Man cannot live on speed alone
Your fastest players will be your best base stealers
Wow, if only this were true. Certainly when stealing bases if this were the case, then many teams would go out and sign or recruit every track and field athlete that competes in a 50 m, 60m or 100 m race. Unfortunately this is so unproven and there is much more to stealing bases than just speed alone. Let me make a case in point, and then I will dive into factors that make up the stealing process.
In 1974, then Oakland A’s owner, Charlie Finley, signed Herb Washington, one of the world's most celebrated sprinters as a student-athlete at Flint Central High School and Michigan State University. The four-time all-American won one NCAA title, seven Big Ten titles, and tied or broke the world record in the 50- and 60-yard dashes several times. Washington was signed as the “designated runner”. Although Washington had some High School baseball experience, he had not played since. That same year he was signed, he was a pinch runner late in game 2, of the 1974 World Series. He got picked off in the 9th inning in a crucial situation. Washington, as fast as he was, appeared in 105 Major League games, never as a hitter or a defensive replacement. However, he did have 48 steal attempts and as fast as he was, he only was only successful in 31 of those attempts. So what can we take from this…a fast runner does not always have a better chance of stealing a base.
As we review base stealing in its simplest form, no matter the speed of the runner there are other factors that make up the steal itself. Runners have to be fearless; runners need to have a lead that supports their ability; runners need to get a good read on the pitcher; runners need a good jump; runners need to ensure their first few steps are explosive; runners need to run with good running mechanics; runners need to read the position of the fielder relative to the base; runners need to know how to effectively slide to avoid a tag; runners need to know pitcher times to the plate; runners need to know catchers POP times; runners need to know the situation; runners need to know running counts versus the non-running counts or poor counts to run on.
As you can see, there is a plethora of factors to base stealing. Yes, it is great to have speed on the bases, and you are better off with it than without it, but speed is not the only considering factor in determining your best base stealers.
Love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Also, if you missed my previous myths, you can check them out below:
Baserunning Myth #9 - Leaving the batter’s box and sneaking a peek: The peek occurs on the second or third step
Baserunning Myth #8 - Angle turns approaching each base: The angle should be the same for each player
Baserunning Myth #7 - Contacting the base when advancing: The runner should always touch the base with the left foot
Baserunning Myth #6 - Take a bigger lead than normal at first base when stealing: The base will be easier to steal
Rick Johnston, Co-Founder & Head Instructor - The Baseball Zone