A capable hitter who enjoyed six seasons in which he hit over .300, Carey built his reputation as a superb outfielder and as a scientific base-stealer. He led the league 7 times in range factor, putouts 9 times and assists 4 times; his 339 career assists are still the modern day NL record, as are his 86 double plays. For 9 of his 17 seasons with Pittsburgh, he topped the league in putouts and total chances, and his career totals are exceeded only by Mays and Speaker for putouts, and by Speaker, Mays, and Cobb for total chances.
Carey was also an outstanding baserunner. He led the league in steals 10 times - still a National League high. In 1922, he stole 51 bases in 53 attempts, one of the all-time great performances. His 738 career steals put him among the all-time leaders. A switch-hitting leadoff man, Carey scored 42% of the time he reached base by a hit or walk, and he used his speed in cavernous Forbes Field to tally 159 career triples.
Carey experienced his best year in 1925 at the age of 35, hitting .343 and then .458 for the Pirates in the World Series.
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