WHY ARE STOLEN BASES UP AGAINST YADIER MOLINA?

> Jaime Garcia had a heck of a time against Aramis Ramirez tonight, giving up two three-run homers to him in what would’ve otherwise been a pretty good start.  Luckily Milwaukee starter Wily Peralta was even worse, and the Cards ended up winning their 27th game of the year.

Jaime gets a disproportionate amount of crap on his off days, but it’s important to keep in mind that he was beat by one of the best-hitting third basemen alive and that even after giving up six in less than six innings his ERA is three and a half.

> Peralta was indeed very bad; and the highlight of his bad day was David Freese‘s first homerun of the year–a grand slam in the first inning.

For a guy who came into today with only ten fly balls all year, it was a much-needed left-up pitch, and he did hat he was supposed to with it.  But given the location of the pitch and the guy who threw it, we can all be happy for Freese but at the same time acknowledge that this doesn’t mean that Freese is out of his downward stretch.

> John Mozeliak broke his streak of not giving any more timetables regarding injuries when he said that Jake Westbrook‘s shoulder inflammation was minor and would only cost him two starts.

He will miss three starts.

> The Cardinals did an in-ballpark poll regarding which hats the team should wear and when, which was hilarious.

> Friend of the site Bernie Miklasz breaks down the Cardinals’ recent woes against lefties that we discussed on here yesterday.

–Written before today’s game.  Molina caught Ryan Braun stealing today with Trevor Rosenthal on the mound–

> I like to poke fun at Cards fans on Twitter during games when, as one loud, incontrovertible voice, they declare that one would be mad to dare try and steal a base on Yadier Molina.

While Molina is one of the better guys in modern history at controlling the running game, the fact of the matter is that there have only been eleven guys* in history whom, over the course of their careers, it was statistically improbable that you were going to make it to the next base, and Molina isn’t one of those.

When I bring up the fact that Molina has allowed twelve stolen bases this year and only caught six, his fans are quick to blame the pitcher on the mound for the spike.

While I think they would say this whether it was true or not, it is true that the success or failure of a stolen base attempt is based on a combination of the pitcher, catcher and baserunner.  So it’s only fair to break down all three elements to see why steals against the Cards are up this year, even on Molina’s watch.

*Minimum 200 steal attempts.

CATCHER

Like I said earlier, Yadi is great at what he does.  He’s led the National League in Fangraphs fielding every year of his career in which he had qualified playing time.

His career caught stealing percentage is 45%, which is fantastic.  But this year 67% have made it on.  So is this a defensive slump on his part, or are one of the other two elements forming a perfect storm?

RUNNERS

Here are the career stolen base success rates prior to this year for all the guys who’ve stolen a base off Molina this year.

Carlos Gomez: 130-32 (80%)
Gerardo Parra: 166-54 (75%)
Hunter Pence: 64-21 (75%)
Norichika Aoki: 12-5 (71%)
John Mayberry: 9-4 (69%)
Kurt Suzuki: 36-17 (68%)
Ian Desmond: 17-9 (65%)
Starling Marte: 19-11 (63%)
Eric Young: 67-39 (63%)

That’s a lot of really fast and really smart guys.  And that helps put this little mystery in perspective since only really fast and really smart baserunners are going to try their luck on Yadier Molina.  The average team this year has seen 29 stolen base attempts; and the Cardinals have only seen 21.

PITCHERS

Here are the stolen base success rates in the careers of each Cardinals starting pitcher prior to this year.

Shelby Miller: 72%*
Jake Westbrook: 69%
Jaime Garcia: 69%
Adam Wainwright: 58%
Lance Lynn: 52%
Bullpen: 67%**

And here are their numbers this year.

Shelby Miller: 5 steals, 0 caught (100%)
Jake Westbrook: 2 steals, 2 caught (50%)
Jaime Garcia: 1 steal, 1 caught (50%)
Adam Wainwright: 0 steals, 2 caught (0%)
Lance Lynn: 1 steal, 0 caught (100%)
Bullpen: 3 steals, 1 caught (75%)

Shelby obviously stands out.  Take away Miller’s five stolen bases and Molina’s caught stealing percentage goes from 33% back over his career average to 54%.  He was also on the mound during Tony Cruz‘s only two steals allowed this year.

His minor league caught stealing percentage looks ugly, but looking at the stolen base numbers in the leagues he was in, it’s obvious that baserunning is almost completely out of control; which I guess is a product of guys still learning how to do something that I imagine is incredibly hard to do.  It also didn’t help that Miller never had one catcher in the minors who was particularly good at holding runners on.

At any rate, it would appear that Miller is responsible for Molina’s tainting stolen base track record so far this year.  It’s going to be interesting watching throughout the rest of the season to see if this trend continues; assuming he lets anyone on base again this year.

*Minor league numbers; no attempts in 2012

**Mitchell Boggs, Edward Mujica, Fernando Salas and Joe Kelly, the only relievers on whom steals have been attempted this year

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