Let’s get right to the point: Basic running is one of the most enjoyable parts of baseball. Watching people run fast in general is exciting, even more so when there is a payoff ahead of them at the end. The decline of the stolen base through baseball as home offices strive for maximum efficiency is well documented, and it’s obviously a shame that we’ve mostly lost one of the best things about this wonderful sport. .
On the theme of basic running, we’re going to take a look at the history of the Rockies on the basic paths: their success rate and overall value per year, the best (and worst) baserunners in the history of the team, etc. Let’s get started.
The BsR chart
We’ll start with the statistic that best encompasses all aspects of baserunning: BsR. If you’re not familiar with the statistic, here’s a detailed breakdown of it. When it comes to BsR, here’s how the Rockies rank, year by year, from 1993 through 2021:
Right off the bat, the only thing that jumps out at me is the positive trend represented by the gray line. In other words, the Rockies have improved on the basics in recent years. This includes a very strong run of years from 2007 to 2010 where the Rockies racked up 39.9 BsR as a team, the third-best of the Majors, although miles behind the Phillies and Rays, both of whom had BsR values in the 70s, which is no surprise. Utley, Rollins, Victorino, Crawford, Upton, etc. are all some of the best baserunners of the 21st century.
But anyway, the top of the base Rocky Mountain race, according to BsR, is the 2013 team, and it’s not hard to see why. They stole 112 bases and only got caught 38 times, after all. The following highest values belong to 2008, 2021, 2020, 2007 and 1996. I would also like to take a minute to point out that the 2020 Rockies are number four on the list despite only playing 60 games, which is foolish. They were the best baserunning team in the MLB that cut the season by several miles, of course.
The raw stolen base numbers
Now we move on to the simple totals of the old SB. As you will see, a high number of flights does not always correlate with a high BsR number …
In fact, if you overlay the two charts, you’ll find that despite the decreasing totals, the base value has increased overall. That’s thanks to improved efficiency, of course, but we’ll get to that later, and you don’t need an extra row to see the raw totals dropped off a cliff. For now, I’d like to take a look at the two big outliers: 1996 and 2004. First, ’96.
The 1996 team had speed demons on them. Six different players (Galarraga, Young Sr, Burks, McCracken, Bichette and Walker) stole 17+ sacks, a feat no team accomplished in 2021, and three of them (Young Sr, Burks and Bichette) flew 30+, also a non-team feat achieved in 2021. But not only did these Roxes have bulk, they also had modern efficiency, as they stole 201 bases while only getting caught 66 times. That, guys, is a 75.28% success rate, in line with the MLB average for the past few seasons. Oh, and the 201 steals total is by far the highest in Rocky Mountain history, with no other team even exceeding 150. Kudos to Hall of Fame member Larry Walker, too, for stealing 18 bases (while only getting caught twice) in 83 games. My God, Larry was brilliant.
The 2004 team was the exact opposite. Only two players (Aaron Miles and Royce Clayton) stole double-digit numbers, and they did so while achieving a total of 22 for 34 in their attempts. It’s bad. Do you know what else is bad? The fact that those two have combined for exactly half of the Rockies’ 44 steals this season, by far a low level of franchise (removing the 2020 60-game season). What is worse? They got caught 33 times. 33! That’s a 57.14% success rate, the worst in Rocky Mountain history, narrowly surpassing the 58.77% of 1998. Not only did the Rockies franchise bottom out in 04-05, but their production base also did.
We haven’t finished here yet. I have another table for you good readers:
The success rate
This is the success rate the Rockies have had in basic theft attempts, per year since 1993. That graph looks a lot like the BsR graph from the previous one, doesn’t it? Even the trend is about the same. Some nuggets here:
- The Rockies have cracked 70% just twice in their first 14 years of existence.
- They have yet to achieve an 80% success rate over a full season. 2008 is the closest, at 79.21%.
- They had as many seasons under 60% as they had seasons over 70% in those first 14 years.
- Editor’s Note: I wasn’t there to see this valley in the mid-2010s, and I’m quite grateful for it. Low SB totals and terrible efficiency to go with it. I need one of the two to be good, at least.
It’s getting too long, so let’s end with a list of the best baserunners in Rocky Mountain history.
The best of the best
Only eight Rockies have stolen more than 100 bases with the team. By gross total, they are classified as follows:
Of the eight, the most efficient in miles is Willy Taveras, who has only been caught 16 times against 101 successful interceptions for an 86.3% success rate (in 230 games, by the way), followed by CarGo (118 SB, 29 CS, 80.2%) and Trevor Story (100 SB, 30 CS, 76.9%).
Now let’s take another look at the top eight base runners in Rocky Mountain history, but this time from BsR:
Now we are starting to see different names. CarGo and Story remain shoulder to shoulder at the top. Walker remains in the top 8, as does Willy Taveras (again, in just 230 games!), But half the roster is new. The always underrated Dexter Fowler comes in fourth, and Clint Barmes and Eric Young Jr. come in fifth and sixth. Matt Holliday, who is not considered a great defensive player or base runner, finds himself right in front of Walker. Keep in mind that this is a cumulative statistic. Kaz Matsui ranks 13th in just 136 games, and Sam Hilliard (!) Ranks 16th in 144 games. Here is the full ranking, by BsR.
Hope it was a good trip down memory lane for some of you. I know I enjoyed writing it, at least. It’s fun to go back and take a statistical look at the years I wasn’t around.
But wait … we are not done yet!
The Shameful Eight
Let’s have a little fun to conclude. Here are the eight worst base runners in Rocky Mountain history by BsR:
Before you yell at me, yeah, I know about it. BsR being a cumulative statistic, Helton is dirty here, as he’s clearly not the worst in rate terms (here’s the ranking). In fact, Luis González had an incredible -14.8 in just 291 games, one of the worst per game rates in franchise history, and easily the worst among players with at least 200 games. Do you have any memories of Luis González’s basic blunders? It came before I even knew what baseball was after all.
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The final numbers are 12 years (a club’s final option), $ 182 million guaranteed, and a maximum value of $ 223 million. Lots of money … and yet he will likely be underpaid in the future for the value he will give the Rays. This deal also confirms that Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr., the former in particular, absolutely had their contracts stolen. There is a lot of predatory behavior with young Latino players, but that’s a great conversation for another time.
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With the lockout looming (we all know it’s coming), Suzuki will be signing soon. It’s always difficult to outbid the bigger markets for Japanese and Korean players, but Suzuki would serve the Rockies’ need for strong outfielder better than anyone else in the free agent market. They would really be screwing it up if they didn’t at least check in to see what the price might be.
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