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Northside Archives: Thievin' Cubs

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One bright spot in 2012 so far has been an increased proclivity for base-stealing. This is in large part due to Starlin Castro’s emergence as a premier base-stealer and the recent addition of Tony Campana to the major league roster. Together those two have combined for 11 steals while being caught just one time. Adding that dynamic to the team affords the Cubs an ability to create something out of nothing offensively; elite speed is not something that the Cubs have had on the bases in quite some time.

2012
Currently (and yes it’s early), the Cubs are on pace for 111 stolen bases. That would mark only the second time since 1997 that they recorded as many as 100 SBs in a season – the other time being 2006 when Juan Pierre led the way with 58 steals (121 total for the team). Castro is on pace for 60 SBs, while Campana’s pace is more difficult to project. He should see more time both in the field and at the plate in 2012 than he did in 2011. In five games of incredibly limited duty (only 16 PAs), he’s already swiped 4 bags. When Campana has an base open in front of him he’s likely to try and steal it; Castro should have far more opportunities on the basepaths, but Campana’s career success rate is an otherworldly 93%. Let’s settle on a conservative 35 SBs for Campana (he stole 24 last year in limited duty).

Green Light
Even if Castro slows his pace, it’s reasonable to think they’ll both swipe at least 35 bases (assuming they can stay healthy, and Campana gets enough playing time). That would mark the first time since 1985 that Cub teammates each had at least 35 steals in a season. That year, Ryne Sandberg piled up 54 steals, Davey Lopes had 47, and Bob Dernier chipped in with 31 as the team compiled a ridiculous 182 stolen bases.

Red Light
The 2012 success rate of 68% isn’t great – but that’s not the fault of Castro and Campana. Besides those two players only Baker and Soriano have successfully stolen a base. LaHair, Stewart, Byrd, Soriano, and DeJesus have all been caught stealing. LaHair’s was especially terrible, being caught with one out in the 7th inning of a game he’d just tied with a single. There aren’t many instances where I’d want ANY of those other guys running.

Cubs Records
The franchise record for steals in a season is held by Bill Lange with 84 steals in 1896 for the old Chicago Colts. The Cubs list their record holder as Frank Chance, who stole 67 bases in 1903; no Cub has stolen 60 bases in a season since Chance. The Cubs have only had two players steal as many as 30 bases in a season since Eric Young left the club following the 2001 campaign (Patterson in 2004 with 32, Pierre in 2006 with 58). With 50 SBs, either player would become only the 7th Cub since 1901 to record that many in a single season.

50+ Each?
If Castro can keep up his pace and Campana can get enough playing time, there still exists the possibility that both could steal 50 bases this year (Campana would probably need close 300 PAs for that, or to pinch-run almost daily – but with Byrd gone that is possible). It’s been 20 years since any team had two guys who each stole 50+ bases for them in a season. Marquis Grissom (76 SBs) and Delino DeShields (56 SBs) did it for the Montreal Expos in 1991. It’s only happened 7 times since 1917 – the A’s did it with three players in 1976 (Bill North, 75; Bert Campaneris, 54; Don Baylor, 52) and the Padres matched that in 1980 (Gene Richard, 61; Ozzie Smith, 57; Jerry Mumphrey, 52). So it’s very unlikely, but possible; and the Cubs have the right tandem in place to make a run at it.

New Dynamic For The Cubs
Especially in a down year, I like the increased aggressiveness on the basepaths. Anything that we can do to put pressure on opposing pitchers, catchers, and even infielders should help out at the plate. Both Castro and Campana seem to have perpetual green lights on the bases, and both have already taken a base from the Cardinals 4-time gold glove winning catcher Yadier Molina (who boasts a career CS% of 44%, which often deters runners from even attempting to steal). There’s no reason we can’t spend most of the year allowing those two to swipe bases at will, it’s a very welcome sight.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Dig it.  In the past I think I’ve underrated how valuable base-stealers can be.  The current Cubs tandem has me rethinking that position.  Especially when base-runners and runs are so precious with our lack of hitting.  And it will be nice to see opposing pitcher lose their composure with runners on, after so many years of seeing our own guys fall to pieces.

    Loved, LOVED seeing Campana steal two bases in one at-bat off the vaunted neck-tattoo enthusiast.

    •  When he gets mad that neck tattoo throbs a little bit. Heh.

      • Jedi

        There’s got to be a better way to say that.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Dig it.  In the past I think I’ve underrated how valuable base-stealers can be.  The current Cubs tandem has me rethinking that position.  Especially when base-runners and runs are so precious with our lack of hitting.  And it will be nice to see opposing pitcher lose their composure with runners on, after so many years of seeing our own guys fall to pieces.

    Loved, LOVED seeing Campana steal two bases in one at-bat off the vaunted neck-tattoo enthusiast.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Dig it.  In the past I think I’ve underrated how valuable base-stealers can be.  The current Cubs tandem has me rethinking that position.  Especially when base-runners and runs are so precious with our lack of hitting.  And it will be nice to see opposing pitcher lose their composure with runners on, after so many years of seeing our own guys fall to pieces.

    Loved, LOVED seeing Campana steal two bases in one at-bat off the vaunted neck-tattoo enthusiast.

    •  When he gets mad that neck tattoo throbs a little bit. Heh.

      • Jedi

        There’s got to be a better way to say that.

  • Campana was doing some yard work in AAA…I suspect he will be joining Sori in the 40/40 club this season.  

    • Jeremiah Johnson

      Soriano had 40 drag bunt singles in a season?

      • He could go 40/40/40 if we count those…the other 40 being embarrassing put-out attempts.  

  • Campana was doing some yard work in AAA…I suspect he will be joining Sori in the 40/40 club this season.  

    • Jeremiah Johnson

      Soriano had 40 drag bunt singles in a season?

      • He could go 40/40/40 if we count those…the other 40 being embarrassing put-out attempts.  

  • Buddy

    The Cubs are also on a pace to make 111 outs on the bases this year. 

    • Jedi

      You’re counting the CS with other instances where we’ve run into an out on the bases…is that right?  We’ve really run into 7 non-CS outs?

      • Buddy

        I was mainly just trying to be funny, but I think the Cubs are currently third in the NL in outs made on the bases.

      • Jedi

        Well you had me, that is believable enough to be their pace. Of course I don’t think some of those guys will be attempting to steal very often anymore…but we do have a couple of really bad base-runners.

      • Buddy

        This isn’t an official stat, but by my count it’s more like a 95 pace, which still isn’t good. 

  • Buddy

    The Cubs are also on a pace to make 111 outs on the bases this year. 

    • Jedi

      You’re counting the CS with other instances where we’ve run into an out on the bases…is that right?  We’ve really run into 7 non-CS outs?

      • Buddy

        I was mainly just trying to be funny, but I think the Cubs are currently third in the NL in outs made on the bases.

      • Jedi

        Well you had me, that is believable enough to be their pace. Of course I don’t think some of those guys will be attempting to steal very often anymore…but we do have a couple of really bad base-runners.

      • Buddy

        This isn’t an official stat, but by my count it’s more like a 95 pace, which still isn’t good. 

  • cap’n obvious

    unfortunately, Campana can’t steal first base…and you really shouldn’t be running whrn your team is losing by more than 2 runs. 

    • Doc Raker

      Depends which inning, down 2 runs early and stealing for 1 run is worth while, in the 9th inning not so much.

  • cap’n obvious

    unfortunately, Campana can’t steal first base…and you really shouldn’t be running whrn your team is losing by more than 2 runs. 

  • BLPCB

    I hope Castro can develop into a 30-30 guy in his career. And possibly a 40-40 guy. Matt Kemp is aiming for a 50-50 season. Do you think anyone can do it? I think it might be a stretch because when you go yard, you can’t steal a base

    • Buddy

      I’ll be stunned if Castro ever hits 30 homers in a season. Of course, I’d love to be wrong about that. 

    • Jedi

      Kemp might want to get 41 of either before he starts talking about 50 of each. He had a ridiculous season last year and still had to focus on getting to 40 in the season’s final week, only to fall short on the HRs. I doubt he ever pulls off 40/40.

  • AC0000000

    I hope Castro can develop into a 30-30 guy in his career. And possibly a 40-40 guy. Matt Kemp is aiming for a 50-50 season. Do you think anyone can do it? I think it might be a stretch because when you go yard, you can’t steal a base

    • Buddy

      I’ll be stunned if Castro ever hits 30 homers in a season. Of course, I’d love to be wrong about that. 

    • Jedi

      Kemp might want to get 41 of either before he starts talking about 50 of each. He had a ridiculous season last year and still had to focus on getting to 40 in the season’s final week, only to fall short on the HRs. I doubt he ever pulls off 40/40.

  • flyslinger2

    A stolen base changes the dynamic of the game for the pitcher in a big way and it turns those many paltry singles that they have been eecking out into run potential “doubles.”  It’s good they found this lost art.

    • Gymjok

      That reminds me of getting on 1st with a bunt, walk or hit and the opposing team’s dugout was on the first base side.
      I could hear them saying- “well that’s a triple”.

      • BLPCB

        In my Little League days, for most guys on the team it usually was. But they wouldn’t let you take an extra base if the ball was thrown into the OF, and you couldn’t steal home. I always loved the double steal too, you could cause so much havoc for the defense and open up lots of holes on the field. Hit and run, bunt and run, straight steals, double steals, delayed steals. Fun times

  • flyslinger2

    A stolen base changes the dynamic of the game for the pitcher in a big way and it turns those many paltry singles that they have been eecking out into run potential “doubles.”  It’s good they found this lost art.

    • Gymjok

      That reminds me of getting on 1st with a bunt, walk or hit and the opposing team’s dugout was on the first base side.
      I could hear them saying- “well that’s a triple”.

      • AC0000000

        In my Little League days, for most guys on the team it usually was. But they wouldn’t let you take an extra base if the ball was thrown into the OF, and you couldn’t steal home. I always loved the double steal too, you could cause so much havoc for the defense and open up lots of holes on the field. Hit and run, bunt and run, straight steals, double steals, delayed steals. Fun times

  • BLPCB

    After discussing this the last 2 days, Campana got on base with a bunt, stole second, and scored.

  • AC0000000

    After discussing this the last 2 days, Campana got on base with a bunt, stole second, and scored.