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Boston’s incredible stolen base streak gets snapped, sort of

Oct 9, 2013, 1:54 AM EDT

Quintin Berry, Ben Zobrist AP

When Daniel Nava was thrown out trying for second on a hit-and-run in the eighth inning Tuesday against the Rays, it marked the first time in the team’s last 46 attempts that a Red Sox player was caught stealing.

Of course, technically, that’s mixing regular-season and postseason games. No matter what happens the rest of this month, the Red Sox will have finished the regular season with a streak of 39 straight steals, and depending on how you want to look at it, they’ll also carry that into next season. It’s not some sort of sacred record, so MLB probably doesn’t care much either way.

But the Red Sox’s streak of 45 streak steals is somewhere around as unlikely as a 45-game hitting streak would be. Besides the Red Sox, AL teams were successful on 72.5 percent of their steals this year. That 72.5 percent is also roughly about how often a .300 hitter gets one hit per game. The major league leader (Adam Jones) had 121 one-hit games this year or 75.6 percent of his games played. Miguel Cabrera was up at 79.8 percent, while Andrew McCutchen was at 70.7.

Maybe that’s not the best comparison. But a team that stole at a .725 clip, like the rest of the AL, would have a 1 in 1.9 million chance of making it to 45 straight without being caught. Bump that up to an 80 percent success rate, it’s still 1 in 23,000. And then there’s Chase Utley; he’s the best percentage basestealer (min. 100 steals) since they started tracking caught stealing at 88.356 percent. Even at that success rate, getting to 45 in a row is a 1 in 262 shot.

  1. Matthew Pouliot - Oct 9, 2013 at 1:56 AM

    And it’s only fair that I should mention here that the streak really should have ended at 44 steals Monday, but that Quintin Berry was called safe on the caught stealing in the pic above.

    • peterjohnjoseph - Oct 9, 2013 at 2:14 AM

      We’re talking about stealing bases here. Not stealing our thunder.

      He grew up with the last name Berry. Give him a break.

    • Jack Marshall - Oct 9, 2013 at 7:37 AM

      If you’re safe, you’re safe.

  2. nbjays - Oct 9, 2013 at 7:17 AM

    It is also worth mentioning, as the Quintin Berry situation demonstrates, that running up 45 stolen bases in a row also means having 45 calls in a row – usually very close calls – go your way. At least with hitters, a vast majority of their hits are not subject to debate, with only a few being up to the judgement of an official scorer.

    • 18thstreet - Oct 9, 2013 at 8:47 AM

      Yes, errors are never arbitrarily awarded. And there’s no such thing as an infield dribbler that counts as a hit in the box score.

      • Jeremy T - Oct 9, 2013 at 10:41 AM

        Actually, I think it’s probably fair to say that a pretty large majority of hits had no chance of being called an error. Infield dribblers aren’t at the discretion of the scorer, either. The key word is “majority”.

  3. Jack Marshall - Oct 9, 2013 at 7:39 AM

    It’s also worth mentioning that while that will be recorded as a stolen base fail, it was in fact a botched hit-and-run. Nava was not trying to steal second base.

    • Joe - Oct 9, 2013 at 8:40 AM

      And it will be forgotten to history because Boston won the game, but that was a pretty ridiculous hit-and-run bid. David Ross had the worst contact rate of every batter for Boston this season, excluding some of the pitchers.

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