Returning the Stolen Base to Baseball Prominence (Part IV)

Joe M.Correspondent IISeptember 2, 2009

PHOENIX - JUNE 14:  Michael Bourn #21 of the Houston Astros scores a run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the major league baseball game at Chase Field on June 14, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona.   The Astros defeated the Diamondbacks 8-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Part IV 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 an advocate of its return to baseball prominence.

Before reading this article, be sure to read parts I, II, and III 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?", "The Quest for 100 steals-can Carl Crawford do it?" and "Returning The Stolen Base To Baseball Prominence (Part III)"

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).

September 2, 2009—here are MLB's top 5 stolen base performers:

1. (tie) 1. Carl Crawford, Rays

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He has 55 steals in 66 attempts through 131 games (71-60 team record) on pace for 68.

Since the last update I wrote on August 1, Crawford is 7-for-10 in steals. His numbers continue to decline from ten in June, eight in July and a paltry seven in August.

Only 25 in three months from a man who should have had 70 in his sleep in beyond pathetic. I don't care if he missed three games last month with a bad back, injuries are part of the game and his team needed him. Now that he's back, their season, much like his stats are worthless—it's simply too late.

Its only fitting he quit on his team. I've been preaching for three months: As he goes (as in runs) so go the Rays. They refuse to listen, thus they deserve each of their fates. What should have been fun is now just imminent as the end of the season can't come soon enough. He won't even match Willy Tavares' 68 steals last year nor Podsednik's 70 in 2004.

Crawford's steals by month:

April: 9

May: 21

June: 10

July: 8

August: 7

September ???? My guess-4

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox

He has 55 steals in 64 attempts through 131 team games (77-54 team record) on pace for 68.

Like Crawford his numbers have took a dive with a season-low eight steals last month in nine attempts. However, in only his second year in the league, he Ellsbury continues to get better as he's already set a career high, and also Red Sox franchise high in single-season steals.

Additionally, he seems more focused on picking his spots as he's much more efficient in stealing bases going 34-for-37 his past three months. He'll be better in the long run because of it.

Ellsbury's steals by month:

April: 10

May: 11

June: 12 (perfect 12/12)

July 14

August: 8

September: 7?

Ellsbury fell much short of my hopeful prediction of 15-16 steals last month and now seems focused on getting into playoff mode as the Red Sox cruise to yet another boring postseason berth. To his credit he actually took the league lead for a few nights all to himself.

If we have to suffer through yet another "epic" ESPN lovefest of Yankees-Sox I'm going to scream, but then again, with the Dodgers, Angels, Yankee$, Phillie$, and might-as-well-be-big-market St. Loser, uh, I mean, St. Louis Cardinals already almost assured playoff spots, the best we can hope for now are those pesky Rockies to remind of us 2007 all over again since the AL playoffs are sadly going to be a big market invitation-only private party to MLB's delight.

3. Michael Bourn, Astros

He has 48 steals in 58 attempts through 132 team games (62-70 team record), on pace for 59. He went 10-for-11 in August.

He's the only base stealer who is not only the most consistent (read: still trying), despite his team having nothing left to play for. He's my pick to take over the league lead after this month as I predict the ranking on October 1 to be:

1. Michael Bourn

2. Nyjer Morgan, Nats

3. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red $ox

4. Carl Crawford, Rays

5. Chone Figgins, Angels (by default since he too shut it down to prep for playoffs)

Bourn's steals by month:

April: 6

May: 10

June: 9

July: 12

August: 11

September: 10?

Having already set a career high in steals, nice goals would be 60 for the season which would mean he'd only have to get about 10 this month, certainly manageable based on his consistent pace. He also steals bases in bunches, having four multi-steal games last month alone.

He can make up pace in a hurry if need be. All these factors are reasons why he should take over the team lead. Mix in the idea he'll probably get 2-3 in the few October games and he should finish around 63 for the season as league leader. Thanks, Michael for giving a damn, unlike your competition.

4. Nyjer Morgan, Nats

He has 42 steals in 59 attempts through 133 team games (46-87 team record) on pace for 52.

Mogan, placed on the DL retroactive to August 28, has already missed five straight games including the last 4 of August. Still, he was able to go 10-for-13 and out-steal Ellsbury and Crawford. Sad. Considering he'll miss probably ten games this month with the injury, his numbers will take a hit, but 10 steals would be nice giving him 52 entering October. At this rate, though, 50 would be nice seeing how he'll likely be the fourth and final member of this club this season, lower than in season's past (more on this in a future recap article this post-season).

Morgan's steals by month:

April: 6

May: 4

June: 8

July: 14

August: 10

September: 10? Asking a lot. Probably 7

Considering he stole 24 bases since his July 1 trade to the Nats where he was free to run more, over a full season this equals out to a Tony Womack-esque 72 steals. Hope for the future—and 2010.

5. Chone Figgins, Angels

He has 39 steals in 54 attempts through 130 team games (78-52 team record), on pace for 48.

Went 8-for-11 in August and passes B.J. Upton, deservedly who at one point was moved to 7th in the lineup and hit .168 over a horrid 16 game span. When you steal only four bases in August and hit .274 as Upton did, you deserve to get passed. Good riddance. With no one else in sight (Rajai Davis, A's: Who?) he gets the nod, by default.

There you have it. The updated top five. Check back around October 1 for an update in the season series of the stolen base. Expect the numbers to be ugly as players shift to shut-down mode and prep for the playoffs or their golf games.

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