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Stealing bases is one of the most exciting parts of baseball. A stolen base attempt is a battle between the defense and the baserunner that takes only a split second but can have a tremendous impact on the outcome of a game. Second is the most common base to steal, followed by third, but what about home plate – can a runner steal home in baseball?
Yes, baseball players can steal home whenever they are on third base, as long as the ball is live. However, stealing home is much trickier than stealing any other base. It is unusual to see a Major League Baseball player steal home.
Stealing home is so difficult because the pitcher usually watches home plate, and the catcher does not need to make a throw to catch the runner stealing home. Although it is hard, stealing home is still legal in MLB, and players steal home at least a few times every season.
How Often Does an MLB Player Steal Home?
In 2022, MLB runners made 32 attempts to steal home plate, of which 10 were successful. That is a much lower success rate than at second or third base, where players stole successfully about 76% of the time.
The year before, runners were much more successful stealing home. They stole home successfully 17 times in 31 attempts. The total number of times players steal home varies from year to year, but stealing home is always less common than stealing second or third base.
When Can a Runner Steal Home?
The most opportune time to steal home is when another player is also stealing a base. For example, if the runner on first takes off to steal and the catcher throws the ball down to second, the runner at third base might try to steal home. This is because the catcher no longer has the ball, so it would not be as easy for the catcher to tag the runner out.
Another good time to steal home is when the pitcher and catcher are both distracted. If the runner at third notices the pitcher has his back turned and the catcher is looking away, the runner might take off for home plate. It only takes a few seconds to steal a base, and if the pitcher is not paying attention, the runner might have enough time to make it.
When Should a Runner Not Steal Home?
As a general guideline, a runner should only steal home if he has good reason to believe he will get there safely. If a runner is unsure about stealing home, he probably should not risk it.
As a more specific recommendation, a runner should never try to steal home with two outs and two strikes on the batter. If the batter strikes out, the inning is over, and the run does not count – even if the runner makes it home before the batter swings or the umpire calls strike three.
Finally, there is an unwritten rule that players should not steal home when their team is winning by a wide margin. This is out of respect for the other team. It can be seen as poor sportsmanship to try and steal another run when your team is already winning handily.
However, this is only an unwritten rule, which means it is just a suggestion. Nothing in the baseball rule book stops a player from stealing home based on the score.
Who Stole Home the Most?
The all-time leader in steals of home plate is Ty Cobb, who stole home 54 times in his career. He also holds the single-season record with eight steals of home in 1912.
The MLB record for most times stealing home in a single game is two, and eleven different players share that record. The last runner to steal home twice in a game was Vic Power, who accomplished the feat in 1958.
Can a Baseball Player Steal First Base?
Simply put, the answer is no – baseball players cannot steal first base. In order to steal a base, a runner has to have already reached base safely. In other words, under MLB rules, a runner isn’t allowed to steal when he’s still standing at the plate.
However, the independent Atlantic League recently tried out a rule that would allow players to steal first. According to the rule: “Batters may ‘steal’ first base on any pitch not caught in flight (the batter can be thrown out if he attempts to run).” Technically, such a play is scored as a fielder’s choice rather than a stolen base, but the league informally refers to it as “stealing first.”
Can You Steal A Base On A Pop Fly?
No, a runner cannot steal a base on a pop fly. Runners are allowed to advance on balls in play, but advancing on a ball in play does not count as stealing a base.
Advancing a base is only considered stealing if it happens before the pitch is thrown or after the ball crosses the plate. Even then, the official scorer must determine if the runner advanced on his own merit rather than because of a passed ball, an error, a wild pitch, or defensive indifference.
Can You Steal A Base On A Caught Foul Ball?
No, a runner cannot steal a base on a caught foul ball. If a ball is caught in foul territory, it is live and is treated just like any other fly ball. Therefore, runners can advance on caught foul balls (unlike any other foul balls), but doing so is not considered stealing a base.
What Is Tagging Up in Baseball?
Before a runner can advance on a ball caught in the air, the runner has to tag up. Tagging up means returning to touch the original base the runner was standing on at the beginning of the play. The runner needs to tag up after the ball touches the fielder’s glove, and then the runner can advance to the next base.