St. Louis Cardinals Have Secret Weapon Against New Rules

Bigger bases. A limit of two pick-off attempts per at-bat. Stricter balk rules. It's all going to result in a massive proliferation of stolen base attempts this season. 

But the St. Louis Cardinals will be ready. They have a secret weapon, and his name is Willson Contreras. 

“We got the right guy for that,” said Cardinals manager Oli Marmol. 

The Cards' big offseason free agent signing is the best in baseball at picking off runners at first from the catching position. In fact, he has more than double the number of "back-picks" (25) of any other major league catcher since he entered the league in 2016. 

And he's found a loophole in the new rules. Even though there is a limit on pitchers throwing over to first for a pick-off attempt, there isn't one on catchers. 

“Teams are going to try to take advantage of the new rules and run, so we have to be smart with our pickoffs and when our catchers back-pick runners,”  Contreras told John Denton of “Even if you don’t get an out, you keep the runner honest. And there’s no count on those.”

So even though Contreras' defense behind the plate will never be compared to the man he's replacing, future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina (now retired), he does offer this great skill that should play quite well in the world of baseball, 2023 style.