Who is the Fastest Runner in MLB History?
Baserunning is a valuable skill in baseball. Faster players are able to steal more bases and put themselves in scoring position more often. Due to the sheer number of stolen bases in his career, Rickey Henderson is widely considered to be the fastest player in MLB history. Read on to learn all about Henderson and other great fast baseball runners.
Sprint speed was not introduced as a measured statistic in the MLB until 2017, so the only real way of measuring how fast players were before then is a combination of how many bases they stole and how many extra-base hits they had.
During his 25-year career, Rickey Henderson stole a total of 1,406 bases for the most all-time by an MLB player. For this reason, he is often considered the fastest player in MLB history. He averaged 74 stolen bases per 162 games (the length of an MLB season) and once stole 130 bases in a single season. Despite his prolific number of steals, Henderson did not hit as many triples as other career stolen-base leaders. He also holds the career record for most times caught stealing.
Lou Brock is second overall for career stolen bases in MLB history. During his 19 seasons with the league, Brock stole an impressive 938 bases. For eight of those seasons, he also led the National League in most bases stolen. Like many other fast runners, Brock also repeatedly led the league in getting caught stealing bases.
Billy Hamilton ranks third overall in total bases stolen in the MLB. He played for only 14 seasons compared to Henderson’s 25 and Cobb’s 24, and he averaged 93 steals per 162 games. He led the league in steals five times.
Ty Cobb is fourth overall for career stolen bases in MLB history. While he averaged only 48 stolen bases per 162 games (still a prolific number, just fewer than Henderson’s 74), he also averaged 16 triples to Henderson’s three and 39 doubles to Henderson’s 27. He is second overall on the MLB leaderboard for triples hit in a career and fourth overall for doubles hit.
Fastest Player by Measured Sprint Speed
Since 2017, sprint speed has been a measured statistic in the MLB. Sprint speed is expressed in feet per second. A player’s listed sprint speed is determined by measuring how long it takes him to get from one base to another during a “competitive” run and then averaging the fastest two-thirds of those runs. A run between bases is competitive if the player knows that he has to run fast to make it to the next base, such as in the case of an infield single or a hustle double.
Tim Locastro of the New York Mets is the fastest MLB player since sprint speed was introduced as a statistic. He runs 30.8 feet per second, meaning that he can make it from home plate to first base in 4.02 seconds. He also averages 27 steals per 162 games, but has only played 258 games over his seven-year career.
Locastro’s case illustrates why it is hard to judge who the fastest player was before sprint speed was measured. He is measured to be the fastest player in the league but would not appear on any leaderboards for most bases stolen since he has played in so few games.