It’s a well-known fact that the game of baseball has evolved over the years.
On offense, home runs now are the big thing, along with an alphabet soup of sabermetrics. Also fading away are the pitchers who toss complete games, let alone a complete-game shutout. Base stealing also is fading away with much of the offensive attention going toward power.
Today, we’re going to look at career batting averages and career stolen base totals.
For my personal collection, my statistical benchmarks for collecting a certain player include a career batting average of more than .300, as well as a career stolen base total of more than 500.
Back in the day, if you hit more than .300 in a season, you were doing great; especially as pitching became more dominant toward the late 1960s. You weren’t always trying to launch a bomb all of the time, just get on base and drive in a run or two.
How many of you old-time baseball guys remember Harvey Kuenn? His 1960 Topps card, which I purchased recently, is at the top of this post. He later gained fame as being the manager of the 1982 American League champion Milwaukee Brewers (“Harvey’s Wallbangers”), but when he played he was a career .303 hitter. He only had 87 home runs and more than 600 RBI, but had more than 2,000 hits in a 15-year career. He also was a 10-time All-Star.
Many times, a career .300 hitter also will have an abundant number of home runs and RBI, but there are a few good players who are exceptions to this. Ralph “Road Runner” Garr hit .306 in a career that spanned the entire 1970s. Matty Alou, one of the three Alou brothers, hit .307 in a 15-year career. More recent examples include Hal Morris (.304) and Mike Greenwell (.303) in the 1990s.
As of this post (May 20, 2022), there are seven active players whose batting averages are more than .300: Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve, Mike Trout, Robinson Cano, Trea Turner, DJ LeMahieu (rounded), and Joey Votto (rounded). Cabrera is in his 20th year, and Cano is in the twilight of his career.
Let’s look at stolen bases, which is becoming as rare as one from Steve Balboni (1).
There are 39 players who have more than 500 stolen bases. Most of them either played during the early days where base-stealing was common, or had other strong tools such as home runs and batting average to compliment their careers. There do exist some runners who have amassed a large number of stolen bases, but don’t really have any other good career numbers of note.
Vince Coleman has more than 700 stolen bases, and is 5th all-time. Otis Nixon and Juan Pierre have more than 600. Jose Reyes, who has more than 500, was the most recent with that many to retire.
As of this post, the active player with the most stolen bases is Dee Strange-Gordon (333) and is 127th on the all-time list. The active player with the 10th most, Jean Segura, has 197.
For as good as some of these players were, their cards can be found in rather inexpensive boxes. In fact, Beckett doesn’t recognize Morris, Greenwell, Coleman, Nixon and Pierre as “star cards” of any sort throughout most of their career.