Fun with stolen bases

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OK, so brilliant reader David (in Toledo) offered up a great statistic that I did not know -- he says that the aforementioned Richie Scheinblum is the only All-Star outfielder in baseball history to not steal a single base in his career. Actually David says he BELIEVES this to be true but, in brilliant reader fashion, would not swear to it. On this blog, we don't swear to anything.

Well, best I can tell, David is exactly right. And the comment is such a fun little piece of trivia that it has inspired me to look up a few other stolen base facts:

TIDBIT: Russ Nixon played 906 major league games and never stole a base. He was zero-for-7 in a lengthy career.

Here are the Top 12 -- down to Richie Scheinblum -- for most big league plate appearances without a stolen base:

1. Russ Nixon, 2,714 PAs, 0 stolen bases.

2. Adrian Gonzalez, 2,257 PAs, 0 stolen bases.

Comment: Gonzalez, you might remember, was the first pick in the 2000 draft -- out of Eastlake HS in Chula Vista, Calif. -- and from the start scouts realized that he could not run at all. Even so, I'm not sure that anyone expected he would not steal a single base in his first 2,200 or so plate appearances. Frank Thomas stole 11 bases by this point of his career, David Ortiz stole a base LAST YEAR, and he's basically a glacier. Bengie Molina IS a glacier, no basically about it, and he has three stolen bases in his career. So this is an admirable lack-of-speed career Gonzalez is having.

Here's an amazing little stat for you: Adrian Gonzalez has NEVER ATTEMPTED a stolen base. Never. True, he is officially listed for one stolen attempt, but it wasn't an attempt -- that was July 9, 2006, in Washington. He got picked off second base by Mike Stanton.

3. Johnny Estrada, 2,244 PAs, 0 stolen bases.

Comment: Scheinblum is the only All-Star OUTFIELDER to never steal a base, but Estrada has to be the slowest All-Star in baseball history. He made the All-Star team in 2004, and he has never stolen or even tried to steal a base. Not only that, Estrada has exactly zero triples. That's one slow guy.

4. Aaron Robinson, 2,189 PAs, 0 stolen bases.

5. Javier Valentin, 1,663 PAs, 0 stolen bases.

6. Al (the Bull) Ferrara, 1,573 PAs, 0 stolen bases.

Comment: He had quite a lot of power, and he got on base quite a bit -- the Bull had a career OPS+ of 119. But he might go down as the slowest outfielder in baseball history. Not only did he never steal a base (one attempt), he got to almost nothing in the outfield. They say the Bull* had muscles on top of muscles, and all those muscles can slow a guy down.

But while he "might" be the slowest outfielder ever, he's almost certainly the only outfielder to ever play piano at Carnegie Hall. And he is DEFINITELY the only man to play piano at Carnegie Hall AND play a headhunter on Gilligan's Island. You don't even need to throw in the qualifier that Ferrara also had a recurring role as a henchman on Batman. Anyway, I suspect in today's game Ferrara would DH and make a lot of money.

*There have been, best I can tell, 10 big league players nicknamed "Bull," but only two other players nicknamed THE Bull:

-- George (the Bull) Uhle, A pitcher, which makes him an odd "Bull." He probably invented the slider, and he probably was named "the Bull" because it semi-rhymed with his last name.

-- Greg (the Bull) Luzinski. Hit 307 homers and stole 37 bases.

Leon Durham was called Bull, probably for his last name, and but he was quick as a young player -- he stole 25 and 28 bases in his first two full seasons with the Cubs. Bob Watson apparently was called Bull by some -- though I don't recall that -- and he only stole 27 bases in his career.

7. Matt LeCroy, 1,539 PAs, 0 stolen bases.

Comment: I'm certain there have been numerous players who were slower than Matt LeCroy -- the Molina brothers to start, and LeCroy could probably outsprint Estrada while running backward -- but I don't think I ever saw a player who LOOKED slower than Matt LeCroy. I've seen clothes dryers that looked faster that Matt LeCroy.

8. Jason Phillips, 1,537 PAs, 0 stolen bases.

Comment: Zero triples too.

9. Chris Snyder, 1,480 PAs, 0 stolen bases.

10. Jose Morales, 1,428 PAs, 0 stolen bases.

11. Bob Schmidt, 1,426 PAs, 0 stolen bases

12. Richie Scheinblum, 1,392 PAs, 0 stolen bases

* * *

TIDBIT : Oscar Robles has the most career caught stealings without ever being successful. He was 0 for 8.

All of those stolen base attempts came the same year -- 2005 -- when Robles played for the Dodgers. I'm not entirely certain why they kept giving Robles the green light. I guess they assumed because he was 5-foot-11 and weighed 155 pounds that he HAD to be fast. But I'm not entirely certain where they got the information -- he had not played in the minor leagues in seven years, and when he did play in the minor leagues he was extremely slow.

It's funny, I think that for all the research and scouting and detailed analysis baseball people do, so much of it STILL comes down to how a player looks. For instance, I remember talking with Jermaine Dye once about how pitchers ALWAYS threw over to first base when he got on. They did this even though Jermaine -- as he readily admitted -- was quite slow. They had, for their own reasons, assumed Jermaine was fast despite all evidence to the contrary. Jermaine got a kick out of this.

* * *

TIDBIT: Pete Runnels in 1952 set the record for most stolen base attempts without being successful. He was 0 for 10.

Here is the list:

1. Pete Runnels, 1952: 0 for 10.

2. Oscar Robles, 2005: 0 for 8.

(tie) Jose Offerman, 2000, 0 for 8.

Eight players are tied at 0 for 7 including: Chet Lemon (1983), Manny Trillo (1978), Mike Vail (1977), John Milner (1976), Ted Simmons (1976), Ron Theobald (1972), Denis Menke (1966) and Dick Gernert (1953). ... You will note the mid-1970s was the heyday for the "players who LOOKED fast but were not fast."

And that leads me to perhaps the most inappropriate nickname in baseball history -- Chet (the Jet) Lemon. Yeah, it rhymed. But Chet the Jet indicates that Lemon was extremely fast and, frankly, he's one of the worst base stealers in baseball history.

He looked fast, I suppose, because he was an excellent centerfielder (mostly because of his instincts) and because he would often take the extra base (again, on instinct and aggressiveness). And maybe, first to third or whatever, he was fast. But Chet Lemon simply could not steal a base. In his long career, he stole only 58 bases and he was caught 76 times. His first season he stole 13 bases and was caught seven times -- a pretty dreadful ratio -- but it would be BY FAR his best stolen base year.

Chet Lemon was an excellent player. He hit a lot of doubles, he excelled at getting on base, especially in his years with the White Sox (in part because he got hit with pitches a lot). He had good power -- he hit 20 or more home runs three times in his career, and 19 homers a couple more. His 120 career OPS+ is outstanding. But man, he could not steal a base despite the nickname.