Yes, bigger bases make it easier to steal bases. Yes, the Diamondbacks are speedy and steal a lot of bases. But their real supernatural talent is preventing stolen bases.
Through 27 April, their 0.27 stolen bases per game was the lowest in the Majors. And if Madison Bumgarner had left the team before the season started, then their 0.15 stolen bases per game would have been lower than any season as far back as I could look in Team Rankings (2007). The season lowest was 0.18 stolen bases per game by the 2020 Cardinals.
Although preventing stolen bases is a team effort (includes catcher, second baseman, and pitcher), the conventional wisdom is that bases are stolen off pitchers, not catchers.
Catcher’s Caught Stealing Above Average (CCSAA).
Recently Baseball Savant added a statistic to measure the catchers’ contribution to preventing stolen bases. It takes into account how big of a jump the runner got before the ball left the pitcher’s hand (as well as other factors). It’s called Catcher’s Caught Stealing Above Average (CCSAA).
JT Realmuto is the ”King of Catching Guys Stealing”.
This season his 1.80 second pop time is the best in the Majors. The speed of his throws to second base is second best in the Majors.
Last season JT Realmuto was awarded a Sliver Slugger and a Gold Glove. He stole 21 bases, which is rare for a catcher. This season, with 4 stolen bases he is on pace to exceed 21 stolen bases. Truly, he is a great baseball player near his prime.
Let’s look at a summary of his skill in preventing stolen bases. Through 27 April, his 2 CCSAA, which looks at several factors, ranked him as only the sixth best in the Majors. Let’s look at one catcher who was better!
As a fan of the Diamondbacks, it’s great fun watching him throw out runners at second base. Through 27 April, Gabriel Moreno’s 80% caught stealing at second base led the Majors. His 3 CCSAA ranked him as the best in the Majors! Two factors in which he was better than JT Realmuto were accuracy of his throws and the second baseman catching fly (high) throws and tagging the runner. His 1.9 second pop time was significantly better than 2.0 average in the Majors.
Gabriel Moreno’s skill extends beyond throwing runners out at second base. Let’s consider four plays that made a big impact for the Diamondbacks.
- March 31, bottom of the 4th inning, score tied 0-0, 1 out, runners on first and second base. James Outman (Dodgers) accidentally bunted the ball. Gabriel Moreno fielded the ball and threw out the lead runner at third base. The Dodgers did not score that inning, and the Diamondbacks won the game, 2-1. Win Probability Added (WPA) was 5%.
- April 7, top of the 7th inning, D-backs ahead 4-3, 2 outs, runner on first base. Instead of returning the ball to the pitcher, Gabriel Moreno threw the ball to first base and Miguel Vargas (Dodgers) was tagged out. The Diamondbacks won the game 6-3. WPA was 5%.
- April 11, top of the 3rd inning, score tied 0-0, no outs, runner on second base. Gabriel Moreno threw out Joey Wiemer (Brewers) who tried to steal third base. The game stayed tied through 6 innings, although the Diamondbacks lost. WPA was 9%.
- April 18, top of the 4th inning, D-backs ahead 4-2, two runners on base. Gabriel Moreno was batting against Jordan Montgomery of the Cardinals. He hit a 3-RBI home run. All 3 runs were needed because the Diamondbacks beat the Cardinals 8-7. WPA was 8%.
Gabriel Moreno’s effectiveness was enhanced when pitcher Zac Gallen shortened his delivery time to the plate. That improvement was noted by Dave Roberts, Manager of the Dodgers, who cited that improvement as one of the reasons that the Dodgers have attempted less steals this season.
Dave Roberts, Manager of the Dodgers said his relievers have struggled with maintaining their delivery time. My two thoughts are:
- On 28 August, which is the next time these teams meet, I will be watching for the Diamondbacks to steal many bases against the Dodger relievers! In addition, I hope the Dodger starter will be Noah Syndergaard, whose delivery time to the plate has contributed to his 9 stolen bases (zero runners caught stealing), which was the most stolen bases in the Majors through 27 April.
- A very strong positive is that very few stolen bases against the Diamondbacks’ rebuilt bullpen is a strong indication that they are NOT struggling to maintain their delivery times. That indication is additional evidence that the Diamondbacks bullpen is the best in several years.
The Diamondbacks led the Majors in preventing stolen bases. Their catcher, Gabriel Moreno, was the best in the Majors in throwing out baserunners based on his league leading statistic, Catcher’s Caught Stealing Above Average. This season he made plays with big impact, including he picked off a runner at first base, and he fielded a bunt to get the lead runner out at third base.
Overall, his defense was noticed by other teams. The Manager of the Dodgers said that Zac Gallen’s improved delivery time to the plate and Gabriel Moreno’s defense were reasons the Dodgers attempted less steals against the Diamondbacks. That fact speaks volumes about Gabriel Moreno’s excellent defense.