While growing up, one of my favorite things to do as a base runner in baseball was to steal a base. Stealing a base became even more exciting when I was a runner on third base and we got to do a double steal while there was another runner on first. In these double steal scenarios, I knew there was a good chance I scoring a run if the catcher threw to second. As it turns out, there are a couple of ways to perform a double steal in baseball. What is a double steal?
In baseball, a double steal is when two bases are successfully stolen on the same play. A double steal generally occurs when two players steal a base in one play, but a double steal can also be credited to a runner who steals two bases on the same play.
A double steal can be an effective strategy for scoring a run or for moving runners into scoring position, but it’s also a risky move because the defense has two ways to earn an out. Let’s cover the different types of double steals in baseball.
Three Types of Double Steals in Baseball
Sometimes baseball has terminology where one phrase can mean multiple things, and the term “double steal” is one of those phrases.
When people hear about a double-steal play, they generally think of players stealing third base and second base on the same pitch. While this may be the most common way to earn a double steal, there are a few different ways a baseball team can perform the double steal.
Let’s discuss each of those double steal strategies.
The Straight Double Steal
In baseball, most people refer to a double steal as the straight double steal. What is the straight double steal in baseball?
The straight double steal is an offensive strategy where two base runners steal at the same time on the same pitch. The straight double steal is most commonly associated with base runners stealing third base and second base on the same play.
The most common double steal is stealing third base and second base, but a double steal can also be performed by a base runner stealing home while another runner steals third base or second base.
In baseball, it doesn’t matter which bases were stolen or what order they were stolen. In order for a play to be considered a straight double steal, two players need to steal a base at the same time.
Below is a great example of how the traditional double steal works in a Major League Baseball game.
The Delayed Double Steal
The second most common way a baseball team can perform a double steal is with the delayed double steal. What is the delayed double steal?
In baseball, the delayed double steal is when at least one base runner performs a delayed steal and two bases are stolen on the same play. The delayed double steal is most commonly used with runners on first and third base, where the runner on first steals second base while the runner on third scores with a delayed steal.
Although the delayed double steal can be used in any level of baseball, it is a common baserunning strategy used in Little League. The goal is to get the catcher to throw the ball to second base so the runner on third base can score by using the delayed steal.
If you’re interested in learning more about the delayed steal, read my other article on what is a delayed steal in baseball.
To perform the delayed double steal with runners on first and third, the runner on first will attempt to steal second base. This runner will also watch the catcher to make sure the catcher throws the ball to second.
When the catcher throws the ball to second base, the runner who is stealing second base will stop so they can get themselves into a rundown. While the catcher throws the ball to second, the runner on third base will attempt to steal home (this is the delayed steal).
When performed correctly, the runner on third base will score and the runner stealing second base will be safe.
It’s also important to remember that the main goal of this strategy is to score a run. The offense must be ok with an out if the runner stealing second can’t safely make it to the base.
Below is a great example of the double steal being used with runners on first and third base.
One Player Steals Two Bases on the Same Play
A fairly uncommon way for a double steal to be earned is when one player steals two bases on the same play.
Typically, steal attempts end up being close plays at the base and there would be no chance of a base runner being able to steal another base. But believe it or not, one player stealing two bases is not completely unheard of.
The most common way a player can get two stolen bases on one play is when the defense is playing the shift and a runner successfully steals second base. If the defense is not paying attention, the base runner can steal third after stealing second because no one was covering third.
Below is a great example of how an alert base runner can get two stolen bases on one play.
A Base Runner is Not Credited With a Stolen Base if Another Base Runner is Caught Stealing
Even though the double steal can be great for scoring a run or for moving runners into scoring position, it is not a strategy that always works. Below is a quick example of how an MLB team performed the double steal with runners on first and third base, but the double steal attempt was unsuccessful.
In this example video of a double steal, the runner who was stealing second base was safe, but the runner who stole home was thrown out. Even though the runner who stole second was safe, he is not credited with a stolen base because the runner who stole home was caught stealing.
In order for a team to be awarded a double steal, both runners need to be safe. If one runner is thrown out, the other runner does not get credit for a stolen base.
Has There Ever Been a Triple Steal?
After hearing about all the ways a team can earn a double steal, the next question you might be wondering is if there has ever been a triple steal.
In baseball, triple steals are extremely rare, but they do happen. The most well-known triple steals have been executed by the Vanderbilt baseball team.
In fact, Vanderbilt has posted three videos of their team performing the triple steal. Below are all three of those triple steal videos.
Vanderbilt’s Triple Steal vs Florida
According to the description of this video, Vanderbilt’s triple steal against Flordia happened during the SEC Tournament semifinals game on May 26, 2012.
Vanderbilt’s Triple Steal vs Auburn
According to the description of this video, Vanderbilt’s triple steal against Auburn happened on May 19, 2016.
Vanderbilt’s Triple Steal vs Lipscomb
According to the description of this video, Vanderbilt’s triple steal against Lipscomb happened on March 26, 2013.
Can You Steal a Base on a Foul Ball?
Foul balls happen all the time, even during a double steal attempt. Since the base runners were already stealing the base before the foul ball was called, can you steal a base on a foul ball?
In baseball, you cannot steal a base on a foul ball. Foul balls are ruled a dead ball and base runners are not allowed to advance during a dead ball, even if they attempted a steal while the ball was live.
Even though a base runner may have attempted a steal while the ball was in play, it would be an unfair advantage to the offense to allow baserunners to advance when the batter hits the ball foul.