Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Stat Crunchin' on Stealing

In recent years, baseball has lost the need for speed. All the fastest players needed to do was beat out an infield chopper and wait around for the 57 players who smacked 25+ dingers. Last year, there were 89 players to steal at least 10 bags and 26 players with 20 or more (notable absentees from the 20+ club included Johnny Damon and Alfonso Soriano...who waited around for 30+ homer men David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Hank Blalock, and Mark Teixeira to knock them in). A much smaller number (12) stole 30 or more.

This season, with players like Barry Bonds (o HR), Sammy Sosa (4), & Scott Rolen (5) injured and sluggers like Jim Thome (2) & Adrian Beltre (5) struggling, power- while still everywhere- has given way ever so slightly to speed as a tool for winning. With about 50 games in the books this season, 54 players are on pace to steal 20 or more (that would be more than double last season's total). This list even excludes consistent sprinters like A-Rod (28 SB last year), Endy Chavez (32), Corey Patterson (32), Luis Castillo (21), and Carlos Beltran (42)- all of whom got off to slow starts on the bases this year.

A total 244 players have swiped at least 1 bag this year; last year, 337 players did so. There remains two-thirds of an entire season for only 93 major league hitters, minor league callups, and pitchers who get lucky to steal at least once safely to tie last year's total. With that much time remaining (and 111 games left for opponents to play the Mets and run against Mike Piazza's "arm"), the 2005 season seems to be going by a lot faster.


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