With the MLB season winding down and conversations on division winners and wild card participants becoming the dominant conversations through September, sometimes an interesting conversation sparks needed research.
During a Tampa Bay Rays/St. Louis Cardinals game last week, MLBbro legend Vince Coleman was invited to be a part of MLB Tonight “Clubhouse Edition” on MLB Network. Coleman talked about his exploits of swiping bases during his time in the late 1980’s and how a MLBbro icon was a major influence to his success.
Vince Coleman stole 109 bases in 1987, a mark that hasn't been approached since 😳
The game of baseball has changed over the past decades. Gone are the days of speedsters swiping bases while driving pitchers crazy like Coleman joked with CC Sabathia about. Gone is the science of studying pitchers for tendencies to take advantage of.
Most importantly the green light to attempt steals is gone by way of waiting for the power hitters to get a chance to impact the game with the long ball.
It’s easy to link Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman because they are all over history with triple digit stolen base totals.
Just look at today’s leaders in stolen bases this season as of August 15th, 2023.
Ronald Acuna Jr. (Atlanta Braves): 55 bases, Esteury Ruiz (Oakland A’s): 46 bases, Corbin Carroll (Arizona Diamondbacks): 36 bases
Corbin Carroll is a rookie, and his 36 stolen bases has him on the inside track to NL Rookie of the Year Award. Seems impressive right? Okay…let’s go back in time to the mid 80’s and look at Vince Coleman.
Afterwards, the perspective of how the game has changed over the last 40 years.
How is Vince Coleman not a Hall of Famer?
As a 10th round pick of the Cardinals, minor league teams were calling 911 from all of the bases our MLBbro legend was stealing.
In 328 minor league games, Coleman stole 289 bases before being called up to St. Louis.
That’s when the story begins…
In 1985, Coleman won the NL Rookie of the Year Award with an absurd 110 steals along with a .267 batting average, one homer 40 RBI and 107 runs scored. Our MLBbro legend became the first rookie to ever steal AT LEAST 100 bases.
Here’s more about the Rookie Repo Man in 1985…
He had more stolen bases than Rickey Henderson that year…30 more steals.
Had a 81.5 percent success rate.
His total represented more than 12 of the 25 teams in baseball at the time.
Here’s the comparison of our MLBbro to the MLB average that season.
Vince Coleman: 110 — MLB team average: 119.
Averaged 0.73 per game…for the whole season!
The man did not fall into a sophomore slump either.
Not only did Coleman make history by stealing over 100 bases as a rookie, but he went on to be the first player to steal 100 or more bases in three consecutive seasons which was his first three through 1987.
Vince Coleman played 13 years (1985-1997) finishing with a .260 batting average, 28 home runs, 346 RBI, 849 runs scored with 752 stolen bases. The two-time All-Star led the NL in steals six times.
It’s easy to see why Vince Coleman used Rickey Henderson to study. After all this MLBbro icon is known as…” The Man of Steal”.
Rickey Henderson…the Gold Standard
This MLBbro icon is the stolen base king holding the MLB stolen base record with 1,406. Since passing fellow MLBbro icon Lou Brock (938 steals) in 1991, Henderson sits miles away from the competition.
He’s the only MLB player who has passed the 1,000 stolen base threshold.
Like Vince Coleman, Rickey topped triple digits in stolen bases but look at the longevity.
Henderson led the league for almost half of his 25 year career, doing it 12 times. The 12th time was at age 39!
He topped the 40 steal mark (Remember today’s standards!) 17 times…the 50 steal mark 14 times and 75 or more seven times.
If any player has a chance of topping this man’s record, they can start by trying to steal 30 bases in a season over four different decades. (Henderson had 33 in 1979 at age 20 and 31 in 2000 at age 41).
What sets Rickey Henderson apart from Coleman’s exploits is the combination of speed and power. Rickey Henderson is the only player to reach 100+ steals while hitting double figures in home runs. Plus, the “Man of Steal” was known for those leadoff homers!
Henderson was considered one of MLB’s most complete baseball players. The Hall of Famer was a ten-time All-Star, and the 1990 AL MVP. He led the league in runs scored five times, walks four times and hits once. He hit .300 or better eight times and finished in the 3,000 hit club with 3,055. He’s second all-time in walks behind fellow MLBbro icon, Barry Bonds.
Despite Vince Coleman being a stolen base legend (sixth all time!), he’s the only player on the all-time leader board not in the Hall of Fame.
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.
Mullins being a major threat on the basepath is nothing new, as he is the most recent inductee of the 30-30 club, hitting 30 home runs and stealing 30 bases back in his All-Star season of 2021, and only the 21st player to ever do it in the American League.
He did even better last season, accumulating 34 stolen bases, which was third in the majors.
His electricity landed him a spot on the star-studded Team USA roster for the World Baseball Classic. While he didn’t steal a base, he had a home run and two RBI.
Mullins got off to a hot start in his first five games this season, but fell into a slump. It’s been getting better for him in the last week, but still not back to what he’s capable of.
He’s normally the team’s leadoff man but has had a few games recently where he’s batting ninth, to possibly put less pressure on him at the moment so he can figure it out.
Either way, he’s being protected by the heart of the Orioles lineup, as they are still valuing his ability on the basepath very highly.
The Orioles are one of the younger teams in the MLB and have been projected to be a team who can make the next leap in their rebuild.
They’re 14-7, and currently on a six-game winning streak. That’s a great sign considering Mullins has his wheels clicking but not his bat yet.
They have a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. The task won’t be easy, as they’re in a division that features the Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays.
In order for the dream to become a reality, Mullins is going to have to play an integral role, as he is one of the leaders of this team, both on the field, and in the clubhouse. He’s been on the team since 2018, thus making him one of the team’s longest-tenured players.
For a team that has been one of the laughing stocks of the league for the last half decade, this may be the year where that painful stretch will finally come to an end. Mullins will play a huge role in whether or not they can find a way into the playoffs.
Rob Parker celebrates one of the most lethal weapons in MLB history, stolen base master, #MLBbroVince Coleman. The switch-hitting, two-time All-Star swiped 110 bags in his rookie season. He was a six-time NL stolen base champ.