It didn't exactly take a major league scout to notice that the Red Sox couldn't throw out base stealers last year. It didn't even take a baseball fan to notice that what Carl Crawford did to the Red Sox on May 3 just wasn't right.
Yet despite a renewed focus placed on the area this past offseason, there has been no improvement through the first seven games of the regular season. In fact, things have gotten worse.
Last year, opponents stole bases against the Red Sox at an alarming 87 percent success rate — the highest such mark in the majors. In this young season, 12 of 13 steal attempts have been successful (92 percent), placing them third-worst in terms of percentages in the majors (the Mariners are 0-for-5 in catching base stealers and the Yankees are 0-for-9).
In the past two games, the Red Sox have proven easy to figure out on the basepaths, with Scott Podsednik on Sunday and Denard Span on Monday each stealing a pair of bases in one game.
Victor Martinez, who threw out 11 percent of would-be base stealers for the Red Sox last year and accumulated a 24 percent rate in his career, seems to be shouldering the blame.
"It's all on me," he told The Boston Globe. "The only thing that I can control is just get the ball and get it out there and make a good throw. Whatever happens after that happens."
Manager Terry Francona was quick to credit the pitchers' delivery of the ball to the plate, again leaving the brunt of the blame on Martinez.
"We're well aware of [the problem] and I actually think our pitchers have done a better job," Francona said on WEEI's Dale and Holley Show on Tuesday afternoon. "[Monday], we had some legitimate chances to throw guys out. Victor was a little bit up and to the right on his arm side with his throws."
Red Sox fans who have trouble watching the free reign that baserunners take on the basepaths may have even more trouble dealing with the fact that it's a problem that might not go away.
"We can start trying to pitch out, but we really value — you hear how much I talk about first-pitch strikes and pitching ahead in the count — we value that so much," Francona explained. "So we just gotta keep plugging along. Not every team is perfect. We realize that teams … that's one of the ways they're going to try to attack us.
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"Teams aren't stupid. They're scouting us like we're scouting them. If they think they see a crack or a chance to jump out at us, they're going to be more aggressive on the bases."
The problem is nothing new for the Red Sox, but it could be growing worse with each year. As the table shows, the Red Sox have stayed far from the league leaders in caught stealing percentage since 2004. While that didn't stop them from winning a couple of championships, the added focus on defense this season would seem to dictate that lingering among the bottom 10 is something that could start to cost the Red Sox some games.
Obviously, it's far too early in the season to expect things not to improve at least a little bit, but the past seven games have only exposed a flaw that was on display for the entirety of 2009. And if Francona was being honest about his intentions, the Red Sox will very likely remain well below the league average.