JUPITER, Fla. -- It's impossible to know how much of what is seen in March can be a harbinger of what will come from April through September. But the Cardinals' renewed focus on controlling the running game has produced the desired result thus far.Entering Saturday's game against Atlanta, Cardinals' pitchers
JUPITER, Fla. -- It's impossible to know how much of what is seen in March can be a harbinger of what will come from April through September. But the Cardinals' renewed focus on controlling the running game has produced the desired result thus far.
Entering Saturday's game against Atlanta, Cardinals' pitchers had allowed fewer stolen bases (two) than any other club this spring. Furthermore, the team's seven caught-stealings ranked fourth-most in the Majors.
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The sample size is small (15 games), but the impact could be significant. The Cardinals allowed a 76.6 percent success rate on steals last season, which marked the worst such percentage by a Cardinals team since at least 1955. Data prior to that is incomplete.
"It's something that this organization, mostly because of what [catcher] Yadi [Molina] has been able to do behind the plate, we almost take it for granted … because he was so good at it," manager Mike Matheny said of inhibiting basestealers. "No catcher on the planet is going to be able to throw guys out at the rate that we were going as far as the effort [last year].
"And that's on me. That's something that I know I have got to do a better job of."
The spike in success against the Cardinals seemed to be tied more to the pitchers' inability to hold runners on than it did with anything related to Molina. Though Molina threw out a career-low 21 percent of attempting basestealers last season, his pop time and arm velocity were not drastically different than they were the year before, when he threw out 41 percent.
The difference was that his pitchers weren't giving him much of a chance. Some were too slow to the plate. Others failed to vary their times to the plate, or didn't pay enough attention to the runner.
Some of the worst offenders are still with the team, and that's why controlling the running game has been a point of emphasis throughout camp. Opponents had a 75-percent-or-better success rate running against starters Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Mike Leake. Out of the bullpen, Kevin Siegrist allowed six steals in six attempts, while Jonathan Broxton gave up six in seven tries.
"By the time it became an issue [last year], you have that balance -- is this something we can truly work on at this point in the season?" Matheny said. "Now is the time. We get a fresh start. That will be better. There is no question about it. We will control the running game."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.