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Play Index: Teams aren't trying to steal on the Cardinals, but... edition

Opponents have only attempted to steal 19 times against the Cardinals in 2018. That is tied for the fewest in the league with the Angels. If looking at just the National League, no other team (Diamondbacks) has fewer than 29 attempts against them. That might speak to the reputation of Yadier Molina. Of course, he has been out for a few weeks with an injury so maybe some credit is due to his protégés and the pitching staff as well.

On the surface, that's a good sign. When it comes to controlling the running game, the next best thing to throwing out a lot of would-be base stealers is to just eliminate the practice altogether. Potential runners are an annoyance, an anxiety that pitchers don't need.

Here's the thing though: Not a lot of players are attempting to steal against the Cardinals in 2018 but not a lot are being thrown out either. As in zero. Literally none. Every other team in baseball has thrown out at least four potential thieves; every other NL team has thrown out at least six.

But the Cardinals have 51 games in the books - almost a third of the season - and they haven't caught a single one. If you were curious if that is some sort of record to start a season, it is. By a lot, too. Using Baseball Reference's Play Index, I did a search under Streak Finders for games to start a season in which a team did not catch a runner attempting to steal. These are the results.

The Cardinals have more than doubled the next closest streak on record (this year's version of the Red Sox, who have since thrown out four) and the Cardinals' streak is still ongoing. That's pretty remarkable. This could be one of those no-one-really-cares-about records that might never be broken.

And you know what, maybe we shouldn't really care. It's still only 19 stolen bases, barely one every three games and sooner or later it will cost the opponent because this streak can't last forever.

As for the argument that you should care, well, this could be the Molina injury-effect. Twelve of the 19 stolen bases have occurred during the 20 games since his injury, including three yesterday against the Brewers. Teams aren't running much on the Cardinals as a whole but they were barely thinking about it before Molina's injury. And Joe Trezza noted yesterday that Molina's absence could stretch to the All-Star Break. Certainly not ideal.

For now though, I'm viewing this through the lens of nothing more than a fun, interesting stat. Nothing that moves the needle all that much either way. Nevertheless, get well soon, Yadier Molina. The Cardinals need you.

Special thanks to Zach Gifford for tipping me off to this curious stat. And, as always, credit to Baseball Reference's Play Index. You can subscribe here.

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