Baserunners Will Continue to Dare Mathis

So Ian Kinsler commented that Jeff Mathis of the Anaheim Angels is the catcher he fears most when stealing a base. (Thanks to Angel Hawker for posting the video clip.)

Was Kinsler speaking the truth that he really fears running on Mathis? Most likely not. I take it as a Phil Jackson-esque dig against Mathis and also against Sosh for playing him. I can even picture Napoli telling his Ranger teammates, "Why did I never became the #1 catcher in Anaheim? Sosh says he wants somebody who is very athletic and can throw the ball straight. Ha ha ha."

But that got me thinking a bit about the following question: "Are runners really afraid to run against Jeff Mathis?"

How can you even tell statistically if runners are afraid to run? According to fangraphs, base runners make 1.222 SB attempts/GS for Jeff Mathis. That is 8th most/42 for catchers with at least 10 GS.

To contrast this:

2011 League Average = .942 SB attempts/GS (w/ 28% CS rate)

2011 Hank Conger = 1.158 SB attempts/GS ( w/ 22.7% CS rate)

2011 Yadier Molina = .567 SB attempts/GS (w/ 41% CS rate)

Mathis Career = .911 SB attempts/GS (w/ 22.6% CS rate)

So it appears runners are not afraid to run on Jeff's current 21.7% CS rate. But I also noticed that Kurt Suzuki of Oakland has 1.17 SB attempts/GS despite a 51% CS rate. So what gives? Runners don't appear to be afraid to run on him despite him throwing out runners.

Using more data from fangraphs, I correlated SB attempts/GS vs. CS rate and the data can be summed in the table below.

SB Attempts/GS vs. CS Rate

Regression Correlation Coefficient

Career statistics catchers with at least 100 GS since 1990


2011 MLB catchers with at least 10 GS


Selected handful* catchers  SB attempts/GS vs. CS rate for same year


Selected handful* catchers  SB attempts/GS vs. CS rate for previous year


(* Selected handful of catchers = Mathis, Napoli, Suzuki, Pudge Rodriguez, Ramon Hernandez, and Jose Molina. It was time consuming to put the data together, hence only 7 catchers used for this particular data.)

On average there is a slight correlation between SB attempts and CS rate for a catcher. This makes sense, a catcher that throws out fewer runners will have more runners test him. There is an even stronger correlation for SB attempts per GS vs previous year's CS rate. 

Sure enough Suzuki only threw out 22.4% of runners in 2010 and is being tested this year. Mathis dropped from 25% down to 20% in 2010 and is now being tested this year.

SB attempt/GS

CS Rate

SB attempt/GS

CS Rate

Mathis 06






Mathis 07




Suzuki 07



Mathis 08




Suzuki 08



Mathis 09




Suzuki 09



Mathis 10




Suzuki 10



Mathis 11




Suzuki 11



Mathis Avg




Suzuki Avg



So Suzuki is stepping up to his challenge and Mathis is not. We can expect less runners to challenge Suzuki later this year and next year. And runners will will continue to dare Mathis to throw them out. 

Are runners afraid of running on Mathis? I think not. Jeff, you better do something about it. I have a feeling Conger will.

This Fan-Post is authored by an independent fan. Tell us what you think and how you feel.

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