Sunday, May 1, 2011

Stolen Bases, By Almost Everyone

Maybe you think the stolen base is the province of speedsters. Daring men like Lou Brock and Rickey Henderson taking the measure of the pitcher and catcher and daring them to stop them. Well, it turns out that the stolen base is there for almost everyone who plays.

Everyone, that is, but Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Chris Snyder, who the Wall Street Journal notes is closing in on the record for most trips to the plate without a steal. That's amazing to contemplate.

It's easy to come up with a list of players who would seem to be candidates to have been perpetually stuck at first after a single. Most people picture Babe Ruth as a rotund slugger. But the Bambino was a good base runner. Not only did he often steal more that 10 bases in a season, he even swiped home 10 times in his career. Sure stolen bases were more prevalent then, but there are less than 60 players in the history of baseball who managed that feat.

Others that were slow of foot include Ernie Lombardi, a Reds catcher in the 1930s famous for turning doubles off the wall into singles. Still, he managed to nab eight bases in a 17-year stay in the bigs. Likewise, Frank Howard, who is as massive as a wall, stole eight bases over his career.

Players like Brock and Henderson -- not to mention Ty Cobb and Maury Wills -- never had much problem stealing bases. But even Snyder has reason to hope. After all, almost everyone who plays manages to steal a base. So hang in there, Chris.

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