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Uncommon Thievery: Truth About Increased Totals

Updated: July 11, 2007, 6:46 PM ET
By Brian McKitish | Special to ESPN.com
Is small ball back in style? Sure seems like it. Not only do we have one player  Jose Reyes -- who still has an outside shot at swiping 100 bases, but there are also at least 25 others who have a legitimate shot at stealing 30-plus. To put things in historical perspective, last year 19 players reached the 30-steal mark, but over the last five years we've seen as few as 11 and an average of just 14 players per year who were able to top 30 stolen bases. Make no mistake; small ball is on the comeback trail. It's even highly possible that at some point over the next five years, this particular column (which predicates itself on the scarcity of the stolen base) will cease to be useful in a fantasy sense. That time, however, may be a little farther off than you might think. The stolen base, for as far as it's come, still has a lot of work to do before we take it off our list of scarce resources. Through Sunday, the league as a whole has stolen 1,541 bases, which puts players on pace to nab a total of 2,854 at season's end. Take a look at how that compares to previous seasons:

By far the scariest number that jumps out here is the almost unheard of 74.1 percent success rate runners are enjoying this season. Well, let me correct myself. The scariest issue here is that despite the huge increase in success percentages, stolen base attempts are actually down compared to last season. That is an alarming statistic. Runners aren't attempting more steals; they're just becoming increasingly successful at their craft. Let me ask you this, if you were a manager, wouldn't you run more if the odds of successfully stealing a base kept increasing?

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