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I watched all 31 stolen bases against Miguel Montero so you don’t have to

The Cubs designated Miguel Montero after seven stolen bases and some unfortunate comments. Here’s why.

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MLB: Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday afternoon, the Washington Nationals stole seven bases against Jake Arrieta and Miguel Montero. It was a historically humiliating performance, the worst one either member of the battery has ever had. It was the kind of day that can make players snap.

Montero snapped.

"It really sucked because the stolen bases go to me, and when you really look at it, the pitcher doesn't give me any time," Montero said. "So it's just like, 'Yeah, OK Miggy can't throw nobody out,' but my pitcher doesn't hold anybody on.”

On the one hand, I can understand Montero’s frustration. The man has spent his entire life as a catcher, and it’s an absolute part of his identity. He’s been catching at a high level for his entire career, moving steadily up the minor leagues and becoming a major league catcher. He’s been one of the best in the world, and the Nationals essentially flew a banner above the ballpark that reads, “Dude can’t catch.”

On the other hand, shhhhhhhhhh, you dummy. Don’t get released.

Anthony Rizzo seems like the kind of guy who would walk into a room with sports on TV and say, “Hey, sports!” unironically and sit down. It doesn’t appear as if there’s a lot of capacity for dissent or malice in him. But even he was annoyed.

That is ... extremely pointed and not ambiguous in the slightest. Apparently the Cubs agree, designating Montero for assignment and ending his tenure with the team. On his way out, he didn’t back down.

“Sometimes people can’t handle the truth,” he said. “That’s my biggest issue. I’m just straightforward, man, a straight shooter. I’m not going to say you’re pretty when you’re ugly.”

And that’s the story of how Miguel Montero parted ways with the Cubs.

Except, what’s the truth? Are the Cubs’ pitchers ugly when it comes to holding runners? I watched all 32 stolen base attempts against Montero this year, timing the pitchers’ time to home, as well as his pop time to second base. It was a dumb, laborious idea, and I’m absolutely thrilled that I took the time. Because I found things.

Yes, the Cubs’ pitchers are super slow to home

Montero is often paired with Jake Arrieta and John Lackey, neither of whom are especially quick to home plate. The average pitcher took 1.52 seconds to get the ball to Montero, which is definitely on the high side. Pitchers who are excellent at holding runners get the ball to the plate in about 1.2 or 1.3 seconds. When you start getting to 1.5 seconds, you’re in the danger zone.

Because of this, Montero attempted to throw three of the runners out from his knees. He was not successful. Or graceful. Which brings us to another problem.

Montero is pretty bad at throwing to second base

The average pop time (from the catcher’s mitt to the mitt of the infielder covering second base) is between 1.9 and 2 seconds. Montero got one throw off to second that was under two seconds, and that one came in at 1.96.

Not only was the ball slower getting to second than he might have liked, but he had issues with accuracy, too. Three of the throws went into the outfield, with the runner advancing on the error. A lot of the throws bounced and one-hopped the infielder, and I counted exactly one throw that might have even needed a replay for the viewer to confirm the call was correct.

Of the 31 successful steals, Montero didn’t get off a throw in 15 of them

Some of that has to do with the Cubs pitchers being slow to third base. But four of the runners reached when Montero dropped the ball or couldn’t handle the pitch. To be fair, one of those pitches was in the dirt and would have been a wild pitch if the runner wasn’t running, but the other ones were fumbles and drops.

And there was one of these:

Whoopsie doodle! There was one of these, too:

Even if Montero wanted to throw, there wasn’t anyone covering, so I’m not sure whom to blame.

Yadier Molina had one of the steals, and Buster Posey had another

I’m pretty sure this is against the unwritten rules of catcher-on-catcher relations.

Is that the catcher equivalent of a Call of Duty player repeatedly hitting the crouch button while standing over a fallen opponent?

Yes. Yes, it is. Especially when it’s a Molina doing it.

The one runner Montero was credited for nabbing? Well ...

Here you go:

Yes, Montero gets credit for that. No, I don’t know why. I’ve triple-checked his defensive logs, and this is the only possible CS. He didn’t even touch the ball.

There was bad luck. There were bad throws. There were pitchers who struggled to get the ball to the plate quickly. And there was one very regrettable post-game interview. Add it up, and you have a player and team parting company, even though that player is a catcher with an 805 OPS.

Montero didn’t deserve all the blame for Tuesday’s miserable performance. But he certainly doesn’t deserve a whole lot of credit when it came to stopping the running game, either. It was a perfect storm, and the Nationals tore the roof off.

We’ll see if Montero’s new team will suffer the same fate.

SB attempts against Miguel Montero, 2017

Attempt Date Batter Pitcher Result Time to home (pitcher) Pop time (catcher) Notes
Attempt Date Batter Pitcher Result Time to home (pitcher) Pop time (catcher) Notes
1 04/14/17 Gregory Polanco Kyle Hendricks SB 1.39 N/A (dropped) -
2 04/14/17 Josh Harrison Kyle Hendricks SB 1.36 2.16 -
3 04/17/17 Domingo Santana John Lackey SB 1.63 2.03 -
4 04/18/17 Travis Shaw Brett Anderson SB 1.61 N/A (no throw) Third base
5 04/23/17 Billy Hamilton John Lackey SB 1.42 2.02 From knees
6 04/23/17 Billy Hamilton John Lackey SB 1.56 1.53 Third base
7 05/03/17 Daniel Nava Jake Arrieta SB 1.53 2 -
8 05/04/17 Cesar Hernandez John Lackey SB 1.4 2.1 Thrown into outfield
9 05/04/17 Aaron Altherr Justin Grimm SB 1.62 2.1 -
10 05/09/17 Charlie Blackmon Jake Arrieta SB 1.53 1.52 Third base
11 05/09/17 D.J. LeMahieu Jake Arrieta SB 1.53 N/A (double steal) -
12 05/14/17 Tommy Pham Jake Arrieta SB 1.62 2.12 -
13 05/17/17 Billy Hamilton Kyle Hendricks SB 1.45 1.96 -
14 05/25/17 Brandon Crawford Eddie Butler SB 1.63 N/A (no throw) -
15 05/25/17 Buster Posey Eddie Butler SB 1.63 N/A (no throw) -
16 05/27/17 Enrique Hernandez John Lackey SB 1.45 N/A (dropped) -
17 06/04/17 Dexter Fowler Kyle Hendricks SB 1.53 N/A (dropped) -
18 06/04/17 Jedd Gyorko Kyle Hendricks SB 1.63 N/A (no throw) -
19 06/04/17 Yadier Molina Hector Rendon SB 1.58 2.1 From knees
20 06/07/17 Dee Gordon Brian Duensing SB 1.26 N/A (dropped) -
21 06/07/17 Christian Yelich Brian Duensing SB 1.6 2.21 From knees
22 06/09/17 Ian Desmond Mike Montgomery SB 1.5 2.06 -
23 06/09/17 Charlie Blackmon Mike Montgomery CS N/A (pickoff) N/A (no throw) -
24 06/11/17 Ian Desmond Jake Arrieta SB 1.55 N/A (no throw) -
25 06/23/17 Dee Gordon Jake Arrieta SB 1.53 2.09 Thrown into outfield
26 06/27/17 Trea Turner Jake Arrieta SB 1.45 2.03 -
27 06/27/17 Trea Turner Jake Arrieta SB 1.56 N/A (no throw) Third base
28 06/27/17 Trea Turner Jake Arrieta SB 1.43 N/A (no throw) Delayed steal
29 06/27/17 Trea Turner Jake Arrieta SB 1.48 N/A (no throw) No one covered third
30 06/27/17 Anthony Rendon Jake Arrieta SB 1.56 2.07 -
31 06/27/17 Michael Taylor Jake Arrieta SB 1.58 N/A (no throw) -
32 06/27/17 Michael Taylor Jake Arrieta SB 1.5 1.68 Third base, thrown into outfield