Keri: Coco Crisp on the art of stealing bases

From Jonah Keri at on March 20, 2013:

If you formed your first baseball memories in the 1980s, you’re watching a very different game than the one you grew to love as a kid. The ’80s were the time of Rickey Henderson becoming the greatest of all time. Tim Raines drove opposing pitchers insane. Vince Coleman swiped 100-plus three years in a row.

The home-run era changed all that. Managers began playing for three-run homers instead of deploying the running game to generate offense. Per-team stolen bases plunged 37.73 percent from a 1987 peak to its trough in 2003 through 2005. The strategy made sense given everything that was happening in the game in the early-to-mid-aughts. But at the very least, the go-go ’80s were far more aesthetically pleasing than the three true outcomes game that dominated the PED era.

Slowly, things have started to change. Base stealing remains well off its highest ’80s levels. But it’s still up 26 percent from that three-year bottom last decade (see chart below). There might be hope for more, too, with a new generation of speed demons led by Mike Trout, Ben Revere, Desmond Jennings and Billy Hamilton (who just set the all-time record for minor league steals with an incredible 155 swipes) joining veteran artists like Michael Bourn and Coco Crisp.

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Originally published: March 20, 2013. Last Updated: March 20, 2013.