If you’re wondering how to steal bases in baseball, knowing WHEN matters just as much (or more) than how fast you are.
If you pick the wrong moment to run, your speed won’t save you.
One of the best times to “steal” a base is if you’re READY when there’s an opportunity like a wild pitch, passed ball, or ball in the dirt (depending on the situation and WHEN you take off, it may or may not be counted as a stolen base… but either way, it’s huge for your team!)
So here’s 4 tips for making the most of the opportunity.
Tip 1 – A quality secondary lead
Once we get our initial lead and the pitcher makes his move towards home plate, take two aggressive shuffle steps in the direction of the next base.
When performing this “secondary lead” have your right foot hit the ground as the ball is entering the hitting zone. Stay balanced but have slight momentum towards the next base so on a batted ball or a ball in the dirt you are in a better position to run.
To help get the right foot timed properly, wait until the pitchers front leg reaches its height and he starts moving towards home plate.
This slight delay will get your right foot down at the proper time. If you start shuffling as the pitcher starts his move, you will be in between shuffles and won’t be in a good position to advance at the proper time.
Tip 2 – Watch both pitch trajectory and the catcher
I have trouble reading pitch trajectory when I try to follow the ball from the pitchers hand to the catchers mitt. I like to focus just in front of the hitter. From here my eyes can see pitch trajectory and the catcher going into his blocking stance.
If the pitch is on a lower trajectory and/or the catcher starts to go to his knees to block the ball, take off.
Tip 3 – Anticipate off speed counts
Off speed pitches (curve balls, sliders, change ups) are most effective when they are low in the zone.
Often times with two strikes the pitcher will try to bounce the pitch between home plate and where the catchers feet are placed in order to get a swing and miss from the hitter.
Because of the nature of the pitch, the desired location, and that they are more difficult to control, off speed pitches will bounce more often than fastballs.
An off speed count is when then pitcher has the advantage (0-2, 1-2) but still be on the lookout in even counts (1-1, 2-2). Even though you should always be expecting to advance on a ball in the dirt, these 4 counts can produce a higher probability of a bounced pitch.
Tip 4 – Don’t be afraid of making outs
Making this play successfully requires quick action (not hesitation) and practice.
For this to happen, a player can’t be afraid of making outs by stealing a base (Since this play can be a huge momentum changer, it’s worth the risk).
In other words, a player who is afraid of making an out won’t be bold enough to give it a try.
For this tip to work, it’s up to the coach or parent to the atmosphere where the player feels free to take such risks.
That’s why it’s important to be sure we don’t criticize players just because the results weren’t ideal.
Rather, applaud their awareness and bravery and then review the situation to see how it can be better next time.
Extra Note: Even though we want to be aggressive and this is a difficult play for catchers, we still need to be smart baserunners.
If we are at 2nd base with 2 outs we need to be sure we can make it to 3rd base.
Don’t make the 3rd out at 3rd base, we are already in scoring position!!!
Control the Controllables
In baseball, speed doesn’t determine if you are a good baserunner.
Having some savvy, plus heart, effort, and instinct do.
Here at PBI we are big on controlling what you can control. There is a lot of this game that is out of your hands.
However, taking good aggressive leads and working hard as a baserunner is controllable.
In particular, advancing on a ball in the dirt can be a major momentum shift for your team, so go for it!
Cheers and play hard,
PS. Did you know that you can dramatically increase an infielder’s range without increasing errors?
We talk about the key to doing that and more in our free email series 6 Secrets of Elite Infielders. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you click here to enroll: http://probaseballinsider.com/6-secrets-infielders