Stealing home isn't allowed at the novice level in many youth leagues. And at the major league level the strategy is rarely executed. But it can be an effective baserunning tactic at the intermediate levels, especially in double-steal scenarios with runners at first and third base and fewer than two outs. It requires speed, timing and the ability to read the opposing pitcher and catcher. "The biggest thing is getting the courage to go," major league outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury said.
This easiest way to steal home is to involve another baserunner in the play. With runners at first and third and fewer than two outs, the runner at first takes off for second base hoping to draw a throw. The runner at third base edges down the line, then takes off if the catcher fires toward second base. Another scenario has the runner taking off from first base for the sole purpose of creating a rundown play between the bases. The runner at third steals home if the baserunner baits the fielders into throwing the ball back and forth between first and second base.
Sizing Up the Straight Steal
The straight steal of home typically comes at the pitcher's expense. Certain habits or tendencies can leave a pitcher vulnerable. Does the pitcher use a full wind-up with a runner at third? Is his delivery to the plate long and slow? Does he forget to check the runner at third base? Is he a left-handed pitcher with his back to you in his delivery? Is there a right-handed hitter at the plate, obscuring the catcher's view? Is the pitcher wild, forcing the catcher to lunge after pitchers? A lot of "yes" answers to these questions set up a potential steal for a fast runner at third base.
The Moving Lead
Running bluffs down the third base line are a good way to distract the pitcher. Catchers can curtail the moving lead by throwing down to third after the pitch, but that play can be dangerous even at the big league level. The catcher must throw around a right-handed hitter in the batter's box toward the third baseman, who may be on the move toward the bag. The baserunner could be in throwing lane. If the throw goes past third, the run scores. If the catcher doesn't look the runner back before throwing, the runner might just keep coming home and score ahead of the return throw.
Timing the Pitcher
It's best to take off as soon as the pitcher starts his delivery. If you take off too soon, the infielders could call out a warning in time for the pitcher to step off the rubber. Major league third base coach Brian Butterfield noted that stealing home forces pitchers to do three things that could backfire. "[He has to] step off the mound when he hears his teammates yelling at him, which he has to do through the crowd," Butterfield said. "He has to do it without balking because a guy might flinch a little bit when people start yelling at him. No. 2, he's got to locate the runner so we're telling him just keep sprinting toward home. And No. 3, he's got to throw a strike toward the plate."
Sliding Into Home
With the catcher parked behind the plate to receive the pitch, the baserunner usually wants to slide to the front side of the plate. But he must also read the batter. Sliding into home while the batter is taking a swing could have disastrous results. Scoring is much easier if the batter is in on the play and either takes the pitch or fakes the bunt to distract the catcher.
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