Stealing bases (SB) are tactics baseball teams implement to advance on the base paths to get into a better scoring position opportunity. Stealing bases are an art form between the base runner, the pitcher, and the catcher. So what is a stolen base, when should you steal, what’s the most straightforward base to steal, and more? Find out the answers and more to these questions below.
What is a Stolen Base?
A stolen base occurs when a base runner advances successfully to the next base on the diamond during a pitching sequence to a hitter. A base stealer tries to time up the pitcher’s delivery to figure out when they can take off to the next base. An example of a stolen base is if a hitter hit a single, then on the next pitch to a different hitter, they ran towards second base and beat the throw and tag to the base.
Can the Throw Beat the Runner to the Base but Still Be Safe?
Even if the throw from the catcher beats the runner to the bag, the tag is what counts. The infielder needs to catch the ball from the catcher and tag any part of the runner’s body before touching the base. Unlike a play at a first base where the ball needs to enter the mitt (with the first baseman having a foot on first), the stolen base requires a successful tag.
When Should you Steal a Base in Baseball?
Major League Baseball teams today tend to shy away from stealing bases, but there are reasons to steal a base. One reason to steal a base is if you have a fast runner on the base paths. Typically speaking, you wouldn’t want to try and steal a base if the runner is slow, like a catcher on first.
Another reason to steal a base is if the pitcher is not focusing on the base runner. Sometimes pitchers forget to look at the baserunner before a pitch, making stealing a base easier. If a base runner can time a pitcher’s delivery to home, they can get a significant jump, increasing their chance of stealing a base successfully.
What is the Easiest Base to Steal in Baseball?
The most straightforward base to steal in baseball is second base when you are at first base. It’s the easiest base to steal because the distance between home plate and second base is 127 feet. To put that distance into perspective, home plate to third base is 90 feet, so the difference is an additional 37 feet that the ball needs to travel, which means extra time for the runner to steal a base.
Can you Steal Home Base?
Yes, baseball players can steal home plate, but it is a risky play. The most famous successful home plate steal took place with Jackie Robinson in 1955. Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers stole home plate against the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the World Series. Only a handful of MLB players have stolen home during a World Series game, which is why it’s the most famous home stolen base.
Can You Steal on a Walk?
You can steal a base via a walk beyond your next awarded base. For example, if you are on second base and there is nobody on first or third, you can steal third base on a walk. However, if you are on first base and the hitter walks, you automatically are awarded second base even if you take off running. You move automatically to second base because the hitter is now on first base after the walk, so you have to move to second base.
Who Owns the Most Stolen Bases?
Hugh Nicol owns the record for 138 stolen bases in a single season. Rickey Henderson had the second-most stolen bases in a season with 130 in 1982. Rickey Henderson also holds the record for most career stolen bases at 1,406 and caught stealing attempts at 335.
What is a Double Steal?
A double steal takes place when two baserunners successfully steal a base during the same pitch. Typically speaking, teams will run a double steal when there is a runner on first and second base, and the runner on second base is the faster of the two. One thing to note is that if one runner is thrown out trying to steal, the other runner does not receive credit for their stolen base.
Are Teams Stealing Bases Less Often?
Medium.com by Joran Siff wrote a fantastic article detailing the decline in stolen bases and stolen base attempts by baseball teams over the years. Sabermetrics and statistical analysis make up the DNA for decision-making in baseball, and one area that is not as valuable is the stolen base. For example, teams are hesitant to run the bases because getting thrown out outweighs the benefit of making it successfully via a steal.
In conclusion, stealing bases in baseball increases your chances of your team scoring in that inning. By moving up an extra base, you give the hitter a chance to knock you in with a hit to the outfield if the runner is relatively fast. However, teams today are more risk-averse when it comes to running, which is why the article from Joran Siff helps illustrate the decline in stealing a base.