Selecting the best base runners of any time period is difficult to do. To go prior to 1954 is practically impossible, due to lack of pertinent data.
I guess you could just use stolen base percentage, but then you just have the best base thief, not the best base runner. There is a difference.
What statistics should we view to decide who's the best? As I just said, SB% (stolen base percentage) is one category.
Another category is RS% (run scoring percentage—percentage of time a base runner eventually scored a run.)
The third category is XBT% (extra bases taken percentage.) This is the percentage of times a runner advanced more than one base on a single or more than two bases on a double.
Last but not least, we shall use a factor that I guess I invented. I have called it DT%, meaning double/triple percentage. It is the total number of doubles and triples divided by total hits.
By adding the percentages of all these categories we will come up with a value that we can compare the base runners by.
There have been some great base runners in the history of baseball. You may, perhaps, think it is easy enough just to say Rickey Henderson is the best ever.
You would be wrong!
I have included active players as well as those retired, since these statistics are all based on percentages and not totals.
Having said all of that, let us look at the Top 10 base runners since 1954.
N0. 10 - JOSE REYES - SS
One of the best base runners in the game today, Reyes is a feared man when he reaches first base. In his six complete seasons, Jose has led the league in stolen bases and triples three times each.
N0. 9 - SHANE VICTORINO - CF
The Flyin' Hawaiian is regarded by many as the fastest man in MLB. He is in his sixth season, the fifth with the Philadelphia Phillies.
NO. 8 - RON LeFLORE - CF
LeFlore played only nine seasons, but led the league in stolen bases twice, and in runs scored once.
NO. 7 - RICHIE ASHBURN - CF
Hall of Fame center fielder Richie Ashburn played 19 years, all in the National League. He led the league in steals his rookie year. He also was the league leader in triples twice.
NO. 6 - TIM RAINES - OF
Raines played in the big leagues for 23 years. He led the league in steals four consecutive years. He also was the league leader in doubles once and in runs scored twice.
NO. 5 - RICKEY HENDERSON - OF
Hall of Fame outfielder Rickey Henderson played 25 seasons in the majors. He led the league in steals 12 times, seven consecutively. His 2,295 runs is the highest in MLB history. His career total stolen bases of 1,406 is also the most ever in baseball.
Before you start screaming that he should be No. 1, read this. He was also the league leader in getting caught attempting to steal five times, and he led the league in runs scored five times. Henderson won one MVP award.
NO. 4 - JIMMY ROLLINS - SS
Rollins is in his 10th season, all with the Phillies. He led the league in stolen bases once, in doubles four times, and in runs scored once. Rollins was the MVP in 2007.
NO. 3 - KENNY LOFTON - CF
Kenny played 17 seasons for 11 different squads. He was the league leader in steals for five consecutive years. He also led the league in triples once.
NO. 2 - WILLIE MAYS - CF
Hall of Fame center fielder Willie Mays played 22 years in MLB. He led the National League in steals for four consecutive years. He also was the league leader in triples three times and in runs scored twice. He won the Rookie of the Year award and two MVP awards.
NO. 1 - WILLIE WILSON - OF
Willie played 19 years, 15 with the Kansas City Royals. He was the league leader in steals once, and in triples five times. He also led the league in runs scored once.
Below is a table showing the percentages for each runner in each category.
|PLAYER ||RS%||SB%|| XB% ||DT%|
|1. Willie Wilson||14||83||58||19|
|2. Willie Mays||12||77||63||20|
|3. Kenny Lofton||16||80||55||21|
|4. Jimmy Rollins||13||82||49||27|
|5. Rickey Henderson||15||81||55||19|
|6. Tim Raines||14||85||50||21|
|7. Richie Ashburn||14||86||53||17|
|8. Ron LeFlore||14||76||61||18|
|9. Shane Victorino||14||79||52||23|
|10. Jose Reyes||14||80||50|