The delayed robbery is one of the best strategic and fun plays in youth baseball. Players on your team will love this when it works properly. It’s an aggressive way to advance to extra base. It is a strategy that must be practiced, but unfortunately many coaches ignore it. And while it’s not a complete test, I’ll go over a few key things to look for to keep the odds in your favor of being successful. Let’s review the key indicators for delayed robbery to be successful.
As a coach, there are generally three key indicators that I look for in determining whether we should attempt the delayed robbery. Whichever, two, or three a coach observes being done, in addition, depending on who the base runner is, will determine whether the coach should attempt the delayed steal. The first and probably the most important thing to look for is to see where the pitcher is standing to retrieve the ball when there is a man on base. If the pitcher stands where he dropped the ball or returns to the top of the mound to retrieve the ball from the catcher, this is a great indicator of a possible delayed steal. The further the pitcher is from the catcher when he recovers the ball, the more time the base runner has to steal a base. The second thing we look for is if the catcher falls to his knees when he throws the ball to the pitcher with a man on base. The catcher who falls to his knees will not have much on the ball, and he will not move with much “speed” toward the pitcher. This will also give the base runner more time to get to the next base. The third thing we look for, similar to the previous one, is if the catcher throws a rainbow of fire at the pitcher instead of a line. The loop toss, like the knee toss, will not have much on the ball. Now in many situations you will have a catcher who does both, throws on his knees and also throws rainbows back at the pitcher. This is really a great advantage.
The base runner is also a determining factor. Youth coaches need to be able to understand the fact that the fastest player on their team is not necessarily their best base runner. I’ve had players who were among the fastest in the league but who weren’t great baserunners. On the contrary, I have had players with only above-average speed who were excellent base runners and, at 11 and 12 years old, had instincts beyond their age.
The base runner’s job is not to make his move too obvious to the other team. He slips away from base in a subtle way with his knees bent, and once he sees the catcher drop the ball, he should turn toward the base he’s running toward, and once he’s within reach, he should slide.
We practice delayed robbery in almost every practice. When your team gets a reputation for doing this, other teams will become very conscientious and make certain adjustments. This is not to say that as a team, after a few successful late steal games, you shouldn’t try. But you must choose your moment. Another residual benefit is that spending time practicing this will make your players pay more attention to the field of play when on base and this can result in extra bases through a catcher toppling the pitcher or a wild pitch.
The delayed steal is one of the most exciting plays that will help your team gain awareness of base execution and will result in additional base execution. But this should be practiced rather than simply instructing your team to do it during the game.