While the St. Louis Cardinals have been doing a better job of late at being aggressive on the base paths and using the stolen base to help create runs, they’ve been equally stingy in allowing opponents to do the same this season.
The run game was a point of emphasis in Spring Training and the pitchers have been more consistent this season with keeping the runners honest on base.
“I think they’re doing a nice job,” praised Mike Matheny over the weekend. “They’re paying more attention, I think they’re moves are better, they’re mixing up their times, they’re giving our catchers a chance. That’s what it all comes down to, if a pitcher’s going to be lackadaisical in how he holds the runners, I don’t care who’s back there, you’re not going to have a chance.”
The difference in the run game is notable.
This season, Yadier Molina has thrown out 19 of 52 would-be base stealers. Last year, he caught only 18 of 85 stolen base attempts–far below his career average.
“We know we just need to give Yadi a chance,” said Adam Wainwright. “If we’re constantly 1.4-1.5 to the plate, then that’s not giving him much of a chance on a guy who can run. If we’re 1.3, 1.2 then Yadi’s going to throw him out–almost doesn’t matter who it is. If you’ve got Billy Hamilton out there, might have to be a 1.2. I think it’s part of your game as a pitcher, controlling the running game. If you’re controlling the running the game, the best catcher on the planet can throw everyone out.”
For his part, Molina is shouldering the responsibility for last year’s numbers.
“I feel like they’ve been doing a good job the whole year–last year same thing,” said Molina of his pitchers. “I don’t blame them for anything. I’m throwing better now, my arm feels better.”
“The release point,” said Yadi, clarifying that his arm is not hurt. “My release point has been better.”
The Kansas City Royals, who rank 10th in MLB with 68 stolen bases, challenged Molina and the Cardinals repeatedly during their recent series. The result? Three of four would-be stealers were thrown out, plus Lorenzo Cain was picked off of second base.
“These guys will keep running, but Yadi has a pretty good track record of throwing a lot of guys out,” added Wainwright. “When we give him a chance, he throws them out. When they steal a base, it’s usually on us.”
photo credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports, Bill Greenblatt/UPI