Wanted: Stopping thefts on basepaths

Wanted: Stopping thefts on basepaths

DETROIT -- Manager John Russell surely doesn't need to see the numbers to know how much success opponents have had running on his club this season. It hit a low point a week ago when, in a two-day span, the Giants and Cubs stole eight bases in nine attempts.

That has prompted Pittsburgh's coaching staff to once again highlight the issue on this road trip.

"We got to where obviously everybody knew what was going on," Russell said. "It's been addressed, and we've made some progress. We're going to have to continue to improve. It's not one of our strong suits right now."

Opponents have a 91.8 percent success rate stealing against the Pirates, who rank last in the Majors in that category. Just ahead of them are the Yankees, who have caught just 11.4 percent of attempted base stealers. The 56 stolen bases allowed by Pittsburgh rank third most, behind the Red Sox (67) and Giants (58). And since June 1, opponents have stolen 15 bases in 17 attempts.

Keep in mind that stolen-base numbers can be quite subjective, considering fault can lie with the pitcher or catcher. With Ryan Doumit behind the plate, 47 runners have attempted to swipe a base. Taking away attempts where Doumit never made a throw (that suggest the steal can be singularly blamed on the pitcher), he has still thrown out just two of 39. Following the same criteria, backup catcher Jason Jaramillo has thrown out three of 11.

On the other side, it's up to a pitcher to speed up his delivery with a runner on base and to pay attention to a runner on second. A lack of execution in both of those areas has been addressed recently by pitching coach Joe Kerrigan.

"Ross [Ohlendorf] occasionally gets a little slow," Russell said. "The back end of our bullpen, it's tough to speed those guys up because their pitches are very important."

Ohlendorf has allowed eight stolen bases in as many attempts, though the rotation as a unit hasn't been that much better. Opponents are 32-for-34 in attempts against the starters.