The Cleveland Indians have stolen an American League-best 97 bases already this season. The Houston Astros are a distant second, with 83 steals so far. Those 97 stolen bases in 116 games put the Tribe on pace to steal 135 by season’s end. The franchise record for steals is 210, set in 1917, during the Dead Ball Era, when baseball was in many ways a different game. Reaching 135 would place this season among the top ten for the franchise since the end of that era, and would be the team’s highest total since 1999. The post-Dead Ball Era high mark is 160, by the 1996 team.
This year's Tribe has been led by Rajai Davis, who leads the American League with 32 steals. Jose Ramirez is next on the team, with 19, eight of which have come in the team's last eight games. Also in doubles figures for the Indians are Francisco Lindor (15) and Jason Kipnis (11). The Indians haven't had anyone steal 40 in a season since 1999, when Omar Vizquel stole 42. Davis is on pace for 44 steals, a total only Kenny Lofton has reached for the team in the last thirty years. (Lofton got there in six different seasons, including his franchise-record 75 steals in 1996.) Lofton is also the only Tribe player since the Dead Ball Era to lead the AL in steals. (Harry Bay and Elmer Flick each led the league along once, and also shared the lead in 1904.)
Davis has been incredibly effective as a base stealer as well. Every other player with at least 25 attempts this season has been caught at least seven times, while Davis has been caught only four times. His 32 for 36 record gives him a success rate of 88.9%, best in baseball among players with 25+ attempts. Caught stealing data is largely incomplete for much of baseball history, but since 1951, when those records began to be accurately kept for all teams, a player has stolen 32+ bases with a success rate as high as Davis' only 40 other times. Roberto Alomar in 1999 (39 for 43) is the only player to have done so for the Indians.
Davis isn't the only Tribe runner taking bases with great success. the entire team only has a total of 23 times caught stealing, placing them in the bottom half of all teams. Their 97 for 120 record on attempts gives them an 80.8% success rate, the best in baseball. The team is at 15.8 base-running runs at FanGraphs, not only best in the American League this season, but on pace for the second best figure by any American League team during the 2000s.
The Indians were expected to contend this season on the strength of their starting pitching. The rotation has been very good, but the offense has actually been even better. A big part of that has been their tremendous work on the base paths.