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By David Golebiewski
Sunday, July 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

In Russell Martin, the Pirates finally have a Howitzer rather than a pop gun behind home plate.

The former Yankee and Dodger has thrown out half (25 of 50) of the runners attempting to steal in 2013, trailing just Cincinnati's Ryan Hanigan (52.4 percent) and blowing away the 29 percent MLB average. With seven caught stealing in July, Martin has surpassed the number of base runners nabbed by Rod Barajas (six) during the 2012 season.

While the club's big-ticket free-agent signee also is contributing at the plate, his arm alone has been worth the price. Martin leads all catchers in Stolen Base Runs, a Baseball Info Solutions stat that measures a catcher's skill in catching would-be base thieves and preventing runners from trying to steal in the first place. He has saved seven runs compared to an average defensive catcher.

Steal at your own peril

Pirates catcher Russell Martin is tops in saving runs with his arm:

Catcher, Team Stolen Base Runs

Russell Martin, Pirates +7

Yan Gomes, Indians +5

A.J. Ellis, Dodgers +4

Matt Wieters, Orioles +3

Jeff Mathis, Marlins +3

Joe Mauer, Twins +3

Ryan Hanigan, Reds +3


Martin's arm is proving to be a major deterrent for opponents. Runners attempted one steal per game against Barajas in 2012, above the MLB average of 0.9 attempts. Against Martin in 2013, they're taking off less often (0.64) than the average (0.75).

Martin ends a long streak of futility in controlling the running game. Pirates catchers ranked 26th in the majors in team Stolen Base Runs from 2003-12. Before Martin, the last one on the plus side was Ronny Paulino in 2006.

Change for the better

Here are the Bucs catchers' Stolen Base Runs totals since 2003.

Catcher, Year Stolen Base Runs

Rod Barajas, 2012 -10

Michael McKenry, 2011 0

Ryan Doumit, 2010 -8

Ryan Doumit, 2009 0

Ryan Doumit, 2008 -2

Ronny Paulino, 2007 -1

Ronny Paulino, 2006 +2

Humberto Cota, 2005 -2

Jason Kendall, 2004 +2

Jason Kendall, 2003 -4

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

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