Speed never slumps. A great team or star player can go through a slump and not be able to hit or pitch very well for an extended period of time, but speed is something that remains with a player no matter what. It can turn an out into a single, a single into a double and can steal a run from the opponent.
There are a handful of guys that can come off the bench and swipe a bag in a key situation, but we're looking at everyday players who use their speed as a part of their game. Also, only players with some MLB service under their belt, so we can fairly assess their talents in the field and on the basepaths.
Here are the top 10 everyday speedsters in the game today.
2011 Stats: .272 average, 40 SB, 7 CS, 36 infield hits
For those that thought Ichiro had lost a spring in his step at age 37, 2011 proved that he was still one of the fastest players in the league. He stole 40 bases for the fifth time in his career and led the league in infield hits with 36.
His average dipped substantially last season, but Ichiro still made himself valuable on the basepaths. He scored 80 runs on a team that finished last in the majors in offense and his success rate stealing bases was 85 percent.
2011 Stats: .255 average, 18 SB, 6 CS, 7 3B
Carl Crawford had a year to forget in 2011; he struggled all season to get on base and never broke out of his slump. Despite this, Crawford still stole a respectable 18 bases and remains a 30-steal threat in 2012.
The 30-year-old outfielder has five career seasons with 50 steals, most recently swiping 60 bags in 2009. Though those days might be over, Crawford still has the speed to wreak havoc on the basepaths.
2011 Stats: .324 average, 115 runs, 40 SB, 11 CS
Matt Kemp blossomed into stardom in 2011 and barely missed becoming the fifth member of the 40/40 club. With his 40 steals last year, the 27-year-old has now stolen 144 bases in his young career.
The outfielder has high expectations for 2012 with his prediction for a 50/50 season, which has never even been achieved in the history of baseball. Though these predictions are likely unattainable, Kemp is in his prime and may have more steals in him in 2012.
2011 Stats: .264 average, 40 SB, 8 CS, 8 3B, 30 infield hits
In his first year with the Padres, Cameron Maybin got a chance to play everyday and showed he was one of the fastest players in baseball. His 40 steals tied him for the second-highest total in the National League.
The 24-year-old has a lot of potential and can add to his steal total in 2012 if he can find a way to get on base more. His 28 steals after the All-Star break led the major leagues.
If he can get on base at higher than a .323 clip, Maybin can challenge for the stolen-base title this season.
2011 Stats: .296 average, 40 SB, 11 CS, 18 bunt hits
Emilio Bonifacio is an extreme utility player and a difference maker on the bases. He started games at six different positions in 2011, but looks to be the Marlins' everyday center fielder going into 2012.
At 26, Bonifacio set career highs in steals with 40, triples with seven and was second in the MLB with 18 bunt hits.
He will likely bat second in the order this year, sandwiched between Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez. He should again get plenty of stolen-base opportunities and has the potential to score a ton of runs in the powerful Miami lineup.
2011 Stats: .264 average, 49 SB, 9 CS
Coco Crisp had a down year when it came to getting on base in 2011. His .264 average was lower than his career number of .275 and his .314 OBP was his worst since 2003.
Once he got on the bases though, he couldn't be stopped and had a career year.
Crisp finished tied for second in the majors in steals with a career-high 49 and was only caught nine times. If he can improve his hitting in 2012, Coco can contend for the stolen-base crown in the AL.
2011 Stats: .321 average, 119 runs, 39 SB, 15 CS
Jacoby Ellsbury had a huge power surge in 2011, but with it his stolen bases decreased significantly. In 2008 and 2009, he had 50 and 70 steals, respectively. After an injury-plagued 2010, Ellsbury stole 39 bags with 15 CS last season—a success rate of just 72 percent.
Regardless, Ellsbury still has some of the best wheels around. The 28-year-old still possesses 50-steal capability and should have another huge year at the top of a dominant Red Sox lineup.
2011 Stats: .337 average, 101 runs, 39 SB, 7 CS, 16 3B
Jose Reyes won the batting title last year, and though his 60-steal seasons are behind him, he is still one of the fastest in the game. His 16 triples in 2011 tied him for the league lead.
He had an exceptional 85 percent success rate on steals last year.
As long as he can stay healthy, batting at the top of a loaded Marlins lineup should mean a lot of runs and plenty of chances to steal in 2012.
2011 Stats: .259 average, 49 SB, 13 CS, 8 3B
The Yankees' Brett Gardner uses his excellent speed to swipe bases, lay down bunt hits and command his position in the outfield.
He was tied for second in the majors in steals last year, laid down 11 bunts for hits and narrowly missed his first career Gold Glove.
The 28-year-old has improved his steal numbers in each of his four seasons in the big leagues; don't be surprised if that trend continues in 2012. Gardner has all the tools to steal 55-60 bases this year and be a catalyst for the Yankees offense.
2011 Stats: .294 average, 61 SB, 14 CS, 10 3B
Michael Bourn is the fastest player in the MLB, and it's not just because of his steal totals the last few years, though it helps. He has stolen 50 bases in each of the past three years and has an 82 percent success rate in that time. He led the majors with 61 steals in 2011.
Bourn shows his speed in other ways, too. His 10 triples were tied for sixth in the MLB, his 26 infield hits were tied for fifth and his 13 bunts for a hit were also fifth. The 29-year-old should be a lock once again for 50 swipes and has the potential to reach 70 in 2012.