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Elly De La Cruz looks to become first 100-steal player since the 1980s: Can Reds speedster make history?

Reds shortstop Elly De La Cruz in well on his way to superstardom after being a sensation last season as a rookie. So far this season, he’s hitting .262/.367/.510 (146 OPS+) with seven doubles, a triple, nine homers, 21 RBI 32 runs and 1.9 WAR in 41 games. 

Oh, and he has 25 stolen bases in 29 attempts. Yes, stolen bases are up again this season due in part to the rules implemented before the 2023 season, but no one else in the majors has more than 17 steals. Only six players have more than 11. De La Cruz is lapping the field. 

I’m sure many still roll their eyes at “pace” numbers early in the season, but we’re roughly one quarter of the way through the season. It’s not like this is April 10. De La Cruz is on pace to swipe roughly 99 bags this season (98.78 entering Tuesday). 

In the modern era (1900-present), there have only been 14 individual seasons with at least 90 steals. All but four came in the 1980s; Lou Brock, Ty Cobb and Maury Willis, twice, did it before the ’80s and we haven’t seen any since (who else?) Rickey Henderson stole 93 in 1988.

The century mark is the big number, though, right? We haven’t seen a player get there since Vince Coleman stole 109 bases in 1987. It has only happened eight times in the modern era. 

Player

Team

Season

Stolen bases

Rickey Henderson

A’s

1982

130

Lou Brock

Cardinals

1974

118

Vince Coleman

Cardinals

1985

110

Vince Coleman

Cardinals

1987

109

Rickey Henderson

A’s

1983

108

Vince Coleman

Cardinals

1986

107

Maury Wills

Dodgers

1962

104

Rickey Henderson

A’s

1980

100

Only four players in modern MLB history have ever stolen 100 bases in a season and six of the eight seasons where a player got there happened in such a condensed period of time. To see one now would be amazing. 

De La Cruz is in a good situation to keep piling up the bags, too. First off, the climate for stolen bases got much better with the rule changes — including the slightly bigger bases — before last season. Secondly, he’s playing for a team that has been struggling to score runs, providing more incentive to let him loose on the bases. The .367 on-base percentage is very good and now that he’s hitting second, after starting the season in six-hole, he’ll get a lot of plate appearances. And, of course, there’s the high success rate. At above 86%, he’s stealing bases at a higher rate of success than Henderson did in his three 100-steal seasons. 

Finally, and this is the most fun part: De La Cruz can pile up the steals in a short span. He already has seven multi-steal games this season and stole three bases twice (April 19 and April 24). Last week, he had three straight games with two stolen bases. 

The Reds’ single-season record for stolen bases in the modern era is Bob Bescher, who stole 81 in 1911 while Eric Davis swiped 80 in 1986. As long as De La Cruz can avoid injury (please, please, please avoid injury), setting the club record should be child’s play. Let’s keep our eyes on the century mark. 

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