100 Steals in Baseball: Can Elly De La Cruz Break the Modern Era Record?

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Can Elly De La Cruz Steal Back the 100-Steal Season?

Elly De La Cruz, the electrifying shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds, is on pace to achieve a feat unseen in Major League Baseball (MLB) for nearly four decades: a 100-steal season. Let’s explore De La Cruz’s chances of reaching this historic milestone, examining the factors that led to the decline of the 100-steal season, De La Cruz’s unique skillset, and the reasons why he might just pull it off.

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The Demise of the 100-Steal Season

Stealing bases was once a common tactic in baseball, but by 2022, the idea of a player reaching 100 stolen bases seemed far-fetched. Several factors contributed to this decline:

  • Shifting Strategic Calculus: The emphasis on launch angle and home runs shifted the focus away from baserunning and taking risks on the basepaths.
  • Focus on Pitching: Pitchers began utilizing more sophisticated deliveries and pitch types, making it harder for runners to steal.
  • Decreased Pitcher Disengagement: Rule changes limited the number of pickoff attempts and throws to other bases, reducing stolen base opportunities.

The Rise of a New Speedster

The tide began to turn in 2023 with a new wave of young, athletic players entering the league. Rule changes that made stealing bases easier, including a pitch timer and limitations on pitcher disengagements, also played a role. This resulted in a significant increase in stolen bases across the league, with several players reaching the 40-steal mark for the first time since 2013.

Elly De La Cruz: A Baseball Anomaly

Elly De La Cruz stands out even among this new generation of speedy players. Here’s why he has a real shot at reaching 100 steals:

  • Blazing Speed: De La Cruz ranks among the fastest players in MLB, consistently registering elite sprint speeds.
  • High Success Rate: Despite his aggressive baserunning, De La Cruz boasts a success rate above 85%, minimizing outs on the basepaths.
  • Seizing Opportunities: De La Cruz actively seeks out opportunities to steal, attempting a steal at a much higher rate than the league average.
  • Targeting Every Base: Unlike traditional base stealers who primarily focus on second base, De La Cruz frequently goes for third base, adding to his steal total.
  • Current Pace: De La Cruz is not just on pace for 100 steals, but he’s even exceeding the pace of some past 100-steal seasons at this point in the season.

Most Stolen Bases Through First 47 Team Games (Since 1901)

PlayerTeam (Year)SBFinished With
Rickey HendersonOAK (1982)45130
Tim RainesMON (1981)40*71*
Rickey HendersonNYY (1986)3587
Vince ColemanSTL (1985)34110
Rickey HendersonNYY (1988)3493
Maury WillsLAD (1965)3294
Vince ColemanSTL (1987)31109
Lou BrockSTL (1974)30118
Elly De La CruzCIN (2024)30

*Note: The asterisks next to Tim Raines’ 1981 stats indicate the season was shortened by a strike, affecting the totals.

Reasons for Caution

While De La Cruz’s talent and current pace are undeniable, there are challenges he’ll need to overcome:

  • Staying Healthy: Any injuries, even minor ones, could force De La Cruz to miss games and hinder his pursuit of 100 steals.
  • Maintaining Stamina: The grueling baseball season can take a toll, and De La Cruz will need to manage his energy to maintain his blazing speed throughout the year.
  • Offensive Slumps: A slump at the plate could limit De La Cruz’s opportunities to steal bases.

A New Era for Stolen Bases?

Elly De La Cruz’s historic chase for 100 stolen bases has captivated the baseball world. Whether he reaches the mark or not, his success has reignited interest in baserunning and stolen bases, potentially ushering in a new era of excitement on the basepaths.

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