I was watching the Mariners/Tigers game this evening (thanks to the wonders of the MLB Package on DirecTV) and visiting the Mariners broadcast booth was Jay Buhner. Having grown up a Yankee fan, my perspective on Buhner generally was colored by one of the following: (a) becoming the 4th player to launch a homer into the empty “black bleachers” at old Yankee Stadium; or (b) having been the key players in the ill-fated Buhner for Ken Phelps trade immortalized by, among others, Frank Costanza.
For whatever reason, I found myself looking back on Buhner’s career numbers. Jay Buhner had a very good career – he hit 310 home runs over his 15 year career. From 1995 to 1997, for those great Mariners teams that twice went to the postseason, he hit 40 HRs each year, and his 124 over that time was good for third in the majors, trailing only Mark McGwire and Albert Belle (two ahead of teammate Ken Griffey, Jr). He twice walked 100 times in a season, and his career OPS+ comes in at a more than respectable 124.
What jumped out at me, however, were his base stealing statistics. Specifically, over his career, Buhner had 6 SBs, and 24 caught stealings. A 20% success rate on steals? Stunning – but perhaps I’m underrating the tortoises of our time.
Turning to the hard data, I searched for players since the turn of the century who have stolen 10 or fewer bases in their careers, but been caught 20 or more times. The search returns 8 matching results, with Buhner’s 20% success rate barely edging out Rick Cerone and Luis Gomez (each 6 for 28) for worst all time.
Broadening our search to include those who stole 15 or fewer bases returns 30 players – and while the ranks of the 30% base stealers swell, Buhner still sits atop (or at the bottom?) of this list, edging out the aforementioned Cerone and Gomez for worst base stealers of all time.
For reference, noted speedster and Seattleteammate Edgar Martinez managed 9 steals on 19 career attempts. Bengie Molina stole 3 of 10. Jay Buhner, you were a very good player for a long time, and I will join Frank Costanza in cursing Ken Phelps name given what a great career you had. But wow, you might be the worst base stealer that’s ever played the game.