May 25, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
Lost in the clamor surrounding Josh Beckett‘s no-hitter against the Phillies was another pair of stolen bases for Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon. Gordon, who also stole three on Friday, leads the league with 30 stolen bases and no one else is close. Billy Hamilton owns the second-highest stolen base total with 18.
Entering the season, Gordon was considered an afterthought in the Dodgers’ plans, but he has become a central part of their offensive attack. He is slashing .293/.340/.382 and the high stolen base total has been accompanied by an extremely high success rate of 91 percent.
Gordon could also be on his way to doing something that hasn’t been done in 26 years. He is presently on pace to steal 95 bases over 162 games. Should he steal that many, he would be the first player to steal 90-plus bags since Rickey Henderson stole 93 in 1988. Vince Coleman stole 109 bases the year prior.
Due to a confluence of factors — including smaller ballparks and a focus on power — stolen bases have been on the decline. In 1987, teams averaged 0.95 stolen bases per game according to Baseball Reference. It dipped as low as 0.50 in 2003. 2013 saw a 0.52 average and the current MLB average is 0.59. Only three times since the turn of the millennium has the stolen base leader swiped 70-plus bags and none more than 78. Gordon and Hamilton are what remains of a once-glorious breed of speedsters who made the lives of pitchers a personal hell.
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