Chat with Amy Nelson

Welcome to The Show! Amy Nelson is stopping by Thursday at 2 p.m. ET as part of our ongoing Hot Stove Heaters chats! Check back each day for a new topic and a new chat! Take it away, Amy!

In the world of scouting, everything is viewed through a 20-80 prism. The ranking system is universal, and to tag any player with an 80 is the highest honor. For this debate, we're pitting two 80 base stealers against one another in Carl Crawford and Jose Reyes.

Crawford, long tabbed as one of the fastest men in baseball, and Reyes, universally dubbed as a sparkplug, both led their respective leagues in stolen bases last season. Those polled around the game said that pure speed is just one of the tools that makes a superior base stealer. For Maury Wills, who stole a major league-high 104 bases in 1962 for the Dodgers and led the NL in swipes six straight seasons, one tool above all is what he preaches: confidence.

"The first thing they have to eliminate is any fear of failing," said the 75-year-old Wills, who coaches Dodgers players in base stealing each spring training. "I've always said that in order to be a good base stealer you have to be arrogant."

Crawford and Reyes both do fairly well in that category on the field. So the trouble is, how do you pick one over the other?

"It's tough to debate two 80 guys," one NL scout said.

Perhaps, but we're going to give it a try.

The Case for Crawford

Joey Gathright might have something to say about Crawford's label as the fastest player in baseball, but it's no secret Crawford's got wheels. The widely accepted number as a good time from home to first for left-handed hitters is 4.2 seconds; anything below is considered above-average. Crawford, who at 26 has spent his entire career in Tampa on the turf, was clocked out of the box to first last year anywhere from 4.0-4.2 seconds.

Speed isn't his only game; he's also got the stats, having led the American League in stolen bases four out of the five seasons he's played. Crawford's best output was in 2004, when he led the league with 59 stolen bases (last year it was an AL-best 50).

While those numbers are very good, they certainly don't come close to the days of 100-plus swipe seasons a la Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock, Vince Coleman and Wills. But for Crawford, a peek inside the numbers reveals a little different story. Over the last three years, Juan Pierre has stolen the most bases at 224, with Reyes just behind at 221 and Crawford at 212. But among the three, Crawford is tops with an 84 percent success rate. In 254 steal attempts, Crawford was caught just 42 times.

Wills said that while speed was innate, quickness and instincts can be taught.

"You can develop instincts from a willingness to be good," said Wills, who added he wasn't the fastest among his peers. "Quickness comes from decisiveness and confidence."

Crawford has the speed, the quickness and the instincts. He's also is in a league that doesn't emphasize the stolen base as much as the NL, which certainly helps put his totals below that of players like Reyes and Pierre.

The Case for Reyes

Since we've made arguments based on the old-school truisms of scouting and first-hand experience, let's turn to Bill James, who in the latest installment of his self-entitled handbook, anointed Reyes not just the best base stealer of 2007, but also the best base runner, a feat that surprised even James.

But we're not here to debate base running, just stealing. Reyes led the majors with 78 steals last season, while creating havoc on the basepaths and in pitchers' minds all year long. Wills said all he needs is to take a glance at Reyes to know what kind of marauder he is.

"He's bursting with confidence and arrogance and self-esteem," Wills said. "Lou Brock was like that. He'd tell the catcher that he was going on the next pitch."

Reyes may not yet be that bold, but he stole third base 16 times (just behind Pierre's 18) and when he got there, Reyes twice caused the pitcher to balk. He also was clocked from the left side anywhere from 3.90-4.15 last season, faster than Crawford. But more than anything, one NL talent evaluator said Reyes seems to approach his craft with absolute focus.

"Runners can make a science of it," the NL talent evaluator said. "Reyes seems a bit more accustomed to reading the pitchers, studying them and getting the better leads."

The choice

I'm in favor of the scout's advice: You can't go wrong with 80 guys. Crawford's agent told me the other day that Crawford's workouts are the most intense of his career, and that they are tailored to provide cushion to his legs and knees, so he can keep them fresh for the season.

Since I saw much more of the Mets and Reyes in person last year, it's tough to not go with him. But don't bet against Crawford, especially this season with a new look and feel in the Tampa clubhouse.

Vote: Which base stealer would your want on your team?

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