- In this week's Power Rankings we zoom in on the teams still vying for an edge on the base paths. The stolen base has fallen out of favor, but these teams are still prone to swipe a bag or two.
It’s Friday, which means that it’s time for SI’s MLB Power Rankings. This week’s spotlight? Teams who are stealing bases. Across the league, SBs are down to their lowest rate since 1971—we’re seeing fewer than one every two games, a mark that hasn’t been crossed in decades—as clubs get increasingly efficient with risk-taking and adjust their baserunning accordingly. Still, there are a few teams where base-stealing is alive and well, and so here’s a look at baseball’s top ten. Let’s rank!
30. Detroit Tigers (36-82; Last Week: 30)
29. Baltimore Orioles (39-82; Last Week: 29)
28. Kansas City Royals (43-78; Last Week: 27)
The Royals may not have very much going for them, but they do have this. They’re MLB’s stolen base leaders, with 95—which isn’t surprising, considering that they have last year’s base-stealing champ, Whit Merrifield, on the same team as Billy Hamilton and Adalberto Mondesi, and for the first half of the year, Terrance Gore, too. (Last month, Gore was sent to the Yankees, where he’ll likely be able to fulfill his natural role of postseason designated pinch-runner in October.) The Royals’ roster is built for small ball, essentially, and their style of play reflects that. Just imagine how much they could do if they actually got on base consistently.
27. Miami Marlins (45-75; Last Week: 28)
26. Seattle Mariners (50-72; Last Week: 26)
Quick: Who’s baseball’s current stolen base leader? You’d be forgiven for not knowing that it’s Mallex Smith, who’s been able to fly under the radar to some extent this year. While he’s always been speedy, Smith’s struggled with the rest of his game in 2019, as he’s seen last year’s breakout 114 OPS+ fade to a lackluster 79. And, of course, he’s been less likely to attract notice with these Mariners than he was with last year’s Rays. Still—34 stolen bases! (Plus 8 CS, which is tied for baseball’s lead.) Ten years ago Jacoby Ellsbury led baseball in steals with 70.
25. Toronto Blue Jays (51-73; Last Week: 24)
24. Pittsburgh Pirates (50-70; Last Week: 23)
23. Chicago White Sox (54-66; Last Week: 25)
22. Colorado Rockies (54-67; Last Week: 22)
21. Los Angeles Angels (60-63; Last Week: 20)
20. San Diego Padres (56-64; Last Week: 21)
19. San Francisco Giants (61-61; Last Week: 18)
18. Texas Rangers (60-61; Last Week: 19)
Here’s a fun one. The Rangers lead baseball in steals of home this year, with four. Only one other team has more than one. (And, for what it’s worth, Texas has never been caught stealing home; it’s just four successes in four tries.)
17. Cincinnati Reds (57-63; Last Week: 17)
16. Arizona Diamondbacks (61-61; Last Week: 16)
The Diamondbacks have Jarrod Dyson (25 SB). Beyond him, they also have baseball’s highest team success rate here—86% of their stolen base attempts work out, better than any other club. In fact, they have a chance to go after some history here, as there’s never been a club to steal more than 60 bases while getting caught fewer than 13 times. And Arizona currently has 69 SB and 11 CS.
15. Milwaukee Brewers (63-58; Last Week: 12)
Christian Yelich’s MVP-caliber season has continued apace—and in a race that has consistently seen him just about even with the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger, one factor where he does have a clear edge is stolen bases. With 23 SB, Yelich easily leads Milwaukee and ranks fourth overall in the NL. It’s a career best mark for Yelich, and it just might end up climbing high enough to earn him membership in The 30-30 Club.
14. New York Mets (62-59; Last Week: 15)
13. Philadelphia Phillies (63-58; Last Week: 14)
12. St. Louis Cardinals (63-56; Last Week: 13)
The Cardinals don’t have any truly explosive standouts here. (Kolten Wong, their stolen base leader, has 16 SB, which, while perfectly respectable, isn’t exactly flashy.) But they do have baseball’s most evenly distributed baserunning talent. St. Louis has seen eight different players rack up six or more stolen bases this year—Wong, Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong, Tommy Edman, Dexter Fowler, Yairo Munoz, Marcell Ozuna, Harrison Bader—while no other team has more than six.
11. Boston Red Sox (64-59; Last Week: 11)
10. Chicago Cubs (64-57; Last Week: 9)
9. Washington Nationals (65-55; Last Week: 10)
The Nationals lead the NL in stolen bases; Trea Turner, with 25 SB, is leading the way. And that’s after he had to miss a month and a half with a broken finger. Otherwise, it seems likely that he’d be on pace to match last year’s personal mark of 43 SB—which, unsurprisingly, led the NL, too.
Trea Turner is on pace to steal 486 bases this season.— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) March 28, 2019
8. Oakland Athletics (69-52; Last Week: 8)
7. Tampa Bay Rays (71-51; Last Week: 6)
Traditionally, the statistically accepted threshold for stolen-base success rate has been 75%—if a team’s rate is below that, they’re sacrificing too many outs on the bases with poor running or poor timing. And Tampa Bay, ever savvy, currently has a success rate of exactly 75%, precisely on the money.
6. Atlanta Braves (72-51; Last Week: 7)
In addition to everything else that he does, Ronald Acuña, Jr. leads the NL in stolen bases with 28. Which means that he’s responsible for a whopping 45% of Atlanta’s SB, essentially powering the team to crack the top ten all on his own. (Yes, Acuña does have more SB than the total combined roster of the Minnesota Twins.) As if you needed any more proof that he’s incredible.
5. Cleveland Indians (73-49; Last Week: 5)
Thanks to Jose Ramirez (24 SB) and Francisco Lindor (18), Cleveland earns its spot here. And especially turn your attention to Lindor, who has now become one of 81 players in MLB history to record 15 or more home runs and 15 or more stolen bases in at least four separate seasons… impressive in any light, but especially when you consider that he’s only had four full major-league seasons.