On July 20th, Yadier Molina, the catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, stole a base. While uncommon, this is not noteworthy in and of itself. However, this particular stolen base ended a drought of 33 games without a steal for any of the Cardinals. A team with Ryan Theriot (28 SB in 2007), Albert Pujols (16 SB in 2009), Matt Holliday (28 SB in 2008), Lance Berkman (18 SB in 2008), Nick Punto (16 SB in 2008), and Colby Rasmus (12 SB in part-time in 2010) went over a month without a successful steal. They had been caught in each of their last 9 tries.
The Cardinals did not do well in these 33 games, either; they went 12-21 and lost their 1st-place position in the NL central. Before you conclude that a team that doesn’t steal is doomed to failure, note who holds the record for the longest drought of this nature. The 1966-67 San Francisco Giants went 62 games without recording a stolen base. Willie Mays (40 SB in 1956) was the only player on that team with a history of speed. Due to the Say Hey Kid’s other talents, though, they recorded 4.5 runs per game in a run-starved environment and went 37-25 during that span. The Giants also weren’t attempt-free during their drought, as they got caught 15 times in between triumphant thefts.
The 1935 Boston Braves have the third-longest streak and the longest stretch separating steal attempts. They went 16-34 in this 50 game period. No one on the team had more than 3 SB the entire season. The team went 38-115, and as you might expect, speed was just one of its many flaws. Wally Berger was the only player with more than 6 home runs (Babe Ruth, at age 40, hit 6). Berger was also the only player with more than 60 RBI or 25 doubles. As a team, they ranked last in the league in: runs, hits, doubles, stolen bases, walks, batting strikeouts, AVG, OBP, SLG, ERA, and pitcher’s strikeouts. And THAT is how you get a .248 team winning percentage.
The 1966-67 Giants played well, the 1935 Braves played awfully, and the 2011 Cardinals were in the middle- albeit closer to bad than good. Stealing is a small enough part of the game that you can win or lose with or without it. And that’s a good thing for the Cardinals, because I wouldn’t count on Yadier Molina to be blazing the basepaths often.