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Category: Baserunning
Type: Philosophy
Venue: Indoor & Outdoor


The Delayed Steal

One of the best-kept secrets in baseball is the delayed steal. The success rate should be around 90% and the runner does not have to be fast. It causes confusion and oftentimes can be used several times in the same game without a team realizing what is going on.

What is the delayed steal and when should it be used?
The delayed steal is a method of taking base using more of technique, then actual speed or a good jump to get to second base. The key is that the middle infielders are not checking their base after every pitch with a man on first base. In other words, a middle infielder must take a few steps towards second after every pitch. When the middle infielders do not do so, second base is ripe to be taken via the delay.

Technique is absolutely the most important aspect of the delay. Too many kids try to get a good jump and it ruins any chance of making it to second. The key is to take a secondary lead (see secondary lead some other chapter) as you would on a pitch that you are not stealing on. For our purposes, a secondary lead is two wide shuffles. One important note is the base runner must keep his shoulder square to home plate. The minute you open the right shoulder to second base you will tip off the defense. It is also important to remember that a good secondary lead helps set up the delay for future use.

After the second full shuffle (runner must make sure he FINISHES the second shuffle, the runner takes off for second base. At this point the ball has just about crossed home plate, but the first basemen has no idea that the runner took off for second. By the time he says anything the runner is about 10 feet from the bag and it is too late. Some will argue that an alert catcher will see the runner and this is tough to argue. However, this is where the middle infielder’s lack of doing their job comes into play. Even if the catcher throws with normal timing, the middle infielders will not be at second base and 9 times out of 10 the ball ends up in the outfield. In most cases, the defense has no idea what just happened and oftentimes will start yelling at the first baseman for not yelling “he’s going.” Another important note is the runner will be more successful if he slides headfirst. Is this a big issue? No, but every second counts. The headfirst is better because in theory, the middle infielder is going to be late to the bag. Knowing this, it is better for the highest part of the base runner’s body to be closest to second base. A second baseman who is late to second is more apt to be tagging the back part of the body, which in this case is the feet, which are now closer to the ground and tough to tag. One other note: Since the runner is not looking for a great jump he MUST NEVER GET PICKED OFF WHEN HE IS ABOUT TO ATTEMPT A DELAY. NEVER!!

When do you put on the delay?
As mentioned above, the most important issue is that the middle infielders are not paying attention. In some games, a coach will realize right away that the delay will not be in the game plan for that given day. However, if the middle infielders are not paying attention here are a few times to delay. First, you do not have to be fast to delay steal. In fact, it is usually the slower guys on the team that you will do it with most often. As a result, these “slugs” seem to take pride in their delay technique and do it well. Keep in mind, you wouldn’t have your quickest players delay steal because they can steal second with regular technique. Furthermore, a fast runner usually gets more attention then the slug; thus the middle infielders are more apt to check their base.

Other than the delay possibility actually being “there” there is one great opportunity—the first and third. In a first and third situation, most of the time the defense puts on some sort of play—either throw through, throw to the pitcher, fake to second throw to third, etc. Oftentimes, the defense will put on a play where the shortstop goes to the middle of the field to cut off a throw from the catcher. With a delay, the shortstop will be too late to come to the middle, thus the ball goes all the way through and the runner from third will easily score. An important note is the runner on third must watch for two things: First, he must watch the catcher’s shoulders. When a catcher is throwing to third, his left shoulder will open up towards third base. In this scenario, the runner must get back to third right away. Second, he must read the height of the throw to second; he must make sure that the ball is not being thrown to the pitcher. Once he reads height of the ball he can take off for home.

Submitted by: Jerry Berkson

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