Base Stealing Made Simple: 3 Keys to Success

Become a better base stealer with three solid tips from STACK Expert Phil Tognetti.


Stealing bases takes skill as well as speed. Even if you're an average runner, you can swipe a few extra bags by following these three base-running fundamentals.

Use a Crossover Step

The crossover step is a basic move in many sports. When you're stealing bases, it can help you transition from the leadoff position to sprinting more efficiently.

Many ballplayers lift their right foot first when breaking for the next base. This is called a false step because it is a wasted movement that does not get you any closer to the next base.

Instead, rotate your hips and shoulders as you pivot your right foot and transfer your weight over your right foot. This will allow you to drive your feet into the ground to propel yourself into the sprint, starting with your left foot.

This fantastic photo of the best base stealer of all time, Rickey Henderson, illustrates a perfect crossover step. Notice that his leading foot never leaves the ground. No false step. Just an efficient and powerful athletic move.

Rickey Henderson Crossover Step

Rickey Henderson's Crossover Step

Take Advantage of Pitcher Tendencies

Pitchers are creatures of habit. Most of them have mannerisms and tendencies that can make them predictable in certain situations.

Here are a few things you should look for when analyzing a pitcher. The answers to these questions can give you useful information on when to take off.  For example, many pitchers have a routine: get the sign; come set; take one glance at the runner; and deliver the pitch.

Knowing this, a smart base-runner can time his or her steal with the pitcher's glance. As soon as the pitcher turns his/her head to deliver the pitch, start your sprint. That little head start can make all the difference between grand theft or getting caught and having to head back to the dugout.

If you're on first base:

  • Does the pitcher make pickoff attempts when getting the sign; as s/he comes set; after s/he comes set; or hardly ever?
  • After s/he comes set, how long does s/he hold the set position before delivering the pitch or throwing over to first?
  • Does the pitcher have a high leg kick or does s/he use a slide step?
  • How many seconds does the pitch take to get to the catcher once s/he begins his/her delivery?
  • Does s/he begin the delivery by bending his/her front knee, lifting his/her front foot, or turning his/her torso a certain way?

If you're on second base:

  • Does the pitcher look back at second base to check the runner? If so, is it always one look, two looks, etc. or does s/he vary the number of looks?
  • Does s/he ever make pickoff attempts to second base? If so, does s/he use a spin move or an inside move?
  • Can you pick up the grip of the pitch s/he is about to throw when looking into his/her glove? Offspeed pitches give you a greater advantage when trying to steal a base.
  • As with first base, does the pitcher use a high leg kick or a slide step?

Check out Coco Crisp getting this great jump off Rafael Betancourt by reading his head turn toward home plate. He's off and running before the pitcher even starts his leg kick.

Coco Crisp Basestealing

Know the Situation

Some situations are better than others for attempting to steal a base. If you choose moments when the defense least expects a steal, you increase your chances of success.

For example, if the batter has a two-strike count and tends to swing at curveballs in the dirt, you know that the next pitch will probably take longer to get to the catcher. This gives you an extra split second to reach the next base. If the pitch does in fact into the dirt, the catcher will not be able to catch and throw as fast as if the pitch is thrown right to his glove.

You also need to know when not to steal. Let's look at this situation. You're on second base with two outs, and your team is down by a run. One of your team's best hitters is at the plate. You're already in scoring position and the batter has a solid chance of putting the ball in play. If he hits a single, you can score from second fairly easily. What advantage do you give your team by stealing third base? Since there are two outs, a sacrifice fly will not score you from third. If the catcher throws you out, you end the inning and your big hitter has to lead off the next inning with no runners on base. The reward does not outweigh the risk in this situation.

Steal more bases by incorporating these base stealing drills into your training.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock