The stolen base has made its return in baseball.
With MLB’s new rule changes – among them, larger bases, the pitch clock, and limited pickoffs per batter – steals are on the rise. Through early July 2023, the league stolen base percentage was up nearly 4.0% from 2022, increasing from 75.4 to 79.5%. In fact, before the All-Star Game, teams combined for just over 1,900 steals – just under 600 short of the entire 2022 season total.
By that time, over 10 players had 20 or more steals, including Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Atlanta Braves, Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays and Corbin Carroll of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
And Oakland Athletics rookie outfielder Esteury Ruiz, acquired from the Braves in an offseason trade, had already surpassed 2022’s top mark of 41.
As we look back at baseball’s ‘burners’ in their inaugural seasons, it’s important to note that with the game’s faster pace, we’ll likely see new and improved records for most stolen bases by a rookie in MLB history.
Most Stolen Bases by a Rookie in a Season
1. 110 – Vince Coleman, St. Louis Cardinals (1985)
Coleman holds the rookie record for most stolen bases in a season – and is the only player on the list to hit triple-digits. In his major league debut, he swiped two bags. And he would go on to succeed in 81.5% of his 135 stolen base attempts that season. The Rookie of the Year had multiple steals in 28 games, including one in which he stole four.
Ultimately, Coleman’s 110 stolen bases in ’85 rank third for a single season. He swiped 100+ bags over the next two years, becoming the first player in MLB history to have triple-digit steals in three consecutive seasons.
2. 75 – Benny Kauff, Indianapolis Hoosiers (1914)
Kauff started off his first season with a bang, pairing his 75 stolen bases with 211 hits, 95 RBIs, and a .370 batting average – the highest ever for a rookie. Had he not been banned from the league for an alleged auto theft, Kauff undoubtedly would’ve climbed the ranks and amassed more than 234 career steals.
3. 72 – Juan Samuel, Philadelphia Phillies (1984)
In the first 10 games of his rookie season, Samuel recorded eight steals. He was not only good at baserunning, but he could also hit, knocking out 15 home runs and leading the National League with 19 triples that year.
4. 71 – Tim Raines, Montreal Expos (1981)
One of the best baserunners in major league history, Raines ended the ’81 season batting over .300 and with 71 steals – in only 88 games. In close to half the games played by the three guys ahead of him, he could have made a run at Coleman if not for the strike-shortened season. The Hall of Famer went on to swipe 808 bases in his 23-year career – fifth on the all-time list.
5. 66 – Kenny Lofton, Cleveland Indians (1992)
Lofton holds the American League record for most stolen bases for a rookie, tallying 66 in his inaugural season. And in just his fourth game of the year, the center fielder swiped four bases. Perhaps even more impressive is that Lofton’s steal total surpassed that of his strikeouts, as he only had 52 Ks on the season.
- 6. 60 – Tony Womack, Pittsburgh Pirates (1997)
- 7. 58 – Chuck Carr, Florida Marlins (1993)
- 8. 57 – Hap Myers, Boston Braves (1913)
- T-9. 56 – Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds (2014)
- T-9. 56 –Gene Richards, San Diego Padres (1997)
- T-9. 56 –Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners (2001)
- T-9. 56 – Quilvio Veras, Florida Marlins (1995)
Most Stolen Bases by a Rookie in a Single Game
T-1. 5 – Alex Cole, Cleveland Indians (Aug. 1, 1990)
In his first eight games, Cole stole eight bases – five of which were in a 4-1 win over the Kansas City Royals. Hitting leadoff, he went 2 for 2 while coaxing a walk and hit by pitch.
T-1. 5 – Dexter Fowler, Colorado Rockies (April 27, 2009)
With just three swipes on the season so far, Fowler came alive in a 12-7 win over the San Diego Padres. He was responsible for five out of the team’s eight stolen bases, reaching on two singles and a pair of walks.
Michael Donovan of Stats Perform’s Data Insights contributed research. Enjoy this? Follow us on Twitter.