Dodgers off to fast start on the bases

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Dee Gordon and the Dodgers lead the majors in stolen bases.

As the Dodgers open play on Tuesday they lead major league baseball with 18 stolen bases, seven more than any other team. It's the most steals by the Dodgers through 13 games since 1999, when they stole 22 bases, and the fourth-most through 13 games since 1914.

The team has also been caught just four times, and their 81.8% success rate is tied for third in the league.

The Dodgers stole 78 bases last year. In 2014, it feels like they might hit that number before June.

I will admit a fondness for the stolen base. As much as I am in favor of the cold, ruthless efficiency of the analytical side of baseball, the appeal of the stolen base lies in its raw aggression. The daring nature of the steal is exhilarating, and the idea of using one's legs and feet to keep an opponent on its heels is exciting.

Perhaps it is because I grew up in the 1980s. My first real year of watching baseball from Opening Day through the World Series was 1985, when at age nine my eyes were filled with wonder at, among other things, the league leaders stealing bases twice as often as today.

April 15 note: Jackie Robinson stole home a franchise-record 19 times

Dodger Stadium has always had grass, but the 1980s saw several road trips to places with artificial turf, which when it wasn't destroying knees was providing a theater for a faster brand of baseball. One of these places was in St. Louis, where Whitey Herzog's Cardinals were busy stealing 314 bases.

Three hundred and fourteen!

That was an outlier, and 132 more steals than the second-place team, the Cubs. That Cardinals team, which would overcome a 2-0 deficit in the NLCS to beat the Dodgers in six games, had five different people steal 30 bases.

Vince Coleman was what Billy Hamilton was supposed to be before Billy Hamilton, and stole 110 bases to set a new rookie record. He would steal 107 and 109 bases the next two seasons and led the NL in steals in his first six years in the majors.

The chief thief for the Dodgers this year has been Dee Gordon, who has performed well above and beyond his most optimistic expectations. While he likely won't hit .400/.457/.525 for the whole season, he could continue racking up the steals.

Gordon leads the league with nine steals, including four steals on Sunday, one shy of the Dodgers record for a game. Gordon is one of six Dodgers to steal at least four bases in a game. Davey Lopes, who stole a franchise-best five in a 1974 game, has done it five times.

If the Dodgers can keep up anything close to their pace, they could lead the National League in steals for the first time since 1970. They have finished second four times since, the last time in 2006.

It's a far cry from when the Dodgers led the NL in steals in each of their first eight years in Los Angeles (1958-65). Maury Wills led the league in stolen bases for the final six of those years, including a then-record 104 steals in 1962, more than any other team in baseball.

That 1962 team stole 198 bases, more than any other Dodgers team in the live ball era. It's still way too early, but this year's team is on pace for 224 steals, with Gordon on pace for 112.

While he might not steal 100, Gordon could become the 15th Dodger to steal 40, the seventh to steal 50, the fifth to steal 60, or the third to steal 70. Something to shoot for, at least.

Enjoy this ... run, while it lasts.

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