Stolen base

From Academic Kids

The all-time stolen base leader, , swipes third in
The all-time stolen base leader, Rickey Henderson, swipes third in 1985

In baseball, a stolen base occurs when a baserunner successfully advances to the next base while the pitcher is delivering the ball to home plate. In baseball statistics, stolen bases are denoted by SB. If the catcher thwarts the stolen base by throwing the runner out, the event is recorded as caught stealing (CS).

The stolen base (or its attempt) is one of the more exciting plays in baseball. It has a feeling of free-spiritedness and daring, as the runner forgoes the safer course of staying at his base until the batter hits the ball. Successful base-stealing requires not just simple running speed, but also good base-running instincts, quickness, and split-second timing. The runner must begin running as soon as the pitcher has committed himself to throwing a pitch to home plate, neither sooner nor later. If he begins to run too soon, the pitcher may throw to a base rather than to home -- in this case, the runner is picked off, and will most likely be tagged out. Before the pitch, the runner will often take a lead-off, walking several steps away from the base as a head start for his next advance. In some cases, the pitcher may hold the runner on by throwing to the base several times before pitching, in the hope of dissuading the runner from too big a lead-off. This action can also result in the runner being tagged out in a pick-off. Another popular strategy is for the runner to attempt a steal while the hitter is instructed to swing at the pitch if it is at all hittable. This hit-and-run play can give the runner a good head start to take an extra base on the hit. But if the hitter fails to hit the ball, the hit-and-run becomes a pure steal attempt, and the runner may be thrown out. Another risk of the hit-and-run is that a caught line-drive could result in an easy double play.

Base-stealing was popular in the game's early decades, with speedsters such as Ty Cobb and Clyde Milan stealing nearly 100 bases in a season. But the tactic fell into relative disuse after Babe Ruth introduced the era of the home run -- in 1955, for example, no one in baseball stole more than 25 bases. Base-stealing was brought back to prominence primarily by Maury Wills, who broke Cobb's single-season record by stealing 104 bases in 1962. Wills' record was broken in turn by Lou Brock in 1974, and Rickey Henderson in 1982.

In the 19th century, stolen bases were credited when a baserunner reached an extra base on a base hit from another player. For example if a runner on first base reached third base on a single, it would count as a steal. A Scottish-born outfielder named Hugh Nicol was once credited with 138 stolen bases (many, but not all, of which would have counted under modern rules) in one year. Modern steal rules were implemented in 1898, and steals are now only credited when a runner successfully takes an extra base while the ball is being pitched. In addition, if the situation of the game is such that the steal is of little use (usually late innings with a large difference in score), and the catcher does not attempt to throw out the runner, the runner is not credited with a steal, and the base is attributed to defensive indifference.

Base stealing is typically associated with a "National League" model of baseball, whereby teams play "90 feet a time," or try to advance runners slowly. The opposite effect, a model associated with the American League, is to sit back and wait for a three-run homer, as epitomized by former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver. However, some of the more successful American League teams of recent memory, including the 2005 Chicago White Sox, have experienced their great success in part as a result of playing "small ball," and advancing runners through means such as the stolen base.

Rickey Henderson is the most prolific base stealer in Major League Baseball history, with 1,369 over his career. This total is 431 more than the runner-up (Lou Brock) and, as of the end of the 2004 season, an astonishing 824 more than the next-highest active player (Kenny Lofton). Henderson also holds the modern record for steals in one season, with 130 in 1982.

Second base is the base most often stolen, as it is farthest from home plate and thus a longer throw from the catcher is required to prevent it. Third base is more difficult to steal, but this is still commonly done. It is possible for a player to steal home base, but this requires great daring and aggressiveness as the ball will almost certainly arrive at home plate before the runner. Ty Cobb holds the records for most steals of home in a single season (8) as well as for a career (54). Jackie Robinson was also renowned for the thrilling feat of stealing home. In more recent decades, a pure steal of home is hardly ever attempted, although home base is still occasionally stolen during a "delayed double steal," in which a runner on first base attempts to steal second while the runner on third base breaks for home as soon as the catcher throws to second base.

It is sometimes thought that first base can be "stolen", because the batter becomes a runner if the catcher fails to catch a third strike. But if the batter reaches first base as a result, it is recorded not as a stolen base, but as a passed ball or wild pitch. The last recorded instance of a player "stealing" first base during a conventional, caught pitch occurred on September 4, 1908. Detroit's Germany Schaefer, in a game against Cleveland, was on second base and his teammate Davy Jones was on third. In an attempt to draw a throw that would permit Jones to safely steal home, Schaefer bolted for first base. Cleveland's catcher didn't fall for the trick and held the ball, allowing Schaefer to "steal" first base. In another instance, after a botched double steal wherein the man on third (Davy Jones again), failed to try for home while Schaefer had reached second safely from first, Schaefer proclaimed that he'd try again, and darted back to first on the next pitch. This tactic of reverse-stealing has since been outlawed.

Related links list of All-Time Career steals leaders (盗塁


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