Early in the year, Boston was being eaten alive by the opponents' base stealers. The Red Sox allowed 36 stolen bases in their first 16 games, with only one runner caught stealing. This was capped by the Texas Rangers stealing nine bases off of Tim Wakefield and Victor Martinez in the game on April 20.
After the Rangers nabbed five more bags in the remaining two games of the series, the Red Sox were on a pace to allow a record 365 stolen bases for 2010. That would have obliterated the old Retrosheet-era team record of 223 stolen bases allowed by the Red Sox in 2001, when Scott Hatteberg and Doug Mirabelli filled in at catcher for an injured Jason Varitek.
However, after that series in which the Rangers stole 14 bases in three games without getting caught, the Red Sox defensive effort against the running game has had much improved results. In the 60 games since April 22, the Red Sox have allowed 40 stolen bases, caught 18 runners stealing, and picked off an additional three baserunners. The contrast is impressive. I wish I knew what the Red Sox changed defensively.
The change does not seem to be associated with any one catcher or pitcher. It seems to have occurred across the team, suddenly and dramatically. Let's look at the catchers.
Victor Martinez GS SB CS
Apr 4-22 12 25 1
Apr 23 - Jun 26 42 30 8
Jason Varitek GS SB CS
Apr 4-22 4 11 0
Apr 23 - Jun 26 18 10 5
And the pitchers. (The line for the bullpen includes spot starters Scott Atchison and Felix Doubront.)
April 4 - April 22 April 23 - June 26
Pitcher G SB CS+PO G SB CS+PO
Wakefield 3 10 0 10 7 2
Beckett 4 9 0 4 0 1
Lester 3 5 0 12 3 3
Buchholz 3 4 0 7 3 4
Lackey 3 2 1 12 9 4
Matsuzaka 0 0 0 8 8 4
Bullpen 16 6 0 60 10 3
I'd love to hear from any Boston fans who know whether the pitchers have been paying more attention to the runners at first base, throwing over more often, or coming quicker to the plate, and whether the catchers have changed anything.
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