The baserunning of the St. Louis Cardinals was a mess in 2016. But since then, statistics have shown an upswing in the team’s base running. Now the Cardinals are one of the game’s best.
The St. Louis Cardinals have been wreaking havoc on the bases this year, but it’s not just through steals. While the team is in the upper half of the league in stolen bases, the stats that have really shone are the deeper ones, such as FanGraphs’ baserunning (BsR) statistic. In addition to stolen bases, it also includes other plays on the basepaths, including a player’s taking an extra base or being thrown out while advancing.
As of now, the Cardinals rank fourth in baseball in BsR at 5.9. The median score in the league is 1.3. This is a drastic turnaround from 2016 when the team was 29th in the league with a BsR of -17.1. Wong is third in the major leagues in individual BsR, with a score of 3.4, and Paul DeJong is tied for seventh with a score of 3.0.
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DeJong and Marcell Ozuna lead the Cardinals in Runs from Baserunning with scores of 3. This stat is the number of runs better or worse a player is than the average at baserunning events, including stolen bases, caught stealing, wild pitches, passed balls and defensive indifference.
Where the Cardinals have really shown improvement, though, is in taking the extra base. The team is first in the major leagues in Extra Bases Taken percentage, which calculates how often a player advances more than one base on a single or more than two on a double. The Cardinals have a score of 50%, nine points higher than the average of 41%. Last year, the Cardinals finished the season right at the league average.
This difference can be seen to the naked eye. The broadcasters have said many times that manager Mike Shildt wants the team to be more aggressive on the bases, and the team is not only being more aggressive, it’s doing so effectively. While baseball has become more of a station-to-station game, the Cardinals are bucking that trend this year.
Willie McGee and Pop Warner could be two of the most influential people on the Cardinals’ staff when it comes to baserunning. McGee served as a sort of jack-of-all-trades coach last year, helping with many facets of the game, including baserunning. This year, however, he is focused on outfield instruction.
Warner, the third-base coach, is the one in charge of instructing runners about whether they should take the extra base. He shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to the team’s improvement on the bases.
The Cardinals will still run into outs on the bases, but that’s part of the game. The team appears to have made some real strides in becoming a good baserunning club, and the stats are there to back it up.