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San Francisco Giants: Who was the team’s last elite base stealer?

CHICAGO - 1989: Brett Butler #2 of the San Francisco Giants runs the bases during a 1989 game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO - 1989: Brett Butler #2 of the San Francisco Giants runs the bases during a 1989 game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Discussing speedy Jarrod Dyson as a potential free-agent target for the San Francisco Giants raises an interesting question. Who was the team’s last true base-stealing threat?

Earlier today, we published an article exploring veteran outfielder Jarrod Dyson as a potential free-agent target for the San Francisco Giants.

While the ultimate verdict was that he’s probably not what the team is looking for this winter, the idea of adding a top-tier base-stealing threat raised an interesting question.

When is the last time the San Francisco Giants had a truly elite base stealer?

Despite playing in a pitcher-friendly ballpark and rarely featuring a bona fide slugger in the everyday lineup, the Giants as a team have rarely been a threat on the bases.

Here’s a look at where they’ve ranked among all 30 teams in steals the past 10 years:

  • 2010: 55 (t-29th in MLB)
  • 2011: 85 (24th in MLB)
  • 2012:  118 (10th in MLB)
  • 2013: 67 (t-22nd in MLB)
  • 2014: 56 (29th in MLB)
  • 2015: 93 (10th in MLB)
  • 2016: 79 (14th in MLB)
  • 2017: 76 (20th in MLB)
  • 2018: 77 (t-15th in MLB)
  • 2019: 47 (28th in MLB)

Taking that point on step further, here’s a look at their individual team leader in each of those seasons and his stolen base total:

  • 2010: Andres Torres (26)
  • 2011: Andres Torres (19)
  • 2012: Angel Pagan (29)
  • 2013: Hunter Pence (22)
  • 2014: Angel Pagan/Gregor Blanco (16)
  • 2015: Nori Aoki (14)
  • 2016: Angel Pagan (15)
  • 2017: Eduardo Nunez (18)
  • 2018: Andrew McCutchen (13)
  • 2019: Kevin Pillar (14)

Outfielders Gregor Blanco and Angel Pagan tied for the team lead for the decade with 81 steals. Both players were capable of swiping a base, but neither was a true burner who was a threat to take second every time he reached base.

So how far do we have to go back to find a truly elite base-stealing threat in a San Francisco Giants uniform?

The only Giants player to eclipse 30 steals during the 2000s was current Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. He had 31 thefts in 36 attempts during his age-35 season in 2007.

From there, you have to go back to the 1990s, when Barry Bonds was still a threat on the bases. He had 263 steals in his 15 seasons with the team, peaking with a 40-steal season in 1996.

Also worthy of a mention is Darren Lewis, who had a 46-steal season in 1993 and a 30-steal season in 1994, before he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds.

Going back even further, Brett Butler swiped 51 bases in 1990 and had 125 steals during his brief three-year stint with the team.

The last Giants player to lead the league in steals?

That would be Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who paced the NL in 1956 (40), 1957 (38), 1958 (31) and 1959 (27) on his way to 338 career steals.

Will the front office roll the dice on someone like the aforementioned Jarrod Dyson or fellow speedster Billy Hamilton this offseason in an effort to add a long-missing dynamic to the team’s offensive attack?

Next. A way-too-early 2020 Opening Day roster prediction

I wouldn’t bet on it.

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