Stolen Bases

(Stan Grossfeld/Boston Globe)

When a baserunner advances from one base to the next while the pitcher is pitching, and reaches safely he is usually credited with a stolen base (SB) and if he is thrown out he is charged with a caught stealing (CS).  But there are many exceptions and nuances that are covered in section 10.07 of the official scoring rules.

Here are some basic points to keep in mind in determining whether to credit the runner with a stolen base, caught stealing or neither:

On a Wild Pitch or Passed Ball

If the pitch is a wild pitch (WP) or a passed ball (PB), then the runner does not get credit for a stolen base.

Exception: If the runner was running on the pitch he is given the benefit of the doubt and does get credit for the steal.  But if he only starts running after he realizes the catcher isn’t going to catch the ball cleanly, then it is not a steal.

If the pitch is a wild pitch or a passed ball, and the runner is thrown out trying to advance, he is not charged with a caught stealing.

Exception: As in the case where he is safe, if he was running on the pitch, then the WP/PB is ignored and he is charged with the caught stealing

Also related to this, note that a wild pitch/passed ball and a stolen base are mutually exclusive.  If the runner was running on the pitch and gets credit for the steal, then no passed ball  or wild pitch will be charged.  This article attempts to explain the difference between a WP and a PB.


If he is picked off a base, but makes it to the next base, whether directly, or by successfully surviving a run down play, he also gets credit for a stolen base

Note: as unfair as this is, the steal is charged to the catcher.  i.e., his percentage of runners thrown out goes down, even though he was not involved on that play

If he is picked off a base, and is thrown out trying to advance then he is charged with caught stealing

Note: Similarly to the  above example, the catcher here gets credit for the CS.

If he is picked off and called out getting back to the base, then no caught stealing is charged

Sidenote: A baserunner who cares more about his personal stats then helping his team win, should always go back to the base when picked off.  At worst he’ll be called out but it won’t hurt his negotiating power in the offseason.  If he tries to advance he may get lucky and end up with a steal, but more likely will have a CS added to his record.  If he wants to be a good teammate, and knows for sure he has been picked off a base, then he should try to advance.  A very small chance of a fielder making an error and him being safe, is better than a 100% chance of being out at first base.

For purposes of defensive stats, only the players actually involved in the play get credit for assists and putouts.  Even though the catcher may get credit for throwing out a runner, only the pitcher and 1st baseman would get an assist on a 1-3-6 pickoff and attempt to advance to second play.

Steals safely on error

If a runner is stealing 2nd base and the catcher throws the ball into centerfield, the runner is given the benefit of the doubt and credited with a stolen base.  No error is charged to the catcher

Note: If the throw allows the runner to continue to 3rd base, then an error is charged to the catcher.  Second base is acquired via the steal, and 3rd  via the error.

If the catcher throws the ball in time to retire the runner but the fielder drops the throw, and the runner is safe, then the runner IS CHARGED WITH A CAUGHT STEALING!

Note: The catcher is given an assist and credit for throwing the runner out, and the fielder who took the throw is charged with an error. This is actually a concept that is applied across other scoring rules.  If a fielder makes a good throw, but due to an error on the receiver of the throw a runner is safe, the fielder does get credit for an assist, and the runner is charged with what would have happened without an error.  For example on a routine ground ball, and the 1st baseman steps off the bag to catch the throw when he doesn’t have to, the batter does not get credit for a hit, even though he is safe.  More about this in a later article.

If the catcher makes a perfect throw, but nobody covered the base, and the ball goes into the outfield allowing the runner(s) to advance extra bases, the catcher should not be charged with an error.

Charge the error to whomever you deem should have been covering the base.  (Obviously the 3rd baseman for a steal on third.  Second baseman or shortstop on 2B.  Pick whoever was closest to the base.  If in doubt, use the standard infield shift, and for a righthanded batter assume the second baseman should take the throw and for a lefty assume the shortstop)

Multiple runners stealing

On a double steal if one runner gets credit for a steal, award the other runner a stolen base as well

Reasoning: This is giving the baserunners the benefit of the doubt.  If a throw to third base is not in time, the assumption is that the catcher threw to the base he had the best chance of getting, therefore the runner stealing second would have been safe if the throw went there as well

If one runner is thrown out, then do not give the other runner anything.  His advance is treated like a fielder’s choice.

No throw is made

If no throw is made it may be scored as a stolen base, or as defensive indifference (DI).  The distinction is apparently based on your mind-reading abilities.  The rule says to not score a stolen base when a runner advances solely because of the defensive team’s indifference to the runner’s advance.   Now, as a scorer, you need to guess whether the catcher didn’t throw the ball because the runner was too fast and he knew he’d be safe anyhow, or if there was a runner on 3rd base and he didn’t want to risk that runner scoring on a bad throw, or if the team was in fact indifferent as to whether or not the runner advanced.  The inning, score of the game and how the defense played the runner (held on, pick off attempts etc) are all used to help read the defense’s mind.  Good luck with this.

I have a rant here describing why I think this scoring rule is in need of an overhaul.

And by the way… Dave Roberts was safe by like a foot!

  1. Neat blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere? A theme like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog jump out. Please let me know where you got your design. Thanks egeedaaggdbc

  2. One question. Does the catcher get credit for a caught stealing on a 2-4-2 caught stealing of home on a double steal?

  3. I go to see each day some web pages and websites to read
    content, but this blog gives feature based posts.

  4. It was quite different (scoring) in, say, 1889 . . .do you know what the SB scoring was that year?

    • Sorry, I can’t seem to get my hands on a copy of the 1889 official scoring rules! But I did a little bit of googling and found out that among other things, defensive indifference (which I love so much) didn’t get introduced until 1920, so in 1889 those would all be counted as steals. Also saw some references that at some point you got credit for a steal even if you overslid the bag and got tagged out, not sure when that was changed, but today that’s just a caught stealing. Also from 1892 to 1897, players would get credit for a steal when they advanced on a fly ball.

  5. If a double steal occurs and nobody is thrown out, does the catcher get charged for 2 stolen bases in his caught stealing percentage?

  6. I have a question, with runners at 1st and 3rd. Runner at 1st steals, and the the runner at 3rd goes home after the throw to second is made. Does the runner at 3rd get credited with a stolen base?

  1. Pingback: Defensive Indifference… and why defenses should not be indifferent about them « Baseball Scoring Rules

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