Lou Brock They Ain’t

Were the Cardinals REALLY a bad base-running team?


I’m not going to pretend to know how bad. They weren’t historically bad. If you grew up in the culture of Whitey-ball, as I did, they probably seemed a lot worse than they really were. But they were bad. Very bad.

Something drove me to look up just how bad.

So I grabbed random stats. Outs made at 3B. Outs Made at home. And a series of stats that showed how successful they were going from 1st to 3rd (or home) on a single, 1st to home on a double, or 2nd to home on a single.

Now, these aren’t the be all and end all of the story. I know this. Duh. No one is going 1st to 3rd on an infield chopper to the SS. There are elements to each play that mean you can’t look at any individual stat and draw any conclusions. BUT when you pick all of these stats, and they all lead you in the same direction, I think that can be telling. Here is the table (Click to make it actually visible):

And here’s the direction. The Cardinals advanced below average in every category, and cumulatively were thrown about above average.

An average of the 3 metrics (which is one of 50 different flawed approaches I could’ve made for a quick ranking) put the Cardinals at 23rd in baseball. Which probably seems too good to you, and probably is when you factor in their additional outs.

So they probably weren’t very good.

And yes, if you look at the data you’ll discover weird things. Billy Hamilton scored from first on a double 4 out of 6 times. He scored from 2nd on a single 5 out of 11 times. That shouldn’t happen.

On the Cardinals front, there are several individuals that would make you cringe. But Jeremy Hazelbaker, you know the fast guy, was standing on 2nd when someone hit a single 6 times. He scored once. One time. Once. 4 times he made it to 3rd. Which means there was a time this year when he didn’t make it to 3rd on a single. I hope it was justified. I’m glad I don’t remember it.

The Padres were amazing. Maybe this is because of their huge outfield? I dunno. There are lots of guesses you can make looking at this. The Cardinals have a lot of space too. It’s scary to think their numbers might be inflated towards the GOOD side because of it.

But the point is the direction will tell you that these Cardinals were a poor base-running team. Maybe they were dumb, maybe they were just slow, maybe they were a combination, but they couldn’t run.

Which makes me say, what about the coaches? How did they do?

Well the Cardinals were thrown out at home 20 times. That’s a lot. That’s not the most.

Milwaukee was thrown out at home 27 times, most in baseball. They also had the least opportunities to get thrown out, only 450. That means pretty much any time they tried to run, Milwaukee fans, both of them, were terrified.

Ed Sedar is the Brewers 3B coach. Search his name on twitter. The fans mock him. But I wonder if there wasn’t a method to the madness. The Brewers were a good home run hitting team, but they were just a plain bad team otherwise. Their running was relatively average, but the NEVER GOT HITS. They hit .244 as a team, 13th In the NL. Which means when a runner was running towards Ed Sedar, the thought was probably “THIS IS OUR ONLY FREAKING CHANCE TO SCORE, THEY BETTER DO IT NOW.”

That probably doesn’t make up for it. It’s an awfully high ratio on a team that hit plenty of home runs. I think you could make a case that Ed was 2016’s worst 3B coach.

The other teams thrown out as much or more than the Cardinals? Well there is the Cubs, the Rangers, and the White Sox. Of course they all ran much better. Hey, there’s a reason Vince Coleman would lead the league in CS. More opportunities.

Then there’s the Reds and the Pirates.  The Pirates had a lot more opportunities, and were worse at running. I’m guessing their 3B coach is slightly more trusted.

The Reds were slightly worse across the board.  Billy Hatcher was coaching 3B from them this year. Looks like he wasn’t all that great. Of course, this was a Reds team that needed every possible run to win a game, so it’s possible he was also instructed to push the envelope, because MAN that bullpen.

You have teams like the Mets, who were just terrible base-runners, but never got thrown out. I’d like to hope it’s because the coaches were smart enough to say, “THESE GUYS SUCK! DON’T RUN ANYMORE!”

And then there’s the Cardinals. The team that had an average amount of chances to take the extra base, WHILE leading the league in home runs. This would tell you that being extra aggressive is…well, it ain’t smart. Not for these guys. I mean, there were 5 teams that had as many or fewer singles with a guy on second that ended up scoring as many or more runs than the Cardinals. All that wasted offense.

I wish there were times when I remember saying “WHY DID YOU RUN THROUGH THE STOP SIGN???” But I can’t recall that once. I just remember a hopelessly slow Cardinal stumbling cast the cartwheel arms of Chris Maloney as the opponents attempt to not laugh while throwing the ball home from, say, shallow shortstop.

But maybe Maloney wasn’t the worst 3B coach in baseball. 2 90 loss teams in the Brewers and the Reds probably had coaches that were worse, sending their runners to their doom in games that were obviously meaningless since opening day.

The Cardinals missed the playoffs by one game. I suspect Maloney had something to do with that.

It’s been confirmed by the Cardinals he’ll be back next year, still coaching 3B. I guess I’m wrong. He must be very good, because a team serious about making the playoffs would’ve fixed this otherwise.

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