Baseball, an American favorite to watch and play, has been the number one sport for over a century. Producing greats like Babe Ruth and Willie Mays, baseball is often introduced to youngsters in the form of softball.
For those who choose to play baseball, there are various tips and tricks one can learn to increase their game and skills. This article will focus on the controversial art of “stealing bases,” and how you can improve your base-stealing skills. So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best tips and tricks to steal bases better in baseball.
For those who aren’t familiar with the logistics and rules of baseball, it is helpful to go over the fundamentals of the game and the pitch it is played on. Baseball is played on a square pitch with four bases, including a home base. This is where all batters and runners will start and finish their runs.
A pitcher winds up and tosses the ball to the batter, who hits the ball as hard as possible, drops the bat, and runs to one of these bases.
Depending on how long it takes for the pitcher to collect the ball and return to base, a runner might have the time to run to second or even third base, coming closer to that all-important home base. A home run is when the player is able to go through all the bases and return to the home base before they are declared “out.”
Stealing bases is when the runner has the time to run to second or third base, allowing the next batters to be introduced even sooner, scoring more points for the team. It would be akin to “fastest fingers first if it were a game show.”
While base stealing is not technically encouraged, specific rules apply to those who wish to steal a base. These are not written in any rule books but have instead been developed by players as baseball evolved over the years into the game that we all know and love today.
A player may only steal a base under the following conditions:
- The base ahead of you must be open.
- Double base steals are allowed.
- Don’t steal bases in close games.
- Only perform a base steal on a live ball.
There are, of course, many rules associated with baseball. Still, we need not go through them for this article which focuses solely on base stealing and executing the ultimate base steal.
There are many ways to increase your game and steal more bases. While players are not necessarily taught this skill when they join a baseball club, it is often learned while playing. Stealing bases can put your team in better stead of winning the game. It is, however, based purely on luck, with a bit of mathematics and analytics thrown in to calculate lead times.
Take charge of your game and make the most of the lead time from when the catcher has the ball to the pitcher returning to home base. The more runs you score, the more likely you will win the game. Do not, however, get too comfortable and think that you will steal a base in every game. It is all up to certain conditions being met, and the perfect lead length is obtained.
We have put together the best tips and tricks that can help players of all skill levels steal bases better, improving their team’s chance of winning the game.
Here are our top tips for stealing bases:
- While most players use their right foot when they are about to run to a base, a cross-over step in which the player pushes their feet into the ground and starts off with their left leg allows the player to go from stationary to a full sprint in seconds.
- The person to watch when planning a base steal is the pitcher. Watch their stance, as well as their feet to see when they will make their move. A successful base steal is only possible if you have a lead time long enough to steal and short enough to run back in.
- As soon as the pitcher makes a break for home base, the base runner needs to be ready to make their run and attempt their steal of a base or two.
- Use the pitcher’s rhythm against him, if you can “read” the pitcher or find the pitcher’s tell, it’s as close as you’ll get to knowing the future.
- But don’t forget about the catcher. Some catchers telegraph what pitch is coming next. For example, he might set up to receive a breaking ball differently than he sets up for a fastball. If you can spot a habit like this, you’ll know when a breaking ball is coming.
- The whole point of a baseball game is teamwork and coming together with a common goal in mind. Do not attempt a base steal unless all team members are on board with the idea, and also only if it does not jeopardize their position in the game.
- Before you attempt a base steal, always ask yourself these three questions:
- Am I fast enough?
- How much time do I have between bases?
- How long would it take the pitcher to get to home plate?
The best way to land on your base is by sliding. This helps you beat the catcher and the pitcher to home plate and can save you time and effort in running. Always slide in a straight line, and land directly on the base for your run to be considered safe.
Bonus: Stealing Home
Stealing home is very difficult but here some conditions to watch for in order to be successful:
- Watch for a pitcher who does not pay attention to the runner on third. In other words, he doesn’t “check” the runner on every pitch.
- Look for a pitcher with a long delivery.
- The player at third base is playing far off the bag allowing for a larger leadoff.
- The catcher is not keeping an eye on the runner.
Best Times to Steal Home (aside from a passed ball):
- Opportunity 1: On the catcher’s return throw to the pitcher
- Key 1: Lazy, lollipop throws back to the pitcher
- Key 2: Catcher throws soft from the crouched/knee position back to the pitcher
- Key 3: 3rd baseman is allowing a large leadoff
- Opportunity 2: The straight steal of home (before the ball is delivered to the catcher)
- Key 1: Slow/long windup
- Key 2: 3rd baseman is allowing a large leadoff
- Opportunity 3: The early break
- Key 1: Pitcher is not focused on runner e.g. back to runner or looking down
- Key 2: 3rd baseman is allowing a large leadoff
While most leagues frown upon stealing a base, it is not illegal or against the general rules of baseball, and you will not be penalized for doing it. But do remember that it takes skill and speed to steal bases, with the odds aligned in your favor being the most critical factor.
At the end of the day, base stealing is a game of luck as the fastest base runner steals bases faster than it takes the pitcher to return to home base. So if you would like to increase your skills, just read our tips and learn them well to execute the ultimate base steal.