Red Sox opposition running game

Early in the year, Boston was being eaten alive by the opponents’ base stealers. The Red Sox allowed 36 stolen bases in their first 16 games, with only one runner caught stealing. This was capped by the Texas Rangers stealing nine bases off of Tim Wakefield and Victor Martinez in the game on April 20.

After the Rangers nabbed five more bags in the remaining two games of the series, the Red Sox were on a pace to allow a record 365 stolen bases for 2010. That would have obliterated the old Retrosheet-era team record of 223 stolen bases allowed by the Red Sox in 2001, when Scott Hatteberg and Doug Mirabelli filled in at catcher for an injured Jason Varitek.

However, after that series in which the Rangers stole 14 bases in three games without getting caught, the Red Sox defensive effort against the running game has had much improved results. In the 60 games since April 22, the Red Sox have allowed 40 stolen bases, caught 18 runners stealing, and picked off an additional three baserunners. The contrast is impressive. I wish I knew what the Red Sox changed defensively.


The change does not seem to be associated with any one catcher or pitcher. It seems to have occurred across the team, suddenly and dramatically. Let’s look at the catchers.

Victor Martinez  GS    SB    CS
Apr 4-22         12    25     1
Apr 23 - Jun 26  42    30     8

Jason Varitek    GS    SB    CS
Apr 4-22          4    11     0
Apr 23 - Jun 26  18    10     5

And the pitchers. (The line for the bullpen includes spot starters Scott Atchison and Felix Doubront.)

             April 4 - April 22        April 23 - June 26
Pitcher       G     SB    CS+PO         G     SB    CS+PO
Wakefield     3     10      0          10      7      2
Beckett       4      9      0           4      0      1
Lester        3      5      0          12      3      3
Buchholz      3      4      0           7      3      4
Lackey        3      2      1          12      9      4
Matsuzaka     0      0      0           8      8      4
Bullpen      16      6      0          60     10      3

I’d love to hear from any Boston fans who know whether the pitchers have been paying more attention to the runners at first base, throwing over more often, or coming quicker to the plate, and whether the catchers have changed anything.

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  1. MikeS said...

    I think this is one of those things that can’t be measured.  A catcher’s footwork and arm or a pitcher’s move aren’t going to improve that rapidly.  About the only thing that could be measured is whether the catchers are calling more fastballs or whether the pitcher is throwing to first more often and those are only a small part of controlling the running game.  You can’t measure if a pitcher is holding the ball to vary his delivery time or looking the runners back.  So much of controlling the running game is just the pitcher feeling that it is important and being willing to pay attention to the runner and play little mind games with him rather than focusing everything on the batter.  It’s where the semi-myth of the baserunner bothering the pitcher has come from.

  2. Tom said...

    V-Mart was sailing the bulk of his throws early in the season. He wasn’t even coming close to the covering man at second. He’s gotten off better throws since then.

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