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The Difference Between Running A Lot In 1992 And 2012

Even Aramis Ramirez is stealing bases this season, but the Brewers still aren't running nearly as often as they did in 1992.
Even Aramis Ramirez is stealing bases this season, but the Brewers still aren't running nearly as often as they did in 1992.

Last night's Brewer stolen base spree (they took seven against the Pirates, including three for Ryan Braun) propelled them into first in the National League with 142 steals on the season. They also lead all of baseball in home runs, slugging percentage and runs scored, so the aggressiveness is part of a pretty unusual statistical season.

If the Brewers finish the season with the league lead in steals it will be the first time since 1992. In the comments of last night's Stat of the Night, reader Big10freak shared this thought about the two teams:

The 1992 Brewers ran wild and the next year the team drove off the cliff. Now that team’s pitching/defense was the core issue but I have heard several interviews with guys from those teams and they all talked about how their bodies were all beat up from all the running in 1992.

The 1992 Brewers won 92 games (which makes it an easy number to remember), but the 1993 team followed up that performance by losing 93. Some of that regression was certainly caused by losing Paul Molitor, Dante Bichette and Chris Bosio, but it's also worth noting that the '93 team got much less from defending Rookie of the Year Pat Listach, who led the team with 54 steals and 72 attempts a year earlier.

With that said, I think it's important to highlight the difference between "running a lot" 20 years ago and today. The 1992 Brewers attempted 371 steals and were successful 256 times. The 2012 Brewers, meanwhile, are on pace for 156 steals over 195 attempts. They're running slightly more than half as often as their counterparts from two decades ago.

Here's a table to drive that difference home, looking at the top eleven base-stealers from both teams:

1992 Player SB Attempts 2012 Player SB Attempts On Pace For
Pat Listach 72 Carlos Gomez 38 42
Darryl Hamilton 55 Ryan Braun 34 37
Paul Molitor 37 Norichika Aoki 34 37
Greg Vaughn 30 Rickie Weeks 17 19
Scott Fletcher 27 Nyjer Morgan 17 19
Dante Bichette 25 Aramis Ramirez 9 10
Kevin Seitzer 24 Corey Hart 5 6
B.J. Surhoff 22 Jean Segura 5 6
Robin Yount 21 Jonathan Lucroy 5 6
Franklin Stubbs 19 Mat Gamel
3 3
John Jaha 10 3 others tied 2 2

I ran that list eleven deep for a reason: The 1992 Brewers had eleven different players successfully steal at least ten bases. The 2012 team is the first Brewer team since 1995 to have five.

So, to sum up: the Brewers' stolen base successes (and they've been successful over 80% of the time) this season have been a welcome development, but they're still not running nearly as often as they did 20 years ago.