were a horrible baserunning team in the first half of the year, and improved to mediocre but no better by season's end.

And, it continues in the World Series. At the end of Game 3, if Allen Craig breaks immediately for third when it's clear Yadier Molina is going home, he's in third easily, without any errant throw by Jerrod Saltalamacchia. Who knows what happens next.

Or Matt Holliday, in Game 2, not running out his can of corn to center, and so only being on first when Jacoby Ellsbury drops it, rather than at second.

The Cardinals have been like this all year long.

But, let's go back to those actual stolen bases. Just 45 on the year is horrible. And, 22 caught stealings? That's horrible.

Even throwing out Ellsbury's wonder year on the bases, the Sox had 71 successful steals, and only 19 caught stealings. That's better than 78 percent, while the Cards couldn't hit the 70 percent minimum that's considered necessary for base-stealing to be net benefit. (Total Baseball says 67 percent, but I think that's a touch low; in "Moneyball," Billy Beane also says 70 percent.)

Win or lose this year's World Series, Mike Matheny, along with Jose Oquendo, Mike Aldrete, and the rest of the Cardinal coaching staff, have their work cut out for them next year on teaching better base-running skills. If one "runs within one's self," it's not ultimately an issue of speed. It's an issue of smarts and paying attention.

Or, heck, make Carlos Beltran a coach as part of a new contract. He has the highest career percentage for people with 300 or more attempts and is sixth all-time among those with just 200 or more attempts.

I mean, the Cards have enough speed, plus sneaky-speed (Matt Carpenter, say) that the team should steal at about the same amount, and success rate, as the non-Ellsbury Sox did this year. (And, this is without assuming Wong as a starter at the start of next year.)

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