With several new rules in place, both players and fans have gone through an adjustment period throughout the beginning of the 2023 season.
Aimed at speeding up the pace of play while also adding excitement to the game, so far these rules have done exactly what they were designed to do.
But of them all, the new stolen bases rule has caused a bigger stir than even the pitch clock rule.
“Stolen bases. It’s a joke,” said starting pitcher Blake Snell. “Can’t throw no one out. You have to be 1.2/1.3 [seconds] to the plate.
If you pick twice, they’re getting crazy jumps and leads. Stolen bases are a joke. And the bases are closer. The game was made perfectly and they changed the game.”
While the bases are indeed bigger, Snell highlighted the biggest advantage runners now possess. Before this season, a pitcher could throw over to first as much as they’d like.
Although this may not have been aesthetically pleasing for casuals, it was commonly referred to as simply “keeping a runner close.”
Under the new rule, after two pick-off attempts or “disengagements”, if a pitcher doesn’t pick a runner off with their third move, an automatic ball is called.
For example, if a pitcher steps off once and throws over another time to the same baserunner, he has exhausted his two free attempts.
Naturally, speedy runners have been able to take advantage and have done so at an extremely successful rate.
According to The Athletic, entering May 1, the average stolen bases per game is 1.8, up from last years 1.4. This is the highest number of stolen bases per game since 2012, and the 79.4 percent success rate is the highest in over 100 years.
Two of our favorite MLBbros have made sure to join in on the base stealing this season.
Baltimore Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins’ 11 stolen bases are the most to start the season by an Oriole since fellow MLBbro Corey Patterson swiped 13 bags to start the 2006 season.
He is currently tied for sixth in the league with Miami Marlins center fielder Jazz Chisholm. Chisholm has only been caught stealing twice while Mullins has yet to be caught.
Headed into Monday night, no runner has been thrown out more than twice.
Even with the rules adjustment, it’s still too soon to declare a stolen base renaissance.
Although attempts will certainly rise (especially if the success rate remains as high), there has been a complete philosophy change throughout baseball that has devalued the stolen base. Teams are built to stack baserunners and use extra base hits to drive them in, not sacrifice outs for one extra base.
The current state of the stolen base is exciting, but when you look at the totals from the stolen base era, the numbers don’t seem real.
Here are the top five single-season base-swiping totals from MLBbros in the modern era.
Rickey Henderson – 1982: 130 steals, 172 attempts
The most stolen bases ever in a single season, this may be one of the most unbreakable records in baseball.
Lou Brock – 1974: 118 steals, 151 attempts
What’s most impressive about Brocks’ 118 steals is that he was 35 years old that season.
Vince Coleman – 1985: 110 steals, 135 attempts
Vince Coleman – 1987: 109 steals, 131 attempts
Coleman appears back to back on our list, with these two seasons representing 34 percent of his career stolen base total.
Rickey Henderson – 1983: 108 steals, 127 attempts