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Timing Pitchers and Catchers To Prevent Stolen Bases

April 24, 2013

There are many factors that come into play in defense of a stolen base attempt, but at the core of any successful caught stealing is a quick delivery by the pitcher and quick receipt, transfer, and throw by the catcher. Other factors come into play, such as a pitcher’s pickoff move and a runner’s speed and jump, but the pitcher delivery time and the catcher pop time (i.e. the time from the moment the ball hits the catcher’s mitt to the time it reaches second base) directly impact a runner’s chances of success.

Baseball Info Solutions has timed pitcher deliveries and catcher pops for the last few seasons. When you combine the pitcher’s time to the plate and the catcher’s pop time, you can see the strength of that relationship:


Combined Time SB Attempts SB Rate
< 3.25 seconds 687 61.4%
3.25-3.40 seconds 757 68.7%
3.40-3.55 seconds 617 73.9%
> 3.55 seconds 493 77.1%


In the majors, the difference between a relatively good time and a relatively bad time can be small, but even small differences of a couple tenths of a second can significantly affect the chances of a successful steal. In the chart above, if the pitcher and catcher can combine their times under 3.25 seconds, 61 percent of runners steal successfully. But if they add three tenths of a second to their combined time, the stolen base rate balloons to 77 percent.

The average pop time for catchers is just under two seconds. Some examples of the best are Matt Wieters, Russell Martin, Salvador Perez and Yadier Molina. They have average pop times of 1.9 seconds or better. Those four catchers have combined to throw out more than 30 percent of potential basestealers since 2011. In contrast, John Baker, Devin Mesoraco, John Jaso, and Yasmani Grandal have average pop times greater than 2.0 seconds, and they have combined to throw out only 15 percent of attempted basestealers since 2011.

The average delivery time for pitchers on stolen base attempts is 1.4 seconds. Some of the best pitchers in this category are Stephen Strasburg, Vance Worley and Johnny Cueto who average less than 1.3 seconds.


COMMENTS (2 Comments, most recent shown first)

How are the actions timed?

Is it first movement by the pitcher to release by the catcher?

Or release by the pitcher to release by the catcher?

Or something different?

12:12 PM Apr 25th
one-tenth of a second is about?

100 yard dash in 10 seconds = 1 yard per tenth of a second.

So, the fastest runners cover 2-3 feet in that last 10th of a second as they slide into second base. That's HUGE!

Let's say it's 2 feet with a perfect slide. The best catchers pop time is 2 feet better than the worst.

What about ball speed from release by catcher to catch by SS covering? How much of a variance.
6:14 AM Apr 25th
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