The St. Louis Cardinals still won’t be good on the base paths in 2017.
In some defensive metrics, the St. Louis Cardinals ranked 30th in baseball in baserunning last year. Will they improve this year? By that measure, it will be hard not to. But just because they don’t finish dead last in the majors on the base paths this season doesn’t mean they’ll suddently become a good baserunning team.
Already this spring, the Cardinals have made some unsettling mistakes on the bases, from getting picked off to getting thrown out trying to score from second base.
As a qualifier, some of that falls on the third base coach Chris Maloney, and some of the guys getting picked off are minor-leaguers who won’t factor into the big-league equation just yet. But still, it’s frustrating to see these mistakes since the organization has seemingly cracked down on eliminating those errors this spring training.
Manager Mike Matheny always wants his guys to be “aggressive, but smart.” That was the narrative all last year, but we kept seeing baserunners getting gunned down by outfielders as they were attempting to take the extra base.
The Cardinals stole just thrity-six bases in 2016. Just because they now have Dexter Fowler and, presumably, a full year of Kolten Wong, doesn’t mean that number will increase by much this season. But if Matheny really wants to practice the aggressiveness he preaches, he’ll look to take advantage of some of the speed on the roster by giving the steal sign to more baserunners this year.
My bet is Matheny won’t commit to sending more runners for the entirety of the season. It seems like every year, the Cardinals expect to be stealing more bases than they did the previous year, but it never comes to fruition.
The Cardinals probably won’t be last in baserunning metrics this year, and they better not be as much as they’ve emphasized improving in that area this offseason and spring.
Nevertheless, with the combination of a low stolen base output, a third base coach who often doesn’t give his runners a chance at the plate, and the inevitable mistakes here and there, the Cardinals still won’t be a good baserunning team in 2017.