Stolen base

What is the Definition of Stolen Base in Baseball?

In baseball, a stolen base is a tactical play that allows a baserunner to advance to the next base without the benefit of the batter hitting the ball. It occurs when the baserunner successfully reaches the subsequent base during the pitcher’s delivery, while the pitcher is holding the ball, or during a throw back to the pitcher from the catcher. The action of stealing a base involves both risk and skill, as the runner must surprise or outpace the defensive players’ attempts to tag him out.

The official scoring of a stolen base credits the runner with the advance due to their effort and decision rather than as a result of a hit, walk, or fielding error. Stolen bases are a significant part of baseball strategy and can influence the dynamics of the game; they can put runners in a better scoring position and pressure the defense into making errors. A successful steal requires a combination of speed, timing, and an understanding of the pitcher’s and catcher’s habits.

Stolen-base percentage, calculated by dividing the number of successful steals by the total number of attempts, provides a metric to evaluate a player’s effectiveness in this aspect of the game. It helps demonstrate the two-dimensional nature of basestealing: the raw number of bases stolen and the efficiency of the attempts. While a higher number of stolen bases can indicate a player’s speed and daring, a high stolen-base percentage reflects their proficiency and judgment on the basepaths.

Basic Definition

In baseball, the stolen base is a key tactical maneuver that reflects a player’s speed and strategic acumen.

Overview of a Stolen Base

A stolen base occurs when a baserunner advances to the next base while the ball is alive, typically without or before it is hit by the batter. The action must be performed without the aid of a hit, walk, or error and is often executed when the pitcher is delivering a pitch to home plate.

Statistical Recording

Statistically, a stolen base is credited to a baserunner when they successfully reach the next base without being put out by the defense, with the specific intent to steal. This is recorded as “SB” in the game’s statistics. The scorer must rule that the advance is directly attributable to the baserunner’s efforts, rather than a fielding error or another play.

Rules and Regulations

In baseball, a stolen base marks a significant strategic play, and it is governed by precise rules that allow a runner to legally claim the next base.

Requirements for a Stolen Base

To record a stolen base, a baserunner must advance to the next base entirely due to their own effort, without the aid of a hit from the batter or certain mistakes by the defensive team. These mistakes include but are not limited to:

  • Wild pitches
  • Passed balls
  • Balks
  • Defensive errors

The runner can only be credited with a stolen base if they start the attempt when the ball is alive and in play. Furthermore, the runner must not be aided by a hit, a walk, or by being hit by the pitch in the process.

Pitcher and Catcher Constraints

Pitchers and catchers also operate under specific constraints that affect stolen base attempts. For a legitimate stolen base attempt:

  • The pitcher must make a legal delivery towards home plate without violating balk rules.
  • The catcher cannot obstruct the runner, intentionally or unintentionally, during the attempt to steal a base.

Should the defense commit an error such as a balk, passed ball, or wild pitch, and the runner advances a base, this does not constitute a stolen base. However, if the runner was already in motion before the defensive mistake, they may still be credited with a steal.


Mastering the stolen base in baseball is a blend of player prowess and well-timed execution during varying scenarios within the game.

Player Skills

A player’s speed and base-running intelligence are crucial for successfully stealing bases. They must possess swift acceleration to ensure they can cover the distance quickly while also having the ability to read the pitcher’s movements accurately to decrease the chance of being caught. The art of deception also plays a role, as players often need to disguise their intentions until the opportune moment to sprint towards the next base.

Game Scenarios

Pitcher distraction and catcher throw strength are game factors that influence the steal. When a pitcher is preoccupied with the batter or exhibits a slower delivery to the plate, a base runner may decide to steal. The scenario can also be affected by the count on the batter, which can predict the likelihood of a certain type of pitch, potentially aiding the runner’s timing in taking off. Additionally, the runner must assess the catcher’s ability to throw quickly and accurately to second base, which could thwart the attempt.