erik lundegaard

The Disappearing Art of the Steal

American League 1960 Stolen Base Leaders

Luis Aparicio was the only player in the 1950s to have a 50+ stolen-base season.

Over the weekend I got lost in baseball stats, as I often do, and this time around it was single-season stolen base totals.

First, I noticed that we haven't had any blow-out years in a while (brilliant, Erik). Then, related, I noticed the number of 50+ SB seasons is way, way down. Then I noticed the 2000s have nothing on the '30s, '40s and '50s. 

The numbers:

DECADE HIGH BY 50+ SEASONS
1900s 76 Ty Cobb 19
1910s 96 Ty Cobb 35
1920s 63 Sam Rice 5
1930s 61 Ben Chapman 2
1940s 61 George Case 3
1950s 56 Luis Aparicio 1
1960s 104 Maury Wills 20
1970s 118 Lou Brock 49
1980s 130 Rickey Henderson 61
1990s 78 Marquis Grissom 51
2000s 78 Jose Reyes 31
2010s 68 Juan Pierre 12

I'd always heard that once Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, he changed the staid way of baseball—going base to base, being risk averse—and made everything jazzier and thrilling. Apparently not. Or at least not in the numbers. The '50s were our most stolen-base-less decade.

Jackie led the league twice in stolen bases, in '47 and '49, but with 29 and 37 SBs respectively. Career, he had 197, good for a five-way tie for 356th all time. It really wasn't until Aparicio in '59, and Wills in '62, that things began to rev up and go-go. 

Some good trivia questions come to mind from this mix.

  • For every decade since 1900, which player had the highest single-season stolen base mark? (Answer: That entire third column; good luck on the '30s and '40s.)
  • Who was the only player to have the single-season high two decades in a row? (Answer: You'd thinking Rickey or Lou but it's Ty Cobb, which also makes sense.)
  • Since the Henderson/Raines/Coleman heyday of the 1980s, which two players have had the highest single-season stolen base total? (Answer: Marquis Grisson and Jose Reyes with 78 each.)

But the most startling bit of trivia for me is the stolen base champ of the 1930s: Ben Chapman. That's the guy in this clip. Not Jackie or Eddie Stanky. The other guy

 Believe it or not, he had more stolen bases in his career than Jackie, too: 287. Who knew?

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Posted at 02:34 PM on Tue. Mar 14, 2017 in category Baseball  

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