When Cubs caught 5 runners trying to steal

The planned introduction next season of the pitch clock, a limit on pickoff attempts and bigger bases is expected to result in more stolen bases.

The Cubs have been one of the top teams in baseball this season at thwarting would-be thieves.

Through Tuesday, they had thrown out 28 of 96 who tried to steal -- 29.2 percent.

Only 4 teams had a higher percentage: the Phillies (37.9), Yankees (35.7), Cardinals (31.3) and Royals (31.2).

None of those teams had faced as many attempts as the Cubs had: Phillies (87), Royals (77), Yankees (70) and Cardinals (64).

The average of all 29 other teams was 24.7 percent, representing just under 1 of every 4 attempts.



The Cubs' 29.2 percent this season is a vast improvement over their 18.4 percent last year, when they threw out only 21 of 114 runners.

But this year's number still is nearly 10 percentage points lower than their average of 38.1 over all seasons since 1915, first season for which has searchable play-by-play data.

Their best was an astonishing 68.8 percent (86 of 125) in 1926, followed by 61.7 (58 of 94) in 1928 and 60.3 percent in 1932 (44 of 73).

They have thrown out half the runners who tried to steal in 18 seasons, but only 1 of them was after 1943: 57.9 percent in 1963 (66 of 114).

In the past half century, their high was 45.1 percent in 1993 (69 of 153).

This century, it was 37.5 percent in 2003 (42 of 112).



But there was one 9-inning game in which the Cubs were 5 for 5 at halting steals.

It took place more than 3 decades ago, on Saturday, May 5, 1991, in Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Neither team was going anywhere. The Cardinals (84-75) were in second place in the East Division, but 11.5 games behind the Pirates. The Cubs (74-83) were fifth of the 6 teams, 20.5 games behind Pittsburgh, but had the same number of losses as both the third-place Phillies (77-83) and fourth-place Mets (76-83).



Les Lancaster started on the mound for the Cubs. He gave up a leadoff single in the first inning, then retired 3 in a row.

He got the first 2 outs in the second before walking Tom Pagnozzi. On the first pitch to the next batter, Pagnozzi took off for second.

Catcher Hector Villanueva rifled the ball to shortstop Shawon Dunston, who tagged Pagnozzi to end the inning.



Tim Jones had been the batter when Pagnozzi was thrown out. He opened the third with a single, then stayed on first as pitcher Ken Hill struck out trying to bunt.

Jones tried to steal on the first pitch to Ray Langford. He was erased, Villanueva to Dunston.



The Cardinals scored the game's first run in the fifth, on a double by Todd Zeile, a groundout and a single by Pagnozzi.

Pagnozzi headed for second on the first pitch to Jones. Villanueva and Dunston would have none of it.

Jones followed with a bloop double but was stranded on a fly out.


The Cubs quickly tied the score in the bottom half, as Derrick May singled and Luis Salazar doubled him home.



Yorkis Perez replaced Lancaster in the sixth. He gave up a 1-out double, then threw a wild pitch. But the runner held at third on a grounder and the next batter lined out to left.

Perez walked Zeile on a full count to start the seventh. After a strikeout and line out, Zeile tried to steal on -- you guessed it -- first pitch to Jones.

This time, Perez whirled and threw to first baseman Mark Grace, who applied the tag.

The play sounds like it should have been a pickoff, but the tag came as the runner was running toward second, not first, which by rule makes it a caught stealing.


The Cubs took the lead in their half of the seventh.

With 2 out and nobody on, Dunston made an infield hit. Rick Wilkins pinch hit for Perez and smacked a doubled to deep right-center, allowing Dunston to score.



Dunston threw away a grounder by the first Cardinal to face Chuck McElroy in the eighth.

Pinch hitter Gerald Perry singled and the runner beat the throw home, tying the score. Perry tried to advance to second on the play, only to be thrown out, Villanueva to second baseman Ryne Sandberg.

McElroy then walked Ray Lankford. On a 1-1 pitch, Lankford was caught stealing, McElroy to Grace to Dunston.

Another walk and a single put runners on the corners. They also ended the day for McElroy.

Bob Scanlan threw 1 pitch to Pedro Guerrero, who grounded to Grace for the third out.


In the Cubs' eighth, Ryne Sandberg drew a walk from new reliever Willie Fraser.

Andre Dawson singled, sending Sandberg to third. He scored the go-ahead run when Villanueva smacked a 1-0 pitcher for a single.

Scanlan surrendered a leadoff double to Zeile in the ninth. A groundout advanced the runner to third.

But Pagnozzi hit a soft liner to Grace, then Craig Wilson grounded out, Dunston to Grace, to complete the Cubs' 3-2 victory.



What did the Chicago Tribune have to say the next day about the Cubs throwing out 5 runners who tried to steal?

Absolutely nothing.

It described the game, and the Cubs' 7-5 victory in Game 2, in the final 4 paragraphs of a 19-paragraph story that focused on rumors that Manager Jim Essian would be fired the next day.

That story appeared on page 11 (!) of the paper's Sunday sport section.

The story did note that Cedric Landrum stole 4 bases in Game 2, tying the Cubs' record set by Joe Tinker in 1904 and matched 3 times previously. Four more Cubs have stolen 4 bases since then, most recently Tony Campana in 2011.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch didn't mention the 5 caught stealings in Game 1 of the 1991 doubleheader, either.

It did note that Ozzie Smith set a National League record for fewest errors, 8, by a shortstop who played at least 150 games.



Before 1991, the Cubs twice threw out 5 would-be thieves in extra-inning games.

The first time was on June 2, 1919, while beating the visiting Pirates, 2-1, in 12 innings.

The runners were trying for second with 2 outs in first, fourth, sixth, 10th and 11th innings.

The second time was on July 6, 1980, at Pittsburgh, during a 20-inning, 4-5 loss. The failed attempts to reach second came in the second (1 out), third (2 out), 11th (0 out), 18th (2 out) and 19th (1 out).



The 3 games by the Cubs are among 37 in which a team gunned down 5 runners.

4 of those came against the Cubs: by the Braves in 1915, the Robins (today's Dodgers) in 1916 and 1923, and the Cardinals in 1926. That last of those games went 14 innings.



Just 5 teams have caught more than 5 runners, none of them in 102 years.

The Athletics did it 7 times in a 4-11 loss to the White Sox on June 18, 1915.

In 1916, the Phillies did it 6 times, as did the Pirates in 1917, the Braves in 1919 and the Senators on July 10, 1920.

Washington was the only 1 of the 5 teams to win its game, 2-1 over Cleveland.

Teams that caught exactly 5 runners went 10-27.

The last to win was the Angels, 1-0, over the Brewers in 10 innings on Aug. 11, 1992.

And that is the only game in which any team caught 5 runners since the Cubs had done it the previous October.



Since the Angels had 5 CS in 1992, there have been 8 games in which 4 runners were thwarted, most recently by the Diamondbacks, in a 10-inning win over the Astros on Aug. 11, 2011.

The previous team with 4 was the Cubs, in a 4-5 loss at home to the Padres on April 20, 2011.

The Cubs have thrown out 4 thieves in 21 games, only 6 of them after 1937.

Those 21 games are the most with 4 CS by any team. The Athletics, Dodgers, Reds and White Sox all have 19.

All 30 teams have had 210, so the Cubs have had 10 percent of the total.

FanPosts are written by readers of Bleed Cubbie Blue, and as such do not reflect the views of SB Nation or Vox Media, nor is the content endorsed by SB Nation, Vox Media or Al Yellon, managing editor of Bleed Cubbie Blue or reviewed prior to posting.