When the Cardinals are able to shut down opposing running attacks, it leads to championship-caliber seasons for St. Louis.
That’s the best caught-stealing percentage by a St. Louis club since the 2005 Cardinals nailed 51 percent of baserunners attempting to steal.
The 2012 Cardinals caught 43 baserunners trying to steal. That’s the most by a St. Louis club since the 2000 Cardinals caught 66 runners on stolen base attempts.
All three of those Cardinals teams _ 2000, 2005 and 2012 _ reached the National League Championship Series.
In 2012, when he won the fifth of five consecutive Gold Glove awards, Molina caught a career-high 35 baserunners (48 percent) trying to steal. Cruz nailed 31 percent (8 of 18).
Molina and Cruz were helped by pitchers who made it difficult for baserunners to steal. Adam Wainwright pitched 198.2 innings in 2012 and only five baserunners attempted to steal against him. Three were caught.
Six of nine baserunners (67 percent) were thrown out trying to steal with Jake Westbrook on the mound in 2012 and five of nine (56 percent) were nailed with Jaime Garcia pitching.
(The most ineffective 2012 Cardinals pitcher at keeping baserunners from stealing was Mitchell Boggs. All six who attempted to steal with him pitching were successful.)
In 2005, when the Cardinals nailed 51 percent of attempted stealers (the franchise’s top percentage of the last 25 years), Molina and Einar Diaz were the primary catchers. Only 39 stolen base tries were made against Molina that year and he caught 25 of them (a National League-best 64 percent). Diaz nailed 8 of 19 (42 percent).
Molina’s performance in a game against the Pirates on May 24, 2005, showed his blossoming talents. Molina nailed all three baserunners (Rob Mackowiak, Jack Wilson and Tike Redman) who attempted to steal second and drove in the winning run with a 12th-inning single off closer Jose Mesa, lifting the Cardinals to a 2-1 victory. Boxscore
“In this kind of a close game, the little things make all the difference,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Like 2012, Cardinals pitchers in 2005 were superb in helping their catchers limit the number of steals. Baserunners were successful on only 2 of 10 theft attempts when Mark Mulder pitched and on just 3 of 9 when Jason Marquis pitched.
In 2000, Mike Matheny’s first year as St. Louis catcher, the Cardinals threw out 66 runners trying to steal (49 percent). That’s the highest total number caught by a Cardinals club in the 21st century.
Matheny, now the Cardinals’ manager, caught 53 percent (49 of 93) of baserunners trying to steal. He won the first of four Gold Glove awards that season and led the National League in number of baserunners caught attempting to steal.
Two throwing performances by Matheny stood out that season.
On April 10, 2000, Matheny threw out pinch-runner Glen Barker attempting to steal second with two outs in the ninth and Craig Biggio at the plate, ending the game and preserving the Cardinals’ 8-7 victory over the Astros. Boxscore
“It got scintillating there at the end. That’s a good word, isn’t it?” La Russa told Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch.
Said Matheny: “You never take the perspective that he might not run. That’s usually when you get caught off guard.”
Five months later, Sept. 1, Matheny nailed two baserunners in the ninth inning of a 6-5 Cardinals victory over the Mets. With one out in the ninth, Matheny threw out pinch-runner Kurt Abbott attempting to swipe second. After pinch-hitter Timo Perez, in his major-league debut, singled, Matheny nailed him trying to steal second. Jim Edmonds followed with a game-winning home run in the bottom of the inning, giving the Cardinals their first victory in seven tries against the Mets that year. Boxscore
“It was very important for this team to win,” Matheny said. “This sends a message that we can beat them.”
The Cardinals used five catchers in 2000. The best of the rest that season at nailing runners trying to steal was Eli Marrero at 60 percent (9 of 15).
Pitcher Darryl Kile was phenomenal at holding down thefts that season. Only 2 of 13 baserunners who attempted to steal were successful when Kile was pitching in 2000.