Stolen Thunder - Where Have All The Stolen Bases Gone?

Dustin Bradford

The Phillies have spent the last seven seasons at the peak of MLB's stolen base efficiency charts, including a record-breaking 2007. Yet this year they're firmly in the middle of the pack. What happened?

They got older, it seems.

The 2007 Phillies set the modern Major League record for stolen base efficiency, successfully completing 138 out of 157 attempts, or 87.9%. By way of comparison, Chase Utley's personal stolen base percentage of 88.8% is the highest all time for someone with more than 100 attempts. The 2013 Phillies, by contrast, are at a much more plebeian 55 out of 77, for a merely decent 71.4%. The equivalent of Russell Martin.

Why the difference? As recently as last year, the Phillies had stolen 116 bases in 139 attempts; good for a 83.5% mark. Yet this year, they've dropped off the table entirely. It's not for lack of trying, certainly. To this point in the year, the Phils are on pace for 134 attempted steals, comparable with recent years. They're just not getting the job done. Why is this?

Last year's running game was championed by Juan Pierre (37 for 44), Jimmy Rollins (30-35), Shane Victorino (24-28) and Utley (11-12). Pierre is gone (thank God), but his role on the club has been filled by the more likeable if not altogether different Ben Revere (note, I'm talking skillset, not position). Victorino, too, has moved on, but has arguably been replaced by Domonic Brown. Rollins and Utley are, of course, still here. In fact, it seems quite likely that, between the two of them, we'll see more of them this year than last.

So where are our heroes this year? The answer is, at least as the running game goes, depressing, if not altogether a surprise. Revere leads the team with 22 steals so far, but has been caught eight times. Rollins (9-15) and Utley (6-8) are both running less and with less efficiency. The other two notable new Phils, Youngs Michael and Delmon, have combined for one steal on only one attempt. The only real bright spot in this year's campaign on the basepaths is Brown, whose 8-9 mark is reminiscent of Utley's numbers in his prime.

I suspect that the diminished running game is not a cause but a symptom of the Phillies' recent decline, and that it's one not worth losing sleep over, especially given the long list of problems preceding it. Nevertheless, as a big fan of the stolen base, it's somewhat sad to see the historically successful five-year run come to a close. But, hey, it was fun while it lasted, right?

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