Blue Jays pitchers have locked down the running game


The Toronto Blue Jays have done a lot of things well since the All Star Break, especially from the pitching standpoint. One accomplishment you may not have noticed is the Blue Jays pitching staff’s incredible ability to halt their opponent’s running game. Buster Olney tweeted out the statistics early Saturday and some familiar names top the list. Four of them.

Credit needs to be assigned to both ends of the pitch here, but this does start on the mound. Mark Buehrle is a well-known pickoff artist that has controlled the running game well throughout his career by working quickly on the mound. R.A. Dickey, David Price and Marco Estrada have all followed suit, with the four starters combining for a big ‘zero’ in the category of stolen bases against.

Toronto’s catching tandem of Russell Martin and Dioner Navarro have been absolutely fantastic against would-be base stealers, too, both either matching or posting a career high in caught stealing percentage. Josh Thole is 0-for-6, but he’s trying hard and having fun. That’s what matters.

Russell Martin has allowed 40 stolen bases while throwing out 31 runners, good for a 44% CS%. It seems like that number should almost be higher, and lately, teams have finally begun to exercise a little more caution when running against the Jays backstop. Navarro’s performance has been much more surprising, allowing 14 steals to 9 runners thrown out, good for a 39% CS%. His defensive value had typically fallen in the realm of game management and pitch calling, so this has been a welcome addition.

These numbers matter because it’s playoff time. Just as the Blue Jays are likely to roster Dalton Pompey towards the bottom of their roster as a pinch-running specialist, every other team will be doing the same. There will be a dozen Pompeys in these playoffs being deployed much like the Kansas City Royals used Terrance Gore in the 2014 playoffs (3 SB, 0 PA).

The difference between a runner caught stealing and a successful attempt is just a bloop single away from being the difference between a run scoring and one not. Things become micromanaged in the playoffs, so this is significant.

Circling back to Kansas City, the potential playoff opponent currently ranks fifth in the majors with 103 stolen bases. They are successful on 75.18% of their steals according to ESPN, well above the MLB average of 69.83%, but the team with the highest success rate might surprise you: At 80.73%, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Next: 5 things I learned watching the other team's broadcasts for one week

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