Unknown or Undervalued
Billy Werber led the American League in steals on three occasions – twice as a member of the Red Sox. Weber also led the league in CS twice while playing for the Philadelphia Athletics. From 1939-1942 no CS totals appear for Weber since – even at this point in baseball – CS was not considered a significant statistic.
With the Red Sox, Weber was 107/40 (.73%) in his four Boston years. Werber – primarily a third baseman with Boston – slashed a respectable .281/.367/.425 with 38 home runs and 234 RBI for the right-handed hitter. Werber in ninth on the Red Sox career list.
Dustin Pedroia was a rare player who managed to refine his base stealing skills. When Pedroia first arrived it was not an expected part of his game, but it certainly has become one. What stands out is not the totals – currently 127 and eighth on the Red Sox list – but his selectiveness with only 39 CS.
The last two seasons Pedroia has made only 16 stolen base attempts and been successful a mere eight times. This is a number that may give some credence to his declining defensive range and quickness, but let’s see what 2016 produces.
Five-tool players are rare and Jackie Jensen was one. A remarkable athlete who is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame – yes, he was that good. Jensen became an All-American running back from the University of California and playing in the Rose Bowl.
As a baseball player, Jensen combined speed and power and was a rare talent that got away from the Yankees for whom he appeared in a World Series. Jensen was traded to the Senators and eventually to Boston where he led the American League three times in RBI and was the American League MVP in 1958.
What about speed?
Jensen led the AL in steals in 1954 with 22. Jensen also led the league in triples (11) in 1956. Like Mickey Mantle, Jensen has speed and plenty of it, but the mentality was to go long ball. Jensen finished his Boston career with a 95/39 steals rate in seven seasons. Jensen – like Mantle – could easily have swiped 40+ bases if turned loose.
Ellis Burks was a part – a very small part – of the 2004 team, but Burks could really motor when he first arrived in Boston. His first three seasons saw 73 steals and only 20 CS. Then it crashed. The next three season – 20/27 and off to the Rockies. Burks had one big steal year left with a 32 steals in 38 attempts in 1996.
Reggie Smith was a force for the 1967 team and finished second in the Rookie of The Year voting. Smith – a stellar defensive center fielder – had above average speed but limited instincts in the steal department with 83 steals and 53 caught stealing in eight Boston seasons. Smith also led the league in doubles twice while with Boston and I have considered Smith an often undervalue player in the annuals of Boston baseball.