Stat of the Day: Stolen Bases
Abbreviation: SB. Leaders: All Time: Ricky Henderson, 1406. Single Season (since 1898): Ricky Henderson (130 in 1982). Active: Juan Pierre (591). 2012: Mike Trout (49).
The stolen base is the ultimate measuring device of speed and base running in baseball. How perfectly can you time a pitcher's move, going at just the right second. You can't leave to soon, or the pitcher will wheel and throw you out. If you leave too late, the catcher will throw you out, no matter if you're David Ortiz or Mike Trout. It is those who can explode away from the bag in the milliseconds before the pitcher starts to pitch, timing him perfectly and already getting half a step before the pitcher even lifts his foot. The stolen base actually began as a broad term, and was even given when a runner advanced two bases on a single or three on a double. This allowed Reds' outfielder Hugh Nicol to steal 138 bases in just 125 games in 1887. Two interesting facts about Nicol: he is one of only seven players to be born in Scotland, and he was only 5'4". Sadly, the odd rule on stolen bases discredits the stolen base achievements of players like Nicol, Billy Hamilton, Arlie Latham, and Tom Brown. The stolen base was extremely popular in the early 20th century, with players like Max Carey, Ty Cobb, and Honus Wagner racking up the steals. In 1915, Cobb came just four stolen bases shy of becoming the first modern player with 100 steals in a season, finishing with 96. He ended his career with 892, also just eight shy of 900. No player would reach the coveted 100 until the ever popular Maury Wills in 1962, the year he set a record with 165 games played. Wills stole 104 bases, and was only caught 13 times. With his 35th and final stolen base of the 1977 season, Lou Brock became the first modern player to reach 900 stolen bases, though Billy Hamilton stole 912 in the 1880's and 1890's. Brock would finish with 938, but not before becoming the first player with over 110 stolen bases in a season, stealing 118 in 1974 for the Cardinals. Vince Coleman was also a great stolen base man of that era. After setting a minor league record with 145 stolen bases in a season (since broken by the younger Billy Hamilton), he stole at least 107 bases in each of his first three seasons, and finished with 752 over his 13 year career. Tim Raines played from 1979-2002 and stole 808 bases, leading the NL in four straight seasons from 1981-1984. Of course, the player that has been left out so far that you are all (hopefully) waiting to hear about is Ricky Henderson. The Man of Steal almost exactly matched Raines' career, playing from 1979-2003, a span of 25 years. He stole 1406 bases, which is by far the record, and one that no one may ever touch. In 1982, just his fourth year in the majors and at the age of 23, he set a record with 130 stolen bases that still stands today, 30 years later. He stole at least 80 bases six times, leading the AL eleven out of twelve times from 1980-1991. From 1979-2001, he posted 23 straight seasons of at least 22 stolen bases. Today, the big stolen base name coming up is the new Billy Hamilton, who shares nothing in common with the old one except name and speed. The new guy stole 155 bases in the minors last year, smashing Coleman's record, and is on pace to be in the bigs with Cincinnati at some point in 2013.
Free Agent Signings
Red Sox signed Ryan Dempster (12-8, 3.38 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 2013 age: 36) to a two year, $26.5 million deal ($13.25 million per season).
Cubs agreed to terms with Edwin Jackson (10-11, 4.03 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 2013 age: 29) on a four year, $52 million deal ($13 million per season).
Rangers agreed to terms with A.J. Pierzynski (27 HR, 77 RBI, .278 AVG, 0 SB, 2013 age: 36) on a one year, $7.5 million deal.
Yankees resigned Ichiro Suzuki (9 HR, 55 RBI, .283 AVG, 29 SB, 2013 age: 39) to a two year, $13 million deal ($6.5 million per season).
Phillies signed Mike Adams (5-3, 3.27 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 1 save, 2013 age: 34-35) to a two year, $12 million deal ($6 million per season).
Pirates agreed to terms with Francisco Liriano (6-12, 5.34 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 2013 age: 29) on a two year $14 million deal ($7 million per season).
Marlins signed Placido Polanco (2 HR, 19 RBI, .257 AVG, 0 SB, 2013 age: 37) to a one year, $2.75 million deal.
Phillies also signed John Lannan (4-1, 4.13 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 2013 age: 28) to a one year, $2.5 million deal.
Brewers agreed to terms with Tom Gorzelanny (4-2, 2.88 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 1 save, 2013 age: 30-31) on a two year, $6 million deal ($3 million per season).
Cubs also agreed to terms with Carlos Villanueva (7-7, 4.16 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 2013 age: 29) on a two year, $10 million deal ($5 million per season).
Ryan Dempster gives the Red Sox the starting pitching depth they were looking for. With him in the fold, their rotation grows to include Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, John Lackey, and possibly even Junichi Tazawa. The Red Sox needed the depth, but it's an interesting deal acquiring Dempster himself. The British Columbian was cruising along last year at 5-5, 2.25 ERA for the National League's Cubs when the sent him to the Rangers of the American League. There, he went 7-3, but posted a 5.09 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. That pulled his season's ERA all the way up from 2.25 to 3.38, which was still good enough to be his best mark since 2008, when he was 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA. Over his 15 year career, he is 124-124 with a 4.33 ERA through 547 games (322 starts). His 2215.2 innings rank him 16th among active pitchers, 2.2 innings ahead of Roy Oswalt and 3.2 behind Chris Carpenter.
Edwin Jackson will give the Cubs more of a long term solution in their rotation, guaranteeing four years. This is significant for Jackson, because the Cubs will mark his seventh team in six years, and by the time he is done with Chicago, he will have pitched more for the Cubs (four years) than any other team, ahead of the Dodgers and Devil Rays at three years apiece. Born in Neu-Ulm, Germany, Jackson has been a reliable middle of the rotation guy since 2008. He won double digit games each year, topping out at 14 in 2008. His best year was 2009 with the Tigers, when he was 13-9 with a 3.62 ERA over 33 starts. Last year, Jackson signed on with the Nationals, and pitched well for the first five months, over which he was 8-9 with a 3.53 ERA. In September and the postseason, everything deteriorated, and he combined to go 2-3 with a 6.69 ERA over those final seven starts. The Cubs still see him as a $50 million man, and they could get the bang for their buck if he continues to stay healthy. He just turned 29 in September.
A.J. Pierzynksi brings the Rangers the catching depth they badly needed. He will play ahead of Geovany Soto, and at least help to replace the gaping hole in the lineup left by Josh Hamilton. Last year, the 35 year old Long Island native experienced a career renaissance, setting career highs in runs (68), total bases (240), home runs (27), walks (28), slugging percentage (.501), and OPS (.827), all despite being in his 15th season. The home runs smashed his previous career high of 18 set back in 2005, when he helped Chicago to the World Series championship. Together, Pierzynksi's season added up to 27 home runs, 77 RBI, and a .278 average, all in just 135 games. One thing that catches my attention is the walks. He only has 258 in his career, and has never walked more than 28 times in a season. To put that in perspective, all time walk king Barry Bonds never walked less than 54 times in any of his 21 full seasons. Over his 15 years, Pierzynksi has hit 155 home runs, knocked in 730, and batted .284 with 13 stolen bases in 1629 games.
Angels traded Kendrys Morales (22 HR, 73 RBI, .273 AVG, 0 SB, 2013 age: 29-30) to the Mariners for Jason Vargas (14-11, 3.85 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 2013 age: 30).
With the signing of Josh Hamilton, Kendrys Morales became expendable to the Angels. He will take his 79 career home runs to the Pacific Northwest and bat in the middle of the order with Jesus Montero, Kyle Seager, and Michael Saunders. His 22 home runs from last year will be more than any player on the Mariners (Seager lead with 20). Of course, Morales will forever be remembered as the man who hit a walk off grand slam in 2010 then broke his leg in the celebration, causing him to miss the next year and a half. Before the incident, in 2009, the 26 year old Cuban broke out with 34 home runs, 108 RBI, and a .306 average, while also adding in 43 doubles in 152 games. In 2010, he was on a great pace to match the year before, having hit 11 home runs and batted .290 through 51 games. The leg injury caused him to miss the second half of 2010 and then all of 2011. In 2012, he bounced back, hitting 22 home runs and batting .273 in 134 games. A switch hitter, he bats much better from the left side, evidenced by a massive lefty/righty split last year. Against lefties (batting right handed), he hit five home runs and batted .229 in 70 at bats. Against righties (batting left handed), he hit 17 home runs and batted .280 in 414 at bats. Over his six year career, he hit 79 home runs and batted .281 with 96 doubles.
The Angels shored up a huge hole in their rotation with Jason Vargas, a native of the deserts north of San Bernardino. Vargas, out of Apple Valley, California, will join his hometown team. After a few years of mediocrity, he broke out in 2010 for the Mariners. Over 31 starts, he was 9-12 with a 3.78 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. After taking a step back in 2011, he had his best year in 2012, going 14-11 with a 3.85 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. The lefty has turned into an innings eater, pitching 418.1 innings over the past two years, and his 217.1 last year ranked sixth in the AL. Over his seven year career, he is 42-50 with a 4.35 ERA and 1.31 WHIP through 150 games (130 starts).
Teams followed in this update: Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Colorado Rockies
If your team is not included, please leave a comment.
HR: home runs. RBI: runs batted in. AVG: batting average. SB: stolen bases. ERA: earned run average. WHIP: walks/hits per innings pitched. K's: strikeouts. WPCT: winning percentage