In the wake of Carl Crawford's six stolen bases against the Sox the other night, the Jack Curry of the New York Times has a profile on the Tampa Bay speedster which notes that, more impressive that Crawford's stolen base totals is his stolen base efficiency:
Crawford, who is probably the fastest player in baseball, has solidified his position as the best base-stealer with a major league-best 20 in 20 attempts . . . While Crawford said he did not become interested in stealing bases until he was a minor leaguer, he now does it as well as almost anyone. He is 322 for 386 in career attempts, an 83.4 percentage. That is the third best in history among players with at least 300 steals.
Efficiency is the key, of course, and as a whole, baseball has come to realize this. Back in the putative golden-era of the basestealing (say, 1960-1990), success rates hovered between 60-70%. That number has creeped up higher and higher in the past 20 years, and into the mid 70s, reaching new heights most recently, even if attempts and totals are way down. Given that outs are the most valuable resource in baseball, it's fair to say that baserunning, as a skill that actually helps a team win games, is at an all-time high even if the old-timers lament this putatively station-to-station era and the fact that we'll never see a Wills, Brock, Henderson, or (shudder) Vince Coleman again.
And Crawford knows it too. When asked by Curry if he'd like to steal 100 bases, Crawford demurs and says "My intention when I go is not to get caught."