Best Base Thieves in ’93 Finest

The game is one the line and you’ve got a guy taking a lead from first base. Who do you want in that position if choosing from the player roster of 1993 Finest?

Metric One: Career Totals

There’s no more simple way to base thievery than to look at who swiped the most over a career. Henderson is the clear winner with a tally nearly equal to that of second and third place added together. Not only is he a full Ozzie Smith ahead of Tim Raines, he is almost 500 ahead of the previous MLB all-time record holder.

PlayerStolen Bases
Rickey Henderson1,406
Tim Raines808
Kenny Lofton622
Otis Nixon620
Ozzie Smith580
Brett Butler558
Barry Bonds514
Paul Molitor504
Roberto Alomar474
Eric Young465

Metric Two: Average Stolen Bases per 162 Games

Rickey Henderson had an extensive career, playing in 25 seasons. This undoubtedly helped pad his career totals and potentially masking the capabilities of other similar players. To account for this, I calculated average stolen bases per game played and converted the result into a 162 game rate to simulate a full season.

PlayerSB per 162 Games
Rickey Henderson74
Otis Nixon59
Tim Raines52
Kenny Lofton48
Deion Sanders47
Delino DeShields46
Eric Young44
Alex Cole42
Brett Butler41
Chuck Knoblauch40

Henderson still dominates the pack. Some new names join the list, such as Deion Sanders and Delino DeShields. Otis Nixon appeared on both this list and the previous one. His production is much more apparent in the 162-game view and is the only one even close to Henderson. I have to give Nixon credit, as he stole almost every single base after the age of 30.

Metric Three: Peak Season Stolen Bases

What about peak performance? After all, someone who just accumulates stolen bases over a long career isn’t as exciting as someone who plunders the base paths like an ancient Viking.

***Looks at table below***

This just isn’t fair.

PlayerSeasonStolen Bases
Rickey Henderson1982130
Rickey Henderson1983108
Rickey Henderson1980100
Rickey Henderson198893
Tim Raines198390
Rickey Henderson198687
(TIE) Rickey Henderson / Eric Davis1985 / 198680
(TIE) Marquis Grissom / Tim Raines1992 / 198278
Rickey Henderson198977

Metric Four: Success Rate

How about a more nuanced view? Getting thrown out while attempting to steal a base hurts a team. Growing acceptance of this has led to fewer attempts in recent years. Success rates of 75% or more are generally needed to move the run-scoring needle in a positive direction, a rate that few runners actually achieve. So which players consistently helped their team by taking another base?

PlayerStolen BasesCaught StealingSuccess Rate %
Tim Raines80814684.7%
Eric Davis3496684.1%
Darren Daulton501083.3%
Barry Larkin3797783.1%
Rickey Henderson1,40633580.8%
Roberto Alomar47411480.6%
Andy Van Slyke2455980.6%
Lenny Dykstra2857279.8%
Ozzie Smith58014879.7%
Kenny Lofton62216079.5%

A few new names appear through this lens. Phillies catcher Darren Daulton makes a surprise visit to the list. Andy Van Slyke and Lenny Dykstra, a pair that really didn’t like each other, appear to have put together nearly identical numbers.

Parting Thoughts

It’s pretty apparent that Rickey Henderson was the best base thief in the set, an unsurprising outcome. While it is difficult to argue for anyone else as the greatest in such a situation, that doesn’t shut down the conversation. To keep from rehashing the same old stats over and over again it is useful to ask slightly different questions. Instead of who is the best base stealer, ask who is the fifth best. You will get very different answers and the responses can tell a great deal about which lens a fan views the game.

Who’s the 5th best? Ozzie Smith? Deion Sanders? Rickey Henderson (again)?

Post Script: Who was the worst baserunner in the set? Jay Buhner. He took 6 bases in 30 lifetime attempts.