Base stealing is among the most exciting plays fans can witness on a baseball field. It’s also a very effective technique for the team looking to score.
However, while the upside is high as the runner gets closer to scoring, the downside of the unsuccessful steal attempt is probably even greater.
Because of this, besides the runner’s quickness and awareness, stealing the base commonly involves a carefully planned strategy.
Even though it can be done at almost any time, it usually works only in certain scenarios.
In some situations, base stealing is forbidden by game rules, while in others, it’s simply not recommended due to low chances of success.
Some of these scenarios can be particularly confusing to some fans, especially those new to the game.
For example, can you steal a base on a walk?
I’ll answer this question below and explain in what circumstances stealing the base is possible.
Can You Steal A Base On A Walk?
A baserunner stealing a base on a walk is a rather rare occurrence and we don’t get a chance to see it often during games.
But, this doesn’t mean that it’s forbidden. The baseball rulebook says that you can’t steal a base during a dead ball.
However, unlike the hit batter or catcher’s interference situations, after a walk, the ball is live.
This means that baserunners who are not forced to advance to the next base can still attempt to do so, at their own risk.
Even a batter-runner may try to advance beyond the first base.
So, when the batter is walked, the ball remains live and it’s up to the runners to decide if they can steal the base and go for it.
Once the runner touches the next base, he can choose to advance to whatever base he wants unless the umpire gives a timeout initiating dead ball.
When Can You Steal A Base?
As I already mentioned, there are plenty of situations during the game when a runner may attempt to steal a base.
However, some happen more often than others and give runners a greater chance of stealing the base.
As modern baseball pitchers throw the ball so fast and accurately, attempting to steal a base during a normal course of play is, in most cases, an unworthy and ineffective gamble.
Still, pitchers have to throw the ball to the home plate once they start the pitching motion in that direction, which provides runners with an opportunity to attempt the steal.
The balk rule, preventing pitchers from changing their throw mid-pitch, allows fast and sharp-eyed baserunners to observe the pitcher and start running towards the next base as soon as he commits to the pitching motion.
Even then, there’s no guarantee that the runner will make it to the base without being tagged.
Which Base Is The Easiest To Steal?
The easiest base to steal is the second base when advancing from the first base. The second base is the most removed from the home plate.
This means that it requires the longest throw from the catcher, providing the runner with a bit more time to reach the second.
As the third base is closer to the catcher, stealing it is somewhat more difficult.
Stealing second from the first and third from the second, are the steals you’re most likely to see during a game.
Stealing home from the third base is much rarer, although it has been done, most famously by Jackie Robinson in the 1955 World Series.
This type of stealing the base is so difficult because it’s very easy for the defensive team to prevent it.
All they need is for the pitcher to throw the ball to the catcher who can just tag the baserunner right there.
When Is The Runner Credited With A Stolen Base
Even though the rules on when and how runners can steal the base are rather straightforward, scoring rules are a bit more complicated.
For a runner to be credited with a stolen base, just advancing to the base he’s not entitled to isn’t always enough.
The scorekeeper must determine that he had attempted a steal and only then the runner is awarded a steal.
For example, advancing to an extra base on a passed ball or a wild pitch will not result in a stolen base being automatically credited to the runner.
But, if a runner has clearly attempted a steal while the ball was being thrown, he will most likely get the credit for a steal.
Also, the stolen base is not credited if it came as a result of the defense’s error or if another baserunner is thrown out while attempting the steal on the same play.
What Is A Double Steal?
In baseball, the double steal occurs when two baserunners manage to steal the base on the same play.
This can happen simultaneously or with a slight delay between steals (the delayed double steal).
More rarely, the double steal can also be credited when one runner steals two bases during the same pitch.
Double steals mostly happen when teams have runners on the first and second bases and the one on the second is faster of the two.
When using this strategy, teams count on the catcher being distracted by the faster runner on the second, so the one on the first base can slip onto the second relatively unnoticed.
In some situations, teams can score triple steals, but they’re extremely rare.
Stealing the base involves everything fans love about baseball.
A successful steal contains perfect timing, deceiving the opponents, speed, coordination, and boldness to even try it.
When things go the right way, a stolen base at the right time can provide a decisive push toward victory.
On the other hand, an unsuccessful stealing attempt can ruin the team’s momentum and significantly decrease the chances of getting a win.
All this is why everyone loves to see the attempt to steal the base.
Still, to fully enjoy these awesome plays, you should learn and fully understand how and when the steals can occur and what to keep an eye on during the pitch.