For Pirates, steal a problem
The Pirates may enter the MLB record books this season, but they won't have to beg or borrow to get there. It's more about stealing.
The Pirates are on pace to break the record for worst percentage of throwing out base-stealers since the statistic started being tracked in 1948.
Opposing teams have succeeded on 90.4 percent of their stolen-base attempts, with the Pirates throwing out only 15 of 153 runners. Rod Barajas has caught only 6 of 93 runners (6.5 percent). Michael McKenry is only slightly better at 9 of 64 (14.1 percent).
The 2007 Padres set the current mark, allowing 90.4 percent of opposing base-stealers (20 of 219) to advance safely.
“I don't know how to explain it,” said Barajas, who went 0 for 6 throwing out base-stealers in Tuesday's loss to the visiting Brewers. “I don't feel like mechanically things are wrong. It's one of those seasons where it's just not working out. I'm not throwing guys out. If it was just me, I could say, ‘You know what, I stink.' It's been a thing that hasn't gone right this year.”
The Pirates aren't the only team having issues throwing out base-stealers. Some of the worst throw-out rates in the post-World War II era are dotting this year's Major League Baseball stats.
The Nationals, who had the best record in baseball entering Friday's games, have allowed 84 percent of base-stealers to advance safely, which would rank as the seventh-highest in the past 64 years. The Twins are at 83 percent, followed by the A.L. West-leading Rangers at 82 percent.
From 1948-2005, only three teams — the '88 Astros, the '97 Expos and the '03 Phillies — allowed a stolen-base success rate of 82 percent or higher. In the past seven seasons, including this year, there have been 13 teams that couldn't throw out at least 19 percent of base-stealers, including the four worst teams in preventing base-path thievery in the past 64 years.
The league success average this season for base-stealers is 74 percent.
Coincidentally, the Pirates also are last in the majors in stolen base percentage, being caught 58 percent of the time (66 of 114).
Despite the Pirates' recent skid, there is no correlation between throwing out base-stealers and winning or losing.
The 2010 Yankees won 95 games, even with a top-five worst 85 percent success rate by opposing base-stealers. The '09 Red Sox, who also won 95 games, allowed an 87 percent steal rate. The '07 Padres, who have the modern-day record, won 89 games.
“Is (allowing stolen bases) the reason why we're not winning? Absolutely not,” Barajas said. “The first half we weren't throwing anybody out, either, and you didn't hear anybody complaining.”
Barajas' ability to throw out runners has slipped in recent years. He threw out 34 percent of would-be base-stealers from 2001-09. In the past three years, he's down to 15 percent.
He said an important aspect is for pitchers to stay focused on the batter instead of the runner at first.
“In the first half, that's the way it was,” Barajas said. “It wasn't a huge deal, but I think it's kind of blown up. Now it's in the back of people's mind, ‘We have to keep the running game at bay,' and our focus isn't where needs to be.”
Manager Clint Hurdle said his pitching staff needs to improve “holding the ball and changing up the rhythm when you're on the mound.” That is one of the keys to prevent stolen bases.
“That becomes sometimes problematic for some guys because it may not be their strength,” Hurdle said. “But we all know that … mixing it up is the biggest complication for every good baserunner.”
John Grupp is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Lincoln tries to rejuvenate career in second stint with Pirates
- Rossi: Pirates better with Maz on scene
- Pirates willing to consider high salary to keep star McCutchen
- Pirates notebook: Nutting expects club to win division title
- Pirates notebook: Mercer gains celebrity in Kang’s home country
- Rossi: Pirates better with Maz on scene
- Pirates looking at ways to make McCutchen’s off days more productive
- North Side start-up takes swing at mapping hitters