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Someone should tell Nyjer Morgan to stop trying to steal bases

Mar 9, 2011, 5:17 PM EDT

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Nyjer Morgan was caught stealing twice in yesterday’s game (although one came on a botched hit-and-run try) and manager Jim Riggleman revealed that he gave Morgan a little pep talk in the dugout following the first failed steal attempt:

I said, “You know what? It seems like they throw the ball right on the button.” He never gets a break. I just wanted him to stay positive and realize the catcher made a great throw. That’s baseball. He was aggressive [and] the catcher made a great throw. When Nyjer’s out there, they’re on their “A game” in terms of stopping him from running.

Just a friendly tip for Riggleman: It’s not that opposing catchers are “on their ‘A game'” when Morgan is running, it’s that Morgan is such a low-percentage base-stealer that he makes catchers look good. Morgan led the league in caught stealing last season and in 2009, getting gunned down 17 times each year. For his career he’s 92-for-134 on the bases, which is a “success” rate of 68.6 percent that qualifies as terrible (for comparison, Carl Crawford has a success rate of 81.9 percent).

Saying catchers step up their game when Morgan runs is like saying pitchers step up their game when Jack Wilson is at the plate or hitters step up their game when Oliver Perez is on the mound. Nyjer Morgan is very fast, but he’s an awful base-stealer and his awful stolen base percentages have far more to do with him than with catchers. The statement “he never gets a break” is only accurate if Riggleman was referring to Morgan’s inability to get a good jump from first base.

  1. hasbeen5 - Mar 9, 2011 at 5:24 PM

    Why is he so bad? They should probably hire a coach to help him with that since his speed is his only marketable skill.

    • cur68 - Mar 9, 2011 at 5:44 PM

      Gives it away every time. Its his eyes I think. Too easy to tell what he’s gonna do. I wonder if he does better with shades on?

  2. buccofan25 - Mar 9, 2011 at 7:19 PM

    I love that all three garbage players you mention played for the Pirates. That about sums them up as an organization.

    • wickethewok - Mar 10, 2011 at 9:30 AM

      Oliver Perez, Nyjer Morgan, and Jack Wilson were all pretty good when they were on the Pirates – to various degrees of course. Perez was a fantastic pitcher in ’04, Morgan was an average hitter and good defender during his tenure, and Jack Wilson was a top defensive SS and occasionally not-terrible hitter.

  3. cogitobaseballergosum - Mar 9, 2011 at 7:41 PM

    I’d hardly classify 68.6% as “terrible”. The NL average the last 2 years is about 70 – 71% so he’s slightly below average. “Terrible” is the guy right behind him in caught stealing, Matt Kemp. He was 19-for34, 56%.
    Granted, with Morgan’s speed he should be better, but he’s young and still has a chance to be a good basestealer if he can learn to read pitchers and situations better.

  4. Bochy's Head/Timmy's Bong - Mar 9, 2011 at 9:27 PM

    No, for a guy who steals that much, 68.6% is terrible. When it came to stealing bases, in 2010 Nyjer Morgan was the third worst player in the majors – he cost his team more runs than all but 2 players – out of 858! (That’s according to Baseball Prospectus’ EqSBR – equivalent stolen base runs.) When you aren’t at least in the 73-74% success level, you are better off not trying to steal. Of course, if Morgan can learn, the time to try is spring training. But if he doesn’t improve, the Nationals would be better off if they cut way back on the green lights.

    • Ari Collins - Mar 10, 2011 at 12:38 AM

      This. When your percentage is that low, the more times you attempt the more runs you cost the team. There are plenty of players who average in that range, but they’re only attempting 3 or 4 bases a year, so while they’d be better off not trying AT ALL, they’re not doing much damage to the team. But those who attempt 50 or 60 steals and get caught that often are REALLY effing things up.

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