St Louis Cardinals versus the stolen base

by on February 2, 2009 · 5 comments

Strangely (or perhaps fittingly), our two-hundredth post arrives today, on a day that we begin our most aggressive undertaking in this site’s brief history.

Today marks the beginning of a three-part series here at Pitchers Hit Eighth (hopefully it is only three) taking an in-depth look into the Cardinals’ approach to defending the running game.

Spurred on by my own look at one of Baseball Reference’s Stat of the Day posts – and the response it drew from Matthew Leach on Twitter:

@fungoes @PitchersHit8th FWIW, in addition to individual skills, Cards take stopping the run game very seriously. Drilled into all pitchers

I decided to take a look at how successful the Cardinals have been at preventing stolen bases since Tony LaRussa took the managerial position (which seemed logical to me, assuming that if it is important to Cardinal coaches and the manager now, it must’ve been the case in 1996 as well).

The obvious jumping off point for this discussion, at least to me, was the rate at which teams were successful stealing bases against the Cardinals. A pretty safe metric is the comparison of stolen base success rate against the Cardinals compared to the average success rates in the National League and average success rates against all MLB teams.

1996 65.82% 71.51% 70.73%
1997 67.00% 68.28% 67.82%
1998 67.65% 68.46% 68.55%
1999 53.69% 71.10% 69.09%
2000 51.47% 68.49% 68.79%
2001 57.95% 66.91% 68.67%
2002 71.67% 68.12% 68.15%
2003 69.62% 68.91% 69.35%
2004 64.63% 72.13% 69.92%
2005 49.23% 70.83% 70.49%
2006 66.32% 72.18% 71.32%
2007 63.04% 75.38% 74.62%
2008 70.00% 73.23% 72.66%

A cursory look at the Cardinals’ comparative success versus the stolen base seems to indicate that any focus that the Cardinals place on stopping the running game has been successful, no matter the circumstantial nature of this particular piece of evidence.

So, this is conclusive enough, right?

Well, I don’t think Pip (@fungoes) would let me off that easy, nor would I expect this to satisfy folks like the person behind the newly-famous St Louis internet handle ‘I HATE BILL DEWITT!!!!111!!>?!!!ONE!!’.

So over the next couple of days, I plan to show you to what extent Cardinal pitchers and catchers have had success stopping the run game, to the best of my ability.

Please follow along the next couple of days – this has been terribly interesting stuff for me, and I hope it will be for you too.

Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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