Pittsburgh Pirates and the Stolen Base


While the Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers have done a fantastic job this season getting batters out, one thing they haven’t been very good at is controlling the running game.

As a Pirates fan you’ve heard this story before, but the Bucs rank dead last in the majors throwing runners out. As good as Rod Barajas has been for this team, he and Michael McKenry have combined to throw out only four of 56 potential base runners. That’s a success rate of .929 against the Pirates catching duo, also easily the worst in the majors.

Barajas has thrown out only 2-of-40 runners, while McKenry has tossed out only 2-of-12. Barajas especially has done a good job throwing out runners his entire career, even nailing 20-of-60 attempted runners a season ago. For his career (before this season), the veteran had thrown out 183-of-396 (.462) potential runners.

That says two things.

For one, Barajas has been throwing out runners above the league average throughout his entire career, and two, the problem isn’t with the catchers, it’s with the Pirates’ pitchers.

It’s probably a good thing that the Pirates pitchers in general have kept runners of base as a team. Otherwise teams would run much more on the Bucs.  They’ve been run on 56 times on the season. In comparison, the San Diego Padres have allowed 75 stolen bases and have been run on 104 times on the season, which is close to twice as much as a team that has thrown out only four runners all year.

In fact, 21 teams in baseball have been run on this season more than the Pirates have.

Why wouldn’t teams run on the Bucs more?

Two reasons. For one they aren’t getting the opportunities as the Bucs are pitching well and two, maybe the pitchers are actually doing a good job at containing the running game. Otherwise, there is no real explanation of why teams don’t run on the Pirates at will.

Speaking of running, that brings us to the Pirates offense and since Clint Hurdle took over as manager in 2011, we’ve all been frustrated at times with the Bucs running into so many outs on the bases.

The Bucs have tried to run 71 times on the year and have been thrown out 25 of those, a 64.8 percent success rate. They are a middle of the pack type team in the amount of times they’ve run, but have been thrown out the fourth most times in Major League Baseball.

What that says is the Pirates have to get better running the bases.

They have speed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean these guys are good base runners. Andrew McCutchen have been successful 14-of 18 times and Alex Presley hasn’t been bad, making it 7-of-11 times. Neil Walker has also been efficient, swiping 7-of-8, but the rest of the team combined isn’t good.

That especially means Jose Tabata who has been caught (eight times) as many times as he’s been successful. That’s a lot of potential runs to leave on the base paths with Andrew McCutchen hitting behind you.

All this goes to show is that while the young Pirates are doing well in a lot of areas, they still have some areas where they need to get much better at.

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