There’s nothing in baseball quite like a steal. Although I’m not old enough to have experienced it, there’s something so fun about watching highlights of Rickey Henderson lead off first while everyone in the stadium knows he’s about to swipe second. As analytics took hold of the game, steals declined. Teams realized risking the out for the extra base might not be the optimal way to score.
There’s a reason analytics exist. They tell a story the human mind can’t comprehend in real time, but that doesn’t mean they are always correct. Sometimes, steals change the outcome of games, which is why when a player like Ronald Acuña comes along, all caution should be thrown out the window.
Why steals have a bright future
First off, it’s worth noting that Ronald Acuña has gone five-for-five on steal attempts to start the season. Catchers have a tough time catching him — even in his 37 steal season, Ronald was only caught nine times. It also puts incredible pressure on the defense. With a menace like Acuña on the bases, pitchers are distracted, fielders are focused on multiple things, and the catcher is forced to make a play, which could result in an errant throw skipping into the outfield.
Last night’s play, along with plenty more steals by Acuña, show just how important action on the basepaths can be. In only one pitch, he made it from first to third, drastically improving Atlanta’s chances of scoring.
MLB’s rule changes, taking effect at the start of the 2023 season, will help stolen bases reemerge. Having a larger second base bag while also moving it closer to first and third should increase the success rate on steals, and in turn, increase steal attempts.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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