The stolen base has become a lost art in this day and age. With home run and strikeout rates skyrocketing, stolen base rates have plummeted. The San Diego Padres ranked 14th in stolen bases in 2017.
Wil Myers led the Padres with a mere 20 stolen bases in 2017. This is a significant amount for a first baseman, but the underlying problem is that San Diego’s first baseman led the team in stolen bases. Behind Myers is Margot with 17 and Ayabar with 11. To put this into perspective, Alan Wiggins stole 70 bases for the Padres in 1984, and Tony Gwynn stole 33.
This is not just a Padres problem, stolen base totals have plummeted in the MLB over the last 20 years. In 1982, Rickey Henderson led the MLB with 130 stolen bases. Dee Gordon led the MLB in stolen bases in 2017 with 60. One of the top base stealers the MLB couldn’t even steal half the bags of Henderson in 1982. In 1998, there were 29 players in the MLB with at least 25 stolen bases. In 2017 there were only 14 players with at least 25 stolen bases.
The answer to this problem is truly a mystery. One could argue the fact that pitchers throw harder on average than they did 20 years ago, thus creating less stolen bases. According to fangraphs, In 2002, the Major League average for fastball velocity was 89 MPH, and Luis Castillo led the Major leagues with 48 stolen bases. Yet in 2017, the MLB’s average fastball velocity was 93 MPH, and Dee Gordon stole 60 bases.
With the speed on San Diego’s roster, stolen base totals must improve. Manuel Margot has potential to steal 30 bases per year. Carlos Asuaje only attempted to steal one base the entire 2017 season. Corey Spangenberg could easily improve his stolen base totals. A healthy Travis Janikowski has proven his potential speed. The answer is simple for Andy Green: steal more bases.