Astros set to neutralize Indians running game

Reddick, Maldonado key in limiting best runners in baseball

Alex Hooper
October 05, 2018 - 1:46 pm
Oct 5, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Cleveland Indians center fielder Rajai Davis (26) stands outside the batting cage before game one of the 2018 ALDS playoff baseball series against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

© Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Indians are the best base running team in baseball.

Actually, according to FanGraphs’ base running metric, Terry Francona’s bunch sits in second (13.7 RAA) behind the New York Yankees (14.6). That being said, the Indians have more than double the amount of stolen bases than the Bombers, a league-leading 135 steals to New York’s 63.

Steals are factored in to that metric, and just because you steal more bags does not make you a base running juggernaut. The point being, the Indians are not just smart base runners, but are also uber aggressive.

Outside of starting pitching, one of the biggest pivot points in post-season baseball is the ability to run the bases. Those two factors, along with the also-important aspect of making heaps of contact, are all areas in which the Indians excel.

It just so happens that the Houston Astros have the pitching down pat, and can eliminate both contact and elite base running with their personnel.

Those pivot points also align in the perfect way to neutralize the Indians’ biggest threat, José Ramírez, the league’s best runner. Ramírez’s 12.0 BsR is 34.8% higher than that of the second-place runner, Brett Gardner of the Yankees (8.9).

Ramírez also happens to be a pull hitter who will face off against two elite right-handers in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. If Ramírez has his druthers, he will pull the ball into the right field seats, but if not, Josh Reddick and his plus-plus throwing arm beckon in right.

Ramírez often makes his mark on the basepaths by taking second on singles that drop in front of outfielders. His aggression would likely either be neutralized or capitalized upon by Reddick, whose nine outfield assists place him 10th in baseball despite only 134 plays, 53rd among outfielders.

Reddick ranked 5th among right fielders who played 850 innings with 6 defensive runs saved, and had neither a fielding or throwing error on the year.

The Indians are obviously aware of Reddick’s defensive exploits, but that does not mean they will change their ethos. Terry Francona sides usually abide by a game plan all season and stick to that.

Included therein is Tito being one of the few hangers-on to the stolen base. As teams become more analytical in their approach, like Aaron Boone’s Yankees, that part of the game has been phased out in the most part.

The Astros acquired 2017 American League Gold Glove catcher Martin Maldonado on July 26 to bolster a catching corps led by the offensive-minded Brian McCann and emerging 27-year-old Max Stassi. The latter of that group was left off of A.J. Hinch’s ALDS roster.

Stassi accounted for 10 DRS behind the plate, but caught just 11-of-43 would-be base stealers in 2018. Maldonado threw out 17-of-35 runners in 2018, and 29-of-75 in 2017 with the Los Angeles Angels.

As shortstop Francisco Lindor pointed out, with 25 steals to his name, runners do not steal on catchers.

“If the pitcher gives a good time to steal, we're going to go,” he said Wednesday. “That's part of my game. That's part of our game as a Tribe. That's what we do. If we have time to get two runs on, we're going to go. It doesn't matter who's behind the plate. We respect his arm. He's got a great arm, and he can call a great game.

“But at the end of the day, I'm going to do my thing, and we're all going to do our thing.”

Verlander and Cole are each above average in aiding their catchers try to stop thieves, but only marginally so, ranking 211th (+0.46%) and 163rd (+0.62%) respectively in Baseball Prospectus’ Caught Stealing Above Average metric.

While the situation does not exactly implore the Indians to run, it does not necessarily beg them not to either. Logic, and Lindor, seem to indicate they will try.