Returning The Stolen Base To Baseball Prominence (Part III)

Joe M.Correspondent IIAugust 1, 2009

BOSTON - JULY 30:  Shortstop Orlando Cabrera #18 of the Oakland A's tags out Jacoby Ellsbury #46 of the Boston Red Sox  attempting to steal second base in the fifth inning on July 30, 2009 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Part III in a series.

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 and II 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?" and "The Quest for 100 steals-can Carl Crawford 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).

August 1, 2009—here are MLB's top 5 stolen base performers:

1. Carl Crawford, Rays

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He has 48 steals in 56 attempts through 103 games (56-47 team record) on pace for 76.

Since the last update I wrote on July 1, Crawford is 8/9 in steals. While this sounds impressive, it’s not only his monthly total for the entire month of July, but consider he only stole one base in his last ten games.

I know he's basically "shutting it down" since he already said he's not going to steal 100 as I had hoped due to wear on his body, but that's just being a baby. Do you think Rickey Henderson or Vince Coleman would have ever said that? His team has gone 12-11 in July after a 10-5 June when Carl ran more—10 steals.

Hmmm. Like I've been screaming all season-correlation anyone? Hey Rays Management—as Carl goes, so does your team! Let him run (translation-make him run)!

Crawford's steals by month:

April: 9

May: 21 (6 in one game vs. Boston)

June: 10

July 8

August ???

100 steals is gone, thanks to his poor month preceded by a similarly inexcusable June with 18 combined steals—less than he had in the entire month of May alone, almost without that glorious 6 steal outlier.

The best we can hope for is probably a pathetic 80, which is a far cry from the excitement he once brought to the team— but it would be the most in MLB since Henderson and Coleman both surpassed it in 1988.

Thanks for cheating us and playing with our emotions, Carl.

Once, again, can we get a multi-steal game, please? He hasn't had one of them since July 8 (2), but prior to that, the last was June 3 (2). Does he have it in him to do three? Four?

Despite his abysmal run (or lack thereof), he still managed to beat my prediction and stay ahead of Ellsbury, which is actually quite impressive given the latter's stellar month. But then again, that appears to be was Carl want to be—simply good enough and not spectacular, like Ellsbury.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox

He has 47 steals in 55 attempts through 102 team games (60-42 team record) on pace for 77.

Almost the antithesis of Crawford (read: he's still trying), Ellsbury has an encouraging and inspiring 14/16 in steals since July 1. Ellsbury also has the lone, unique fact that is numbers have steadily and consistently increased each month, creating further intrigue. Enough good things cannot be said about this winner.

Not surprising, his projection season pace shot up from 71 on July 1 to 77 today.

Ellsbury's steals by month:

April: 10

May: 11

June: 12 (perfect 12/12)

July 14

August ????

Ellsbury also actually passed my prediction of 13 steals for July, giving him 46 on this date. Based on Ellsbury's aforementioned pace, he should get (giggle) 15-16 steals for the month of August, giving him around 62-63 on September 1.

While this may sound impressive, he'd still have to go on an absolute tear just to get to 80, which is the new 100 it seems.

Even more impressive—lost in Ellsbury's month was the fact that although he didn't have a single multi-steal game (last one on June 29), he was still able to outrun Carl and the rest of his competition, and still finish with stellar numbers. Now imagine if he throws in just a few of these x-factor games in addition to his usual pace...

3. Michael Bourn, Astros.

He has 37 steals in 46 attempts through 103 team games (51-52 team record), on pace for 58.

Mr. Bourn finds himself in rare territory after an impressive and under-the-radar month of July, which saw him steal 12 bases in 14 attempts—good for third in the league behind a late bloomer I have yet to write about, but will.

Not surprising, Mr. Bourn also finds himself with a new identity, jumping up to the third spot and raising his seasonal projection pace up from 54 on July 1.

Bourn's steals by month:

April: 6

May: 10

June: 9

July: 12

August ????

Favorable to Ellsbury, Bourn's numbers are basically increasing (he's trying harder), and is only four steals off last year's career high season total of 41. He keeps proving me wrong, and that's just fine with me. His team has since went 15-13 in July, but got themselves right back in the thick of things thanks to Bourn's risk taking (learn anything, Carl?).

Should be a fun one to watch the rest of the season. No reason to think he can't get 15 this month and enter September around 52 steals.

4. B.J. Upton, Rays

He has 32 steals in 42 attempts through 103 team games (56-47 team record), on pace for 52.

Thanks to a pathetic July where he went 3/6 all month, he has almost taken himself out of this conversation and is close to being sent out of the room while the grownups continue to talk.

At the very least he should be relegated to sitting in the corner for being just plain bad.

Even Crawford is envious.

Upton's steals by month:

April: 5

May: 10

June: 14

July: 3

After an unheard-of June which Ellsbury would be proud of, he went back to his old (April) ways by essentially deciding to take the month off. As a result his team suffered, to no surprise. It’s almost like they deserve it. His pace crashed just like my hopes for him.

He really needs to pick it up.

5. Nyjer Morgan, Nationals (or is that, Natinals?)

He has 32 steals in 46 attempts through 103 team games (32-71 team record) on pace for 51.

Everyone, let's welcome Mr. Morgan to the group (Hi, Mr. Morgan!). "Hi, I'm Nyjer Morgan, and I'm a base stealer!" 

After a superb month, 14/18 in his attempts that finally gets him on a list where he belongs, and that he's (temporarily) earned.

Morgan's steals by month:

April: 6

May: 4

June: 8

July: 14

August: ???

With his team hopelessly out of any race, what does he have to lose?

Since his July 1 arrival, Morgan has stolen "13 in 22 games with the Nats" (July 29) courtesy, ESPN.com.  Imagine what he'd do in D.C. in a whole season (95 steals pace) with no team expectations and no pressure.

I can't wait until next year, but until then, what are the possibilities for August? 15 steals? 20?

Morgan is the only member of this club that not only isn't afraid to get caught, but actually does so at an alarming clip 69% success rate.

Still, with no pressure and no chance at anything in the near future, why not just have fun and go all out? Who knows, you may either showcase yourself for another team next year (I hope not), or you may at least bring in some new fans to the park just to watch you run wild as one of the lone bright spots.

Morgan's only downside is at 29, he is the oldest of the quintet, and one has to wonder if this is an outlier year or a sign of things to come. After all, it’s his first real chance to thrive and play every day.

As long as he stays with the talent-challenged Nats, he should get plenty of playing time—and ultimately plenty of chances to run, making for a fun fantasy summer.

There you have it. The updated top five. Check back around September 1 for an update in the season series of the stolen base. Until then, happy running!


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