Will Rafael Furcal Ever Steal Bases Again?

Back in 1999, a 21-year old (he was reported to be 20 years old at the time) shortstop playing for Class A in the Atlanta Braves system stole 96 bases, to go along with his .392 on-base percentage, and burst onto the baseball scene.  By 2000, he was a regular with the Braves, bringing his speed and a cannon arm to the big leagues.  Rafael Furcal stole 40 bases that season, and would never steal fewer than 25 bases in a full season with the Braves.

Furcal was Ned Colletti's first player acquisition, when he signed a three-year deal with the Dodgers in December 2005.  Furcal was probably the Dodgers' MVP in 2006, batting .300/.369/.445 with 37 steals.  Even in fighting through an injury in 2007, Furcal stole 25 bases.

Through his first eight seasons, Furcal averaged 31 steals per year, with a 77.7% success rate.  Last year, as Furcal was tearing up the National League before his back injury.  Through 32 games, Furcal stole 8 more bases, on pace for 40 over a full season.  However, since coming back from his back injury, Furcal simply has stopped running.  I suppose it could be argued that Furcal hasn't stolen bases because he hasn't been on base (.315 OBP since coming back last September), but I don't think that's the case.

This season, Furcal has four steals in 65 games.  The same as Andre Ethier.  Fewer than James Loney, Russell Martin, and Orlando Hudson.  Furcal has been caught four times too, so his success rate is the worst among all Dodger regulars.  Even Casey Blake (two for three) has been better in this regard!

I understand the stolen base attempt isn't always the wisest choice, given how precious outs are, but I find them aesthetically pleasing.  The stolen base is a huge part of Furcal's game, and as of now it is essentially absent.  I miss the old Furcal (or, perhaps I miss the "young" Furcal).  If asked to choose the priority of Furcal improvements, I would choose for Raffy to start hitting better, but the wheels have been missed too.

Maybe if we notice an increase in Furcal stolen bases, it is a sign of returned health and could lead to a turnaround at the plate.  Maybe its a chicken/egg thing, but either way, I'm ready for Furcal to be a speed demon once again.

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