During tonight’s matchup with Scott Feldman versus the Cleveland Indians, expect the Indians to test Houston with their running game if and when they get on base. In their seven game series during 2014, the Tribe was successful in five out of seven steal attempts against Houston.
Last year, Cleveland was not dominant like Kansas City in the running game (KC led all of MLB with 153), but they have the capability to run. The Tribe finished with 104 steals, good for sixth place in the American League, and a 79.29% success rate. Unlike Houston, who had one primary base stealer last year in Jose Altuve, the Indians have five players on this year’s roster who recorded double-digit steals for them in 2014: Michael Brantley (23), Jason Kipnis (22), Mike Aviles (14), Michael Bourn (10), and Jose Ramirez (10).
For the Astros, giving up stolen bases was a definite weakness on defense in 2014. They were fifth overall in steals against with 109, and 25th in caught stealing percentage with 22.7%. Scott Feldman led all of Major League Baseball by giving up 35 stolen bases, which averages to just over one steal per start.
Last year, Feldman faced the Indians on September 18 and wound up with a no-decision. Cleveland was successful in their one steal attempt in that game, but it was against Sam Deduno in the 13th inning. Deduno gave up 13 stolen bases last season.
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The pitching staff isn’t the only problem with Houston’s defense against the run game, though. The catchers also give up a lot of stolen bases.
Jason Castro allowed the most stolen bases in the AL with 81, while only throwing out 23 for a 22.1% success rate in 114 games. To his credit, Castro did pick off Mike Aviles at third base, and later got Tyler Holt at third, in the eighth inning of the August 22 win against Cleveland last year.
As for Hank Conger, he gave up 57 steals while throwing out 18 (24% success rate) in 79 games. Clearly the Astros backstops aren’t strong in this area.
Conversely, for the Indians as a team, they were 14th in all of MLB with 95 steals against. However, SP Carlos Carrasco doesn’t give up a lot of stolen bases. In 2014 he had nine against him, and four caught stealing, for a 31% success rate. Catcher Yan Gomes gave up 66, but he also caught 31 runners stealing (32% success). Altuve did get one SB against the Carrasco-Gomes pairing in last season’s September 17th loss, and the Astros got five steals total against the Indians last year (Altuve and Jake Marisnick both had two and Dexter Fowler had one).
Cleveland has speed and the Astros should expect them to use it tonight. Whether or not the Houston can stop it is in doubt. The Astros have a couple of players with speed, and Altuve already swiped one bag in the Opening Day win, but Carrasco appears to be tough to run against. On the basepaths, the edge goes to Cleveland for tonight’s matchup.