OK you may be a little disappointed by the author here, but the truth is in the statistics. Go see for yourself, here's the proof, with pictures, too.
With the current state of Major League Baseball, the technique for how to steal a base has become less of a thing. The analytic gurus have "stolen" the value of it. but I take pride in them and hope for the day when it is recognized as a key contributor to team wins again.
The chart below is one of those things that make you, or at least me, say WTF. Directly from Baseballreference.com is the list of all-time base stealing percentage leaders. Yes, right behind two future hall of fame players, Chase Utley and Carlos Beltran sits yours truly at number 4. I'm sure Alexi Casilla must be super proud to be above them. And who the heck is that guy sitting in our dust at number 9? He better pick it up or the distance between me and maybe the greatest player who ever lived is something he will have to live with forever.
|Rank||Player (yrs, age)||SB %||Bats|
I'm pretty sure if you ran a poll of the guys on this list most people would say WhoDat? about the guy at number 4. Ha. I still shake my head looking at this list which I do almost daily "” just kidding.
One thing I tell my baseball students is, "Of all the things I teach you, you should trust what I tell you about stealing bases." I am somewhat joking, as I want them to pay attention always and to everything, but here is why I say that. The only thing I was a little above average at in the major leagues was stealing bases, and it was the only area of the game that I had confidence. 78 stolen bases is not a very high total, as other parts of my game kept me from a longer and more productive major league career. I had a stretch of 22 straight stolen bases at one point, followed by 7 more in a row, but got picked off base between the two streaks. A pick off is considered a caught stealing according to the rules. Dang!
It is worth noting that I was usually on my own as a base stealer with the decision to steal, and on which pitch, up to me. That makes it much easier to be safe, than when the coach gives the steal sign on a specific pitch. When on their own, runners can hold up after a step or two when they feel they did not get the necessary jump, whereas, one must go when the coach gives the sign. Additionally, a player can pick the pitch they want to steal on with off-speed pitches the desired goal to go on.
Developing base stealing instincts, as with all baseball instincts, is not easy, nor easy to describe, and it's tough to coach. Baseball instincts are the condition of doing the right thing when the correct move is not apparent. The right moves happen for those with the "Right Stuff" more often than not. Some players seem to have them, some develop them, and others never figure them out, even those who are the most talented.
Having good speed is necessary but only one aspect of how to steal a base. Many players, even speedy ones, never figure out how to steal bases and usually because of one thing too much fear of getting picked off base. Good base stealers fear being picked off, but trust their athleticism and those mysterious instincts, to override the negative thought of the pick off. Following are my techniques for stealing bases.
Jack's How to Steal a Base Technique
The complexity of Base Stealing
This idea may seem complicated but is the whole key for how to steal a base. As mentioned, instincts are hard to transfer in words and actions, but even though the base runner is wholly set on only breaking to the right towards second base, the mind and body can still react correctly if the pitcher's move is to first instead. "Absolutely trusting" one's athletic quickness to get back to the base, when the scenario is not what they are expecting, requires excellent mental acuity, confidence, and quickness. Convincing players that they can think one way, and still react the other way, is the toughest thing of coaching base stealing.
My focus was on the whole body with one eye on the front shoulder and one eye on the front knee, it that makes sense. Once again, any indication the pitcher was going home was what I was looking for - maybe a body lean, a closing of the front shoulder, a lift of the lead knee?
I found the pop-up slide most useful for this late action for these reasons:
Other Valuable Base Stealing Tips
When any one of the above base stealing ingredients is even slightly mistimed, chances of being safe are lost with a decent throw from the catcher. Of course, many other factors come into play to be a successful base stealer.
Many common pitfalls beset base stealers, with the biggest, of course, already mentioned, the fear of the pick-off. As said, a slightly shorter than maximum lead is much better than maximum distance, which jeopardizes the jump by putting too much worry into getting back to first on the pickoff throw.
Other common mistakes:
As you can see, many factors go into stealing a base and is why there are few great base stealers in the game. The long-ago innovators of baseball knew what they were doing by making the bases 90 feet apart.
Finally, an analysis of the game situation is necessary. Sometimes, it is best to let the batter hit without attempting the steal. That decision sometimes changes with the count on the hitter, but good base stealers recognize game situations that make the steal attempt worth it. Of course, in the current home run rage era, players do not have to think of that as much.
After playing major league baseball, Jack Perconte has taught baseball and softball since 1988 and offered valuable coaching training too. He has helped numerous youth players reach their potential, as well as having helped parents and coaches navigate their way through the challenging world of youth sports. Jack is one of the leading authorities in the areas of youth baseball training and coaching training advice.All Jack Perconte articles are used with copyright permission.
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