If you've read my first two articles, "The Stolen Base: A Lost Art. Will we ever see a 100 Steal Man Again?" and "Gimmie Five! Dexter "The Prowler" Fowler Steals Five Bases in a Game," then you know I am a fan of the stolen base and its return to baseball prominence.
Before reading this article, be sure to read part I of my season-long mini-series outlining the possibility of another 100-steal man in major league baseball, "The Quest for 100 Steals: Can Carl Crawford or Anyone Else Do It?"
Around the first of each month until the end of the season, I will write updates on the progress of the major league leaders in stolen bases as well as their projections, and what they'd have to do in order to steal 100 (or at least a decent, non-pedestrian number like we've been fooled into thinking is "fast" in the past (see Soriano, Alfonso; Damon, Johnny).
July 1, 2009—here are MLB's top 5 stolen base performers:
1. Carl Crawford, Rays
He has 40 stolen bases in 47 attempts through 80 games (44-36 team record), on pace for 82.
Since the last update I wrote on June 16, Crawford has stolen only four bases in eight attempts in fifteen games. However, his team has went 10-5, meaning like always, winning will negate risk-taking and the Rays could possibly abandon their fun running ways in favor of boring "team first" baseball. You had to see this coming.
Crawford's steals by month:
May: 21 (6 in one game vs. Boston)
Crawford's going to have to kick it back into gear after basically taking half the month of June off. Inexcusable. Now he just has to do all the more work in July to make up for it (26 steals in July would get him back on a 100 steal pace.)
He desperately needs several multi-steal games like we've seen before. It's getting to crunch time where just a single steal each game or even every few days will no longer do it—not without a mix of 2, 3, or 4 steal games. Wake up, Carl!
2. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
He has 33 steals in 39 attempts through 77 games with the Boston Red Sox (47-30 currently), on pace for 71.
While Crawford's season pace has gone down, Ellsbury's has actually gone up from 69 on June 16 to 71 today. Since the last article he's stolen eight bases in eight attempts and his team has went 9-5.
Ellsbury's steals by month:
June: 12 (perfect 12/12)
At this rate, Ellsbury should steal 13 in the month of July giving him 46 on Aug. 1. In addition to Crawford, Ellsbury appears to actually be getting better (more efficient as Crawford was when he started out hot and has since faded).
My guess is that Ellsbury overtakes him for the league lead sometime in mid-July. Maybe this competition will light a fire under Crawford, as we can only hope. It would be good for the league.
(Let's see how close that is to accurate.) Of course, through approximately two months of games left to play (~50 games-not counting about 4 in October) that should be at least another 22 SB's (11/month avg) giving him 68 to finish the year. Again, let's see how close this number is to actuality...
3. B.J. Upton, Rays
He has 29 steals in 36 attempts through 80 games with the Tampa Bay Rays (44-36 currently), on pace for 62.
Upton's pace went down a bit from June 16, from 64 to 62 and he's went 4/7 in that time.
Upton's steals by month:
Upton's numbers are going up at a much more rapid pace than even Ellsbury, but he's also been more consistent (around a 77% clip). At this rate, he could theoretically steal 18-19 bases in July, but he won't. The All-Star break interruption (and his possible inclusion) will deter all that.
What makes his numbers even more impressive is that he only had 5 steals through May 1, but was 5/5.
4. Michael Bourn, Astros:
He has 25 stolen bases in 33 attempts through 75 games (36-39 team record), on pace for 54.
Bourn's season pace slowed from 57 to 54, and he's went 3/7 since June 16.
Bourn's steals by month:
To no one's surprise the enigma Bourn's numbers are going down, but at least this year, at a slower pace. He actually jumped Chone Figgins who slid to fifth. (I'm actually surprised Bourn's still in the top five with Juan Pierre climbing fast).
As the 'Stros continue to falter, will he run with nothing left to lose, or will he quit, as always?
5. Chone Figgins, Angels
He has 23 stolen bases in 30 attempts through 75 games (42-33 team record), on pace for 50.
Figgins season pace crashed from 58 pace to 50 and he's went an inexcusable 1/1 in that time. He'll fade soon. Have I made that clear enough?
Figgins' steals by month:
Figgins' numbers are down the most, and his team went 9-4, so you can see a direct correlation and you don't have to be in the Angels' clubhouse to know that manager Mike Scoscia must have told him to quit running for the good of the team. Yawn.
This was no surprise, as like Bourn, Figgins does this every year which is why he'll be out of the top five soon and will probably finish only in the top 10, if he's lucky.
Unlike the Rays, who have been hot, or Red Sox who have been consistent, the Angels have jumped into first place and seem intent to keeping that familiar spot at the cost of the stolen base.
Hey Chone, do us all a favor and move out of the way so we can watch a real base stealing threat like Pierre justify the spot-poser.
There you have it. The updated top five. Check back around August 1 for an update on the season long quest for 100 steals.