Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Bigger Basses Leads to More Steals?

Ronald Acuna Jr celebrates a stolen base. Photo via ESPN Photography.

Ronald Reagan delivers his infamous Berlin wall speech, Full House airs its first episode, and Andre Dawson wins NL MVP despite his Cubs finishing last in their division. These are all things that happened the last time there were over 3,500 stolen bases in a regular season of Major League Baseball (MLB) in 1987. After an offensive explosion of a year, 2023 crushed 3,500 steals for the first time in thirty-six years. 

MLB implemented a plethora of new rules for the 2023 season that included a pitch clock timer, defensive shift restrictions, and enlarging the bases. The latter of the three is widely considered the reason we saw such an influx in stolen bases this year. However, there is much debate considering whether this change, or those surrounding it, made it easier to swipe a bag.  

Something many fans believe is the enlargement of the bags makes runners safe more often when stealing. This is most likely because there is technically less distance between the bags. However, there is hardly any evidence to back this theory up.  

In the days of early organized baseball, the bases had no set dimensions. In 1887 it was suggested that the bases be sized at 15×15 inches. This wasn’t enforced until early 1900’s baseball. This is important because bases prior were smaller, however, there wasn’t a significant change in stolen base attempts or successful stolen bases after the change was put in place.  

If the bases being bigger didn’t make runners steal more often, what did?  

Another rule change that could have a serious impact is pitchers only being able to throw over three times, and if you don’t pick them off on the third attempt, the runner is awarded the next base. Many argue that knowing how often a pitcher can pick off gives runners an advantage to how far they can extend their lead-off and creates more opportunities for stolen bases.  

Players have commented on loving the new change.  “This is the year of the stolen base,” quipped Trey Mancini, a veteran first baseman prior to the 2023 regular season. 

“Baseball is a game of milliseconds, these rules should help us be safe a few more times,” remarked Mancini.  

Despite there being significantly more stolen bases, are players that much more successful?  

Players had a marginal increase in 75% to 80% success this season. This may seem significant, but fluctuation between these numbers is often large when comparing multiple seasons.  

The solution to this conundrum may simply be a combination of all new factors. Because the players knew about these new rules they were tempted to steal bases more often. Confidence increasing may actually lead to a new style of baseball being played.  

When Rob Manfred took over as commissioner in 2015, he vowed to make baseball a more electric, fast paced entertainment venue. Whether or not the rule changes really impacted stealing bases, it’s hard to argue that the product on the field hasn’t become a quicker polished product.  

“The games are shorter; there’s more action in the game; there’s more athleticism, defense, base stealing, things that fans want to see.” stated Manfred when boasting about his accomplished rule changes after the conclusion of the 2023 regular season. 

The implementation of rule changes has brought electricity, record setters, and new storylines. Baseball deserves a newfound energy. Braves right fielder, Ronald Acuna Jr., swiped seventy-three bags while also hitting forty-one home runs, a combination we’ve never seen before. 

Whether players are stealing more often because of a base being a bit bigger, or pitchers not having the ability to constantly pick them off, baseball has become a must watch event. 

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