Small Ball and Second Base

Reader Shawn Puckett asks Brian Walton a couple of interesting questions.

(1) Any thoughts of why the Cards aren't stealing / manufacturing many runs this year? Steals & steal attempts seem to be down this year from last year and if I remember correctly they haven't hit and run very much this year.

(2) In my opinion we won't be able to resign Grudz for next year and it probably would be the best thing not to do depending on how much he would ask for, but do you think Nunez would be ready to play every day at the same level he is producing now? He is not a liability on defense and can play several infield positions.

Shawn Puckett

Walton's take: While hit-and-run attempts are not included in box scores, it is my perception that the Cards have been doing it more lately. In fact, your note came at an odd time, in that as I am typing this, it is the fourth inning of Tuesday night's game. Larry Walker just singled and La Russa called the hit-and-run on the first pitch to Albert Pujols. Later in the same at-bat, Albert fanned on a pitch way outside as Walker broke for second base and made it.

The Cards also tried the hit and run on a couple of other occasions Tuesday night. When you're mashing the ball, it's not as necessary, but when the opposing pitcher is "on", like Kip Wells was Tuesday, you do whatever it takes.

Regarding stolen bases, I just don't get it. Here is a prime example. Mike Piazza is arguably the worst defensive catcher in the game. Yet, when in New York recently, the Cards attempted just one measly stolen base all weekend, which was successful.

Granted, the team has little true speed. Yet, they are 16-for-24 (.667) in steals on the season, so at least when they do it, they are doing it wisely. The Cards are on pace for 114 attempts this season. That is down from 158 last year, but identical to 2003.

However, 114 stolen base attempts is the lowest mark for the team since way, way back in 1961. The high-water mark in the La Russa era was 224 stolen base attempts in 1997, a team led by Delino DeShields (55 steals in 69 attempts) and Royce Clayton (30-for-40).

I do think that the current Cards may put too much emphasis on the home run at times, but given they are the highest-scoring offense in the National League, it is difficult to find much fault with the hitting.

Moving to the second question, several times I have said the same thing about Grudz. I think whether he finishes strongly or injured, he'll play elsewhere in 2006. He'll either cost too much or won't be wanted. But, I do not see Abraham Nunez as a strong enough player to be a regular for a championship-caliber team.

In fact, when Scott Rolen went down, I feared Nunez would have to play enough that opponents would exploit his weaknesses. That seems to have come to pass. Since May 10, Rolen's last game, Nunez has hit just .184 (7-for-38). Obviously, that won't cut it for an everyday player.

However, the heir-apparent second baseman, Hector Luna, is also struggling down in Memphis. Luna, demoted a month ago, is hitting just .214. But, hey, he's 5-for-5 in stolen bases.

Bottom line, at this point, I don't see the 2006 second baseman.

Have questions about the Cardinals? Feel free to partake in our excellent Message Board or email me or Ray Mileur with your thoughts.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

The Cardinal Nation Top Stories