This post dives into the topic of double steals in baseball – a strategic play that can create advantages and lead to exciting outcomes. Even if you don’t play baseball yourself, understanding double steals may help your next viewing experience become even more engaging. Let’s get started by providing a brief overview on what a double steal actually is!
- A double steal in baseball is a strategic maneuver in which a team records two stolen bases on a single play.
- This can be done with one baserunner or multiple runners and can involve any base, including home plate.
- In this scenario, all runners stealing bases must be safe. If even one is out, no one is awarded a stolen base.
- One of the rarest versions of the double steal is when a single baserunner steals two bases in one play.
- According to MLB rulebook, a player is not given credit for a steal if they safely advance, but another runner attempting to steal a base on the same play is tagged out.
It goes by many names: a swipe, a stolen bag, or just simply a steal. The stolen base is a strategic maneuver that carries a high risk but an equally high reward. With so much on the line in every game, imagine the value of stealing two bases on one play.
It is challenging for a team to pull off a double steal. In fact, no team has successfully recorded more than 20 double steals in a single season, and that was over 20 years ago (the 1996 Houston Astros).
What is a double steal in baseball?
A double steal in baseball is a strategic maneuver in which a team records two stolen bases on a single play. This maneuver can be done with one baserunner or multiple runners and can involve any base, including home plate. In this scenario, all runners stealing bases must be safe. If even one is out, no one is awarded a stolen base, even if the other runner is safe.
Types of double steals in baseball
1. Straight Double
The straight double steal is most common when runners are on first and second. It is rare to see a double steal with runners on second and third unless it is a wild pitch or passed ball because of the risk of stealing home plate. To execute a double steal, both runners need a good jump, which forces the catcher to make a snap decision on where to throw the ball.
2. Delayed Double
The delayed double steal is a strategic move that managers use when they have runners on first and third. The purpose of this is to have the runner on the first function as a decoy and attract attention away from the runner on third, who will then try to score by stealing home once the defense is chasing the runner on first.
3. Single Runner
One of the rarest versions of the double steal is when a single baserunner steals two bases in one play. If a baserunner tries to steal first and the catcher throws the ball away, allowing the runner to advance to third, that is not considered a stolen base.
To see the difference, in the video below, you will see MLB All-Star Mookie Betts (formerly of the Boston Red Sox) pull off a double steal by himself in a regular season game against the Washington Nationals.
Is a baserunner credited with a stolen base if another baserunner is caught stealing?
According to the MLB rulebook, a player is not given credit for a steal if they safely advance, but another runner attempting to steal a base on the same play is tagged out. For example, if runners on first and second base attempt a double steal and one is safe but the other is out, then no one gets credit for a stolen base, even the player who was safe.
Has there ever been a triple steal?
Yes, there have been a few triple steals in the MLB. They are mostly unintentional, meaning they started as a double steal, but a fielding or throwing error allowed one of the runners to steal an additional base. In this case, it is technically a triple steal, even though it is only two baserunners. The reason is that one of the runners is awarded two stolen bases on the same play.
The last time an intentional triple steal was successful, you must go back to a regular-season game between the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros in 1987. The Astros executed an intentional triple steal in the fourth inning of this game. Fun fact: that triple steal started with the pitcher (Gaylord Perry), who was the runner on third base.
In the video below, you will see the rare triple steal. Because so few have been successful, this clip is from the 2012 SEC collegiate baseball tournament. In this famous play, watch the Vanderbilt baserunners pull off the impossible against the University of Florida. This triple steal gave them a one-run lead in the ninth inning with two outs. It is one of the most clutch plays in baseball history.
Can you steal a base on a foul ball?
If the ball touches the ground in foul territory, it is immediately considered a dead ball, and play stops so that no base runners can advance in this situation.
However, if a batter hits a foul tip into the glove of the catcher who catches it, the ball is still considered live, and runners are allowed to steal a base on this play if they want to. If a fly ball is caught in foul territory, a runner can advance, but then it is considered a sacrifice fly for the hitter, and the runner does not get awarded a stolen base.
Do both players get a stolen base on a double steal?
If both runners safely advance, then yes, both players are awarded a stolen base. However, if one player is tagged out but the other is safe, then the player who is safe is not awarded a stolen base because the official scorer will claim the defense was conceding the base because they went after the other runner.
What is the difference between a triple and a double steal in baseball?
The main difference between a triple and a double steal in baseball is the number of bases stolen in one play. Triple steals can be successfully executed with two players or three, and double steals can be done with one or two runners. The official scorer must pay close attention to ensure there are no errors or other reasons why a base may not be considered stolen, as the decision to award a stolen base is at their discretion.
Why are double steals so rare in baseball?
Double steals are rare because it must be intentional to be an official double steal. The decision on whether a player gets a stolen base belongs to the official scorer. For a double steal to be official, not only does it have to be intentional, but both runners must be safe, and there are no errant throws or errors made by the defense that allows runners to advance extra bases.
We learn as children not to take things that belong to others. But once a young player starts playing baseball, stealing bases from a defense becomes fun and widely celebrated. With new rule changes coming to MLB in the 2023 season, fans of the stolen base should cheer that the rules are changing to allow for larger bases that are slightly closer together (only a few inches, but baseball has always been a game of inches).
In the video below, you will see a compilation of various double steals in MLB over the years. See if you can determine which ones are straight double steals and which are delayed double steals. Either way, enjoy one of the most exciting plays in the game of baseball, the double steal.
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