Describe baseball in the 2010s in ten words or less. Here's my attempt: More pitchers, throwing harder in shorter outings, lots of strikeouts.
We talk about the strikeouts all the time, but what else about the modern game is unique? Stolen base attempts are at historically low levels, but the success rate is higher than ever.
The success rate has been rising for a century, maybe since the beginning of professional baseball. I think. I can't say for sure because caught stealing data -- most baseball data -- was haphazardly kept before the middle of the 20th century, around the time when players stopped leaving their gloves on the field between innings. You know, when baseball got serious.
But what accounts for the sudden upward spike a decade ago, and the sustained high rates ever since? My top two theories: 1) It doesn't mean anything, it's a meaningless blip. 2) Few stolen base attempts coupled with high success rates coincides with the ascendancy of data-driven analysis in major league front offices. And the data say not to steal a base unless you're sure you're going to make it.