It takes a lot of things to happen for a runner to steal a base. He has to be fast. He has to get a good jump on the pitcher. He has to beat the catcher’s throw down to second and he has to avoid a tag if it’s close.
In light of that, any number of people can, theoretically anyway, be responsible for an opposing base runner stealing a base. The pitcher can be responsible for not holding the runner or for being slow in his delivery to the plate. The catcher can be responsible for getting off bad throws to second. The middle infielder can handle the throw poorly or apply the tag poorly. Or, in some cases, the defense may do everything right and still not nab that runner because he was just too dang fast.
Last night the Washington Nationals stole seven bases off of the Chicago Cubs. Trea Turner, one of baseball’s fastest players and best base stealers, stole four of them. The pitcher on the mound for all seven of them was Jake Arrieta. The catcher behind the plate for all seven of them was Miguel Montero. The infielders for all seven of them were Tommy La Stella and Javier Baez. All of these men, Turner, and his teammates Anthony Rendon and Michael Taylor, who also stole bases, were the moving parts in play.
Who was to credit and who was to blame for all of those stolen bases? If you ask Miguel Montero, it was his pitcher, Arrieta:
If you can’t watch the video, here’s what he said:
“The reason why they were running left and right today because they know he was slow to the plate. It really sucked because the stolen bases go to me, and when you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time.”
You can watch all seven of the stolen bases here. Turner gets great jumps and that can partially be blamed on Arrieta. That’s especially true on a couple of steals that didn’t even draw a throw from Montero. But:
- On one of them Montero bounced his throw;
- On another it was a delayed steal that seemed to take Montero by surprise;
- On a third the pitch was high and outside, making it hard for Montero to get rid of the ball quickly but not attributable to Arrieta being deliberate;
- One came with a runner on third, which caused Montero to, wisely, hold on to the ball to prevent a run from scoring; and
- On the last one Montero airmailed the throw.
Perhaps someone with a stopwatch on Arrieta could better proportion blame here, but by my estimation Arrieta was clearly to blame for two of them, Montero was more at fault on three of them and the other two were really no one’s fault but circumstance. And that’s without giving Turner, Rendon and Taylor credit, which is just dumb.
But sure, Miguel, go ahead and throw this all on your team’s ace. That’s a fantastic thing for a backup catcher to do. Leads to great job security.