Chris Burke’s four keys to stealing bases

article by Chris Burke

article by Chris Burke

Amateur baseball is in the midst of what many have called the “dead bat” era. Home runs are way down in both college and high school baseball, thus scores are much lower and runs are at a premium. With tougher scoring conditions teams have looked to a number of alternatives to gain an edge offensively.

Some programs have emphasized the bunting game, some have worked diligently on situational hitting and others have decided to recruit more speed in an attempt to steal more bases.  While all of these areas are vital components of an effective offensive attack, the stolen base can be the most disruptive and ultimately lead to increased run production. With that said, let me first admit that the hardest base to steal is first base, but assuming the offense is producing base runners, here are four keys to swiping more bags:

1) Practice, practice, practice
I was blessed to play for Rod Delmonico at the University of Tennessee. Coach D loved to steal bases and he put a strong emphasis on it during all of our practices. We talked leads, starts, slides, situations, and constantly worked on our breaks!  During our scrimmages we had a mandatory steal rule. It was a must steal within the first 3 pitches of every at bat. This type of mindset was equally beneficial for the offense and the defense. As base runners we developed an aggressive mentality, and learned how to steal bases when the defense was on high alert. While the offense is gaining confidence and learning, the defense is getting invaluable game reps as they work to control the running game. Continue reading

3 up, 3 down: running game philosophies

corbinTim Corbin (Vanderbilt), Greg Goff (Campbell) and Jason Stein (Eastern Kentucky) all led their teams to prolific stolen base totals during the 2013 season. Here’s their take on a few aspects of the running game we discussed in this issue’s Feature article (http://www.insidepitchonline.com/Press-Center/Lineup/2013/Stolen-bases-an-argument-of-quality-versus-quant.aspx)

1. Would you rather have your team steal the most bases it possibly can (quantity), or have a high (75% or above) success rate?

TIM CORBIN- “I would tell you that stealing the “most bases” would not be our top priority but rather the “quality of the attempt”…right pitch, best jump, right time, what advantage did we gain, was it “show-me” stolen base or an effective team stolen base. Putting up high stolen base numbers has not necessarily translated into the most effective offense, but it can be a component of one.”

GREG GOFF- We never talk about percentage with our players, as I feel may take away from their aggressivness. I want my players to trust their instincts and be fearless on the bases.

JASON STEIN- I think you need to factor in both quantity and success.  Certainly above 75% is the goal but you must have quantity or guys throughout the line-up that will run so the opponents fear the line-up instead of just a guy or two.

2. How would you define what a “good base stealer” is? More stolen bases or higher stolen base percentage?

TIM CORBIN- I would say the high percentage runner with the most attempts, not the runner with the most attempts. To me it’s like passing the football…you can unload 60 passes in a game, but it’s worth may be minimal if your completion rate is down and your yards per catch is low. Running efficiency is like passing efficiency to me.

GREG GOFF- I feel a good base stealer is someone that trust themselves, has good instincts, and fears nothing. I prefer the bags over a percentage.We try to promote that within our program during practices and scrimmages.

JASON STEIN- A good base stealer has no fear of getting thrown out and of course must have a good success rate

3. Do you keep close track of your team’s stolen base totals and/or their accompanying percentages throughout the course of the year? What do these numbers tell you when you are scouting your opponents?

TIM CORBIN- I look more at who an opponent is running against – are the numbers bullied or true. If you are running on a team that defends the running game well…then you must have an efficient running game.

GREG GOFF- We talk more about the process than actual numbers. What are pitchers trying to do to stop us and find their weakness and expose it. Stolen bases are a big part of our offense and I feel  helps us score runs. Educate them on good times to run and when not to run, help them gain confidence through practice and scrimmage games, and turn them  loose in the spring is my approach to the running game. Its always a risk but to me you can’t reach your full potential without risk taken.

JASON STEIN- We keep track of all percentages and hopefully teams are worrying about the running game.

Stolen bases: an argument of quality versus quantity

In the past, present and foreseeable future, baseball teams that can run, win. Just like power and velocity, speed it is a skill that can be developed, but for the most part it cannot be taught. However unlike velocity and power, speed can be harder to evaluate and may not necessarily transfer to game situations as well.

If aliens visited our planet and reported back on their findings, there are plenty of things that they might find peculiar about us earthlings. Near the top of that list (for our money) would be the fact that a baseball players’ speed is judged largely by how fast they can run a 60-yard dash- in the past, present and unfortunately, foreseeable future.

When is the last time you have seen a player run full-speed for 60 yards (180 feet) during a game? If you have, please let us know (insidepitchmag@gmail.com); we would be willing to bet that something went very wrong. While it can be a tool for evaluating the general foot speed and athletic ability of a player, the 60-yard dash simply cannot factor in base running situations, leadoffs, jumps and many other facets that are vital in the running game.

So what is the best way to determine base stealing ability? Looking at stolen base numbers during (or at the end of) a playing season can be beneficial for scouting purposes, however it can be misleading when applying how well a team actually implements their stolen base philosophy. Much like the 60-yard dash, it can be a challenge to judge just how well a team runs if competition and situation are not taken into consideration.

The purpose of this article is to help players and coaches identify their ability to steal bases and suggest some ways that can promote improvement in those areas. Continue reading