This week marks baseball's return from its annual winter hibernation. For fans of the sport, Opening Day is thrilling, and brings with it the promise of a summer filled with peanuts, home runs, and stolen bases.
Or, if not stolen bases, at the very least attempted stolen bases. Because unlike striking out, stealing a base isn't an easy thing to do. Say you're on first base and are looking to steal second. Take too much of a lead off first and the pitcher is liable to pick you off (that is, throw the ball to the first baseman before you can run back to first base and tag the bag). But if your lead isn't long enough, there's no way you'll be able to beat the catcher's throw to second. And of course, if you're too slow, or if the pitcher's windup is too quick, your chances of a successful steal will diminish even further.
To get a clearer picture of all the factors in play, take a look at the interactive below. In it, you can adjust the runner's lead off of first base; the runner's speed; the time it takes for the pitcher to wind up; the pitcher's throwing speed; the time it takes the catcher to catch the ball and throw to second; and catcher's throwing speed. By adjusting all of these parameters to levels that you think are reasonable, will the runner make it or not? It's no wonder that baseball is called a game of inches!
Teachers: ready to kick off baseball season with your students? Then check out one of our favorite lessons, Been Caught Stealing.