Stealing bases in baseball gives the team on offense a few advantages. For instance, a runner not in scoring position can get into such a position with a quick steal. Swiping bags can disrupt the defense and distract the pitcher, allowing the batter to get an easy hit. Either way, it’s a great technique for players to be capable of accomplishing regularly. Base stealing isn’t the simplest thing out there though, so here are some tips on doing it successfully.
For once, dive head first to get back to the bag.
Baseball players are usually told to never slide head first into a base because it’s much more dangerous than sliding any other way. However, players that take a big leadoff to steal bases will need to slide head first if the pitcher attempts a pick-off because it’s the only way to beat the ball to the bag. A head first slide isn’t necessary when stealing bases, but it is definitely required to get back onto an already taken base.
Take a moderate leadoff instead of a giant one.
Baserunners need to take a leadoff in order to get the jump on a pitcher, but it doesn’t help if you take a gigantic leadoff. Doing so will lead to plenty of pick-offs and rundowns that don’t help you out any. In the end, it’s best to take a leadoff of a few feet. Stretching it can get you called out in plenty of ways. Sure, you can take a huge leadoff on a really inattentive defense, but it’s not recommended in most situations.
Jump only after the pitcher commits to throwing to home plate.
Getting the jump on the pitcher means taking off for the next base as he or she is about to throw the ball to the catcher. Of course, a base stealer’s greatest asset is being able to correctly time when a pitcher “commits” to a pitch. At that point, a baserunner must take off for the next base. Doing so a moment too soon can result in a pick-off while doing so too late will result in the ball beating you to the bag.
Avoid trying to steal every time you get on base.
An effective and smart baserunner isn’t going to attempt a steal every single time he or she ends up on base, so you shouldn’t be looking for a steal every single time. In reality, you will want to take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself, but you should be a little conservative with how often you steal too. Being a little too aggressive with steal attempts means that the defense will be more prepared to pick you off.
Never forget about the catcher.
At any moment, the catcher can be watching you to see if you are trying to steal a base. Obviously, the catcher can quickly signal to the pitcher for a pick-off. You can’t forget to take a few glances at the catcher to ensure that he or she is mostly paying attention to the pitcher and not you. In many cases, you will get picked-off if you aren’t watching the catcher that is completely watching you.
Base stealing is a gift.
Some players can steal bases while others can’t. Sure, size and speed have something to do with it, but timing and good judgement are even more important. Most players are capable of stealing a base or two each season. Nevertheless, it takes a talented player to steal bases with any regularity. You shouldn’t try to steal a base if you aren’t good at it, but you should embrace such a gift if you are capable of swiping bags all the time.
For more information, visit The Economics of Base-Stealing.