Friday Five Tool Tip – When Less is More
Base runners and coaches often believe that a maximum lead off is necessary and especially for stealing a base. This is not true. Coaches often incorrectly encourage runners to get the maximum lead off, especially at first base. Getting a maximum lead is something I never did when playing major league baseball and I was a very good base stealer.
The objective is getting to the next base and this chance diminishes when runners have to worry about going back to the base they are leading off from. Leading off the farthest one can go puts the base runner’s mind in a defensive mode of being too conscious of getting back to the bag, if the pitcher throws there. Additionally, this throw becomes much more likely, when the pitcher sees the greater distance from the base. Worrying about getting back to the base takes away concentration from going the other direction.
Base runners should take a half step less than the maximum lead, generally about three and half steps, allowing them to have confidence that they can get back to first easier if the pitcher throws over, and most importantly, this less-than-maximum lead allows them to focus on exploding towards the next base. In addition, without the maximum lead, runners can make up for the slightly lost distance on their secondary lead off. This shorter method is even of greater importance when leading off with against a left handed pitcher.
Finally, a maximum lead is necessary when stealing third base, but this is much easier to do at second base, because of the additional time runners have to get back to the base and the greater difficulty of picking runners off second base.