It's a cat and mouse game between pitcher and runner.
In an article by Jonah Keri on the website Grantland, Coco Crisp, a baseball player for the Oakland Athletics, explains how he steals bases.
If he can time his run for just the right moment...
Are you a big video guy then?Read the article: Grand Theft Baseball. Oakland's Coco Crisp brings us deep into the mind of a base stealer, Grantland>>
Yeah, that's my main thing. A lot of guys like to see what kind of pitches a pitcher will throw, for hitting. Since I don't care about that [laughs] … I just like to go up there, see the ball, hit the ball. I don't like too much information for hitting. But for base stealing, I can never have too much information. So I like to go in there and see what their first movement is, check on their times [to home]. With base stealing, the biggest thing is knowing what time you can steal off of a pitcher, and being patient with that. I just try to collect as much information as possible so I have a higher-percentage chance to steal.
Are you scouting seven or eight pitchers a game then? The starter and all the possible relievers?
No, I study the starters, and as relief pitchers come in, if other guys get on base, I just stand on the rail, look at 'em and try to pick up on certain things they're doing in the moment, during the game. And I'll try to give my pointers, the things that I just learned, to the team as well.
When you're playing poker, if you have a tell, you fix it. Do pitchers ever switch it up on you?
Every now and then, every now and then. But for most pitchers, it would be hard to change what they're doing and still feel comfortable. I know for me it would be hard to come up to the plate, and say I'm susceptible to a slider down and in, so OK, I'm going to change my hands up so I can get to that slider down and in. But that might mess up something else. So you just don't swing at that slider, I guess. But for a pitcher, it's similar I would think, where if you're used to loading heavy on your back leg and bending your back knee first, it would be hard to not do that, and risk changing your mechanics. So you can usually rely on pitchers to keep doing what they've always done.