The beauty of Base Stealing is that by teaching the Delayed Technique, every player on the team becomes a potential threat regardless of their lack of foot speed.
The decision of whether to implement the play or not, is based on the actions of the Defense, not your offense, thus a whole different set of criteria is used.
Deception and Surprise:
On a delayed steal, we take advantage of a natural human instinct, which is to pause or freeze when suddenly confronted by an unusual situation in order to digest the information and formulate a response.
In other words, when we’re surprised … we freeze until our brain tells us what to do. (Although I might add training eliminates this freeze reaction and instills reaction instead.)
When a runner, who is not perceived as a base stealing threat, suddenly takes off to steal a base, the defense is temporarily frozen by surprise. Although the effects of the surprise lasts a mere second or two, that is quite often enough of a time delay to successfully swipe the base.
Base Stealing - Close But Safe At Third
How to Create Surprise and Deception:
The dictionary defines “Surprise” as something out of the ordinary and “Deception” as the false appearance of everything being ordinary.
Using these definitions as a guideline, it is becoming Imperative the base runner does not make any different or unusual actions which would draw the attention of the defense that “ something just ain’t quite right,” which would take away the element of surprise, which will most likely result in failure when attempting the steal.
This is not rocket science. For instance, do not:
(1.) Call time out and talk to the coach … a huge red flag.
(2.) Begin bantering encouragement to the batter … Be seen - not heard.
(3.) Take an unusually short lead-off.
Base Stealing - Keep Normal Lead
The Key word is Normal. Take your normal initial lead, take your normal secondary lead, return to first base at your normal speed. Do nothing different to draw attention to yourself, become a ghost.
Moving Outside The Box: Executing The Surprise:
You have been non-aggressive, boringly repetitive in your base running movements and have subconsciously, become a Non - Threat to the defense to attempt to steal a base. Excellent. Now is the time to begin executing the surprise.
Actual Steal Attempt:
You have analyzed the defense … you feel your chances of success are excellent … how do you swipe the base?
(1.) Take your initial lead.
(2.) Take your Three (3) shuffle step secondary lead.
(3.) Instead of immediately returning the first base … pause. The second the ball leaves the catcher’s hand, you take off towards second base.
(A.) Pause in your normal stance. If you’re normally in a crouch position … be in a crouched position, standing more erect … the same. Do not draw attention to yourself by doing something different …especially now.
(B.) If you have a good read on the catcher, begin your steal as his arm is moving forward. He’ll either not be able to stop his throw or will have to re-pump in order to get any strength on the throw.
(C.) Unless the base is clearly not covered by a defensive player, always slide. If you have the mentality you are going to slide, you can instantly stop that action, but to suddenly decide to slide could result in you’re being tagged out or worse, injured in an awkward attempt.
Base Stealing - No Turning Back
The real beauty of taking a three shuffle step secondary lead, is nobody will notice it’s three instead of the normal two, nobody counts slide or shuffle steps, therefore if for whatever reason, you’re not able to execute the steal on that pitch, you still have the opportunity on the next pitch because no one is the wiser.
It is very important on an aborted delayed steal attempt, unless there is an unlikely play being made on you, to return to first base in your normal manner. If you increase your return speed it will draw attention, the defense may not realize why your speed increased, but it did and they’ll be watching you, which takes away the element of surprise.
The same applies, if not more seriously, if you’re slow back to the base, as you’ll actually implant the idea of throwing over in order to catch you flat footed too far off the base.
Analyzing The Defense: Base Stealing
As stated before, the defense allows a delayed steal attempt by what they do or do not do as a defensive unit. Here are Key elements to look for when analyzing if a delayed steal attempt is a possible viable offensive weapon.
(1.) If the middle infielders, second baseman and shortstop, play a deep infield, they will have trouble reaching and covering the base. Position of play, unless directed otherwise, is usually the decision of the fielder and will be identical nearly every time unless the situation changes.
Base Stealing - Infield Deep
(2.) It is common for the middle infielders to play at “Double Play Depth” with less than two out, putting them farther away from the base. If they remain deep after the pitch, it will take them longer to reach the base.
(3.) The middle infielders don’t respond, move in, after every pitch. Although quite rare, the possibility of the catcher over throwing the pitcher on his return throw is a potential.
Middle infielders are taught to move in and towards second base on Every return throw in order to back the pitcher up if such a bad throw did occur, which would stop the runner from being able to advance.
Look to see if the infielders were taught this maneuver or will turn their back to the infield, smooth the dirt in front of them or otherwise not back the pitcher up or stay alert for the unexpected.
(4.) The actions of the Catcher are always a huge key element in a delayed steal. Some catchers will lob the ball in an arc or throw the ball at slow speed in the return throw to the pitcher. ( Notice major league catchers … they fire the ball back to the pitcher )
Some catchers, either by habit or to rest their legs, will drop to their knees to throw back to the pitcher. No matter how strong a catcher’s arm is, without the use of his legs, he can not make a strong accurate throw to second base.
If any or a combination of these elements are present, the possibility of pulling off a successful delayed steal is present.
To Steal Or Not To Steal:
The analyzing of the defense, knowing what they normally do or don’t do, is the key to a successful delayed steal. A coach or player must remember, this is not a one time thing to do during a game.
Events change, momentum shifts, energy levels go up and down through out the course of the game. A well coached team may do everything right which would prevent a delayed steal attempt, but a sudden shift of momentum may sap the energy and concentration of the opponent offering a new opportunity.
The delayed steal is rarely used, especially in the higher skilled and coached levels, but there’s nothing ever wrong with adding another potential offensive weapon to your arsenal.