The stolen base could help the White Sox offense in 2022

(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images) /

The Chicago White Sox, and the rest of the teams in baseball for that matter, seemed to have gotten away from using one of the more exciting plays in the game over the years. That play is the stolen base.

As baseball has become more of a power game with teams focused on homers, launch angles, and exit velocity, the stolen base seems to have gone the way of the pitcher’s bullpen cart. Teams have gotten away from using this strategy which used to be an important instrument in a club’s toolbox.

According to Baseball Almanac, the White Sox hold the record for most seasons leading the league in steals at 30. However, they have not been close to adding to that total over the last several years.

The Sox stole 57 total bases last year, good enough for 23rd in the majors and well off the 124 recorded by the Kansas City Royals. It didn’t help that the Sox were one of the worst teams in steal attempts per game, ranking 24th at .34 a contest.

Back in 2010, the Sox were tops in the attempts category, averaging 1.44 per game. That year, Juan Pierre led the league with 68 stolen bases which marked the last time a Sox player topped the league in that statistic, It is also the last time an American Leaguer posted 60 or more steals in a season.

In fact, the closest an AL player has come to that mark was in 2014 when Jose Altuve stole 56. Since 2010, four different National League players have topped the 60 in a season with the most recent coming in 2014 by Dee Gordon who committed 64 thefts.

Those numbers are a far cry from what was being done back in the 1980s when the stolen base was a real offensive weapon. St. Louis’ Vince Coleman had three straight seasons of 100 or more steals, with his 109 in 1987 being the last time a player topped the century mark.

The all-time stolen base leader, Ricky Henderson, led the AL in stolen bases from 1980 to ’86. He also surpassed the 100 mark three times, with his high-water mark being 130 in ’82.

The White Sox could really use some extra emphasis on stolen bases in 2022.

Aside from Pierre, the Sox haven’t really had a big-time threat on the basepaths since the days of Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio. The slick-fielding shortstop led the league from 1956 through 1964, topping 50 steals in four of those years. Fellow Hall of Famer Minnie Minoso took three straight titles from 1951-’53 and Jim Landis added one of his own in 1955.

Of active players in the majors right now, Tim Anderson is the highest Sox representative, tied for 43rd with 91 steals. Anderson led the club with 18 last season and was the only player on the team to have 9 or more.

Aside from Anderson, only six other players posted multiple steals last year and that group includes Adam Eaton who recorded two.

Simply put, the White Sox don’t seem to be content with looking to take a chance on stealing a base when they believe they have plenty of guys in the lineup who can homer at any time. Eight of the nine players in their everyday lineup (the exception being whoever is playing second base) are capable of posting double digits in homers for the season.

However, the Sox finished with only 190 round-trippers last year, placing them 19th in the majors. Yet, it was feast or famine with the long ball as the team’s record was based a great deal on whether they homered or not.

The stolen base has been devalued as teams have placed greater emphasis on the home run. Last season the home run per game average of 1.22 was the fourth highest in history. In tandem, the strikeout rate also rose to 8.68, marking the second-highest of all time.

Maybe getting a running game back into the fold might help make the game a little more entertaining and provide the Sox with something to diversify the offensive attack.

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