SB success rate is up ... and it could set a new record

Activity on the basepaths sees significant increase after 1st week of games

April 6th, 2023

The basestealers are running. And catchers haven't been able to stop them.

MLB's new rules for 2023 were supposed to encourage stolen bases. And a week into the regular season, steals are way up compared to last year -- and stolen-base percentage is the highest it's ever been.

Here's how stolen bases look for the first week of 2023 (Opening Day through Wednesday) vs. the first week of 2022:

2022 (87 games): 61 SB on 89 attempts (68.5% success rate)
2023 (91 games): 124 SB on 154 attempts (80.5% success rate)

2022 (87 games): 0.70 SB per game, 1.02 SB attempts per game
2023 (91 games): 1.36 SB per game, 1.69 SB attempts per game

Early on, successful steals per game are at a level not seen since the 1990s. Here's a look at the frequency of stolen base attempts and successful steals during the first week of the MLB season through recent history, going back in five-year intervals.

SB/game and SB att/game, first week of season
2023: 1.36 SB/game, 1.69 SB att/game
2022: 0.70 SB/game, 1.02 SB att/game
2017: 1.12 SB/game, 1.55 SB att/game
2012: 1.10 SB/game, 1.66 SB att/game
2007: 1.17 SB/game, 1.61 SB att/game
2002: 1.07 SB/game, 1.61 SB att/game
1997: 1.66 SB/game, 2.35 SB att/game
1992: 1.74 SB/game, 2.59 SB att/game

The 80.5% stolen base efficiency also especially stands out.

If runners keep successfully stealing at the same rate they are right now, MLB will see a record-setting season in stolen base efficiency in 2023. It would be the first time that the league stolen-base percentage eclipsed 80%.

Highest league SB success rate, single seasons
2023: 80.5% (through first week)
2021: 75.7%
2022: 75.4%
2020: 75.2%
2007: 74.4%
2012: 74.0%

Not everyone is running more often -- as a whole across the Major Leagues, stolen base attempts are more in line with where they were for much of the 2000s (before the most recent dip) than the steal-happy days of the '80s and '90s. But the teams and players that are running, are running a lot.

The Orioles (11) and Guardians (10) have already reached double-digit stolen bases. Last year, through the opening week of the season, the Royals and Mets led all teams in stolen bases … with five each.

It's been a top-heavy league for base stealing in that respect. The eight teams with the most stolen bases -- the Orioles, Guardians, D-backs, Yankees, Pirates, Astros, Mets and Mariners -- have more steals between them (64) than the other 22 teams combined (60).

The individual league leaders in steals for the first week of 2023 have as many stolen bases as the leading teams did after the first week of 2022. The Yankees' Gleyber Torres and the Guardians’ Myles Straw each have five stolen bases to pace the Majors, with the Orioles’ Jorge Mateo and Cedric Mullins right behind them with four.

Those four are among 21 players that have multiple steals already this year. There are eight players with three steals or more.

At this same time last year, only seven players had multiple steals. Luis Robert Jr. and Straw (four each) were the only players with more than two.

There have been pieces of stolen-base history made, too.

Yankees top prospect Anthony Volpe made his big league debut on Opening Day and stole a base in each of his first three career games -- becoming just the fifth player in the Modern Era (since 1901) to do so, and the first since Billy Hamilton a decade ago.

Players with a SB in first 3 MLB games
Anthony Volpe, 2023
Billy Hamilton, 2013
Pat Howell, 1992
Ray Lankford, 1990
Fritz Maisel, 1913

Meanwhile, the Orioles stole five bases in each of their first two games of 2023. They're the only team on record to open a season with back-to-back games of five or more steals, and the only club with 10 steals in its first two games.