St. Louis Cardinals: why Bader isn’t running…so far

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 04: Harrison Bader #48 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts after hitting a dounle in the fourth inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on August 4, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 04: Harrison Bader #48 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts after hitting a dounle in the fourth inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on August 4, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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Harrison Bader led the St. Louis Cardinals in stolen bases last season, his rookie year. He followed that up by leading in Spring Training but he has yet to part with first base so far this season.

The St. Louis Cardinals have a storied tradition with base-stealing.  Many fans were hoping for Harrison Bader to fill that role. Here is a look at his opportunities so far, and why he may not be running…yet.

Some modern theories that emphasize run production may militate for keeping runners on base at all cost and not incurring the risk of the stolen base. However, that doesn’t appear to be Mike Shildt’s game plan for 2019.

Other players have been given the green-light in the first week of the season, even Marcell Ozuna who appears to be somewhat hobbled with an issue with his side at the very least. In six games, there have been five attempts: two by Kolten Wong, two by Dexter Fowler and one by Ozuna.

Here are Bader’s opportunities so far, all as an eighth-placed hitter, and the number of pitches upon which he could have attempted a steal:

Game 1. Top of the 5th, Cardinals Batting, Behind 3-4, Brewers’ Jhoulys Chacin facing 7-8-9.  Bader on first with one out.   Mikolas misses a bunt and strikes out. Matt Carpenter flies out.  Pitches:  10.

Game 5.  Top of the 5th, Cardinals Batting, Behind 0-4, Pirates’ Chris Archer facing 8-9-1.  Bader singles with no outs. Pinch hitter Drew Robinson, Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt all strike out. Pitches: 20.

Game 6.  Top of the 10th.  Cardinals batting tied.   Deep into the Pirates bullpen.  Bader walks.  O’Neill singles.  Carpenter flies out.  Goldschmidt walks Bader to third.  Pitches: 8.

What we have not seen so far is a situation where Bader is on first with two outs. But I bet he would be particularly loathe to steal in that situation because if you were thrown out, the pitcher would lead off the top of the next inning.  And are you really expecting the pitcher to get a two-out hit to drive you in from second-base?

I would conclude that Bader is either not being sent because the pitcher’s spot is being relied upon to bunt him over, or he is too close in the batting order to two of the most formidable home run hitters in the league: Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt.  Shildt may well prefer not risking taking Bader’s duck off the pond with those two around the corner.

I had earlier recommended Bader hit sixth as sort of a second lead-off with Wong and Fowler hitting behind him.   I see that Mike Shildt in today’s home opener is moving Bader up in the lineup by at least one spot.  With a two-batter buffer between Bader and Carpenter, we will see if that generates more stolen base attempts for the St. Louis Cardinals.

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Base stealing is one of the things the St. Louis Cardinals have gotten away from a bit in recent years, but they have the talent to bring it back into the gameplan. While whether they do end up using Bader’s speed on the basepaths remains to be seen, but I doubt this season ends without some significant stolen base attempts from Harrison Bader.

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