Players are constantly asking to steal bases. I get this question often. "coach, let me steal, give me the greenlight", and as games go on, those guys typically don't get that sign. Either it's a poor coaching decision, or I'm going to signal to them if I want a true stolen base out of them. But very rarely are those guys given the opportunity to read a pitcher, catcher, situation, get a good jump and steal a base. This was okay with me for quite some time. I wanted control of these players, and if they were fast enough to steal a base on their own we probably already had an idea of who we want to have the green light before the game starts. These are the guys that you'll more than likely give a steal sign to, or after assessing the pitcher/catcher will decide if it's only on you. We were successful with our stolen bases when they were called, but I wanted more. I wanted more aggressive baserunners, I wanted more stolen bases, and I wanted kids to learn the game. I started to not like the idea of the game only happening when I dictated it. I wanted control of most of it, but I also practice and talk to these guys every day of the week, why not give them a little ownership. That's why I decided to create our Green Light Groups. They are a simple way to give your players the green light without having to signal anything.
Every day during practice we stretch throw, and at some point will have a timed stolen base attempt. Whether it's working a first and third, working pickoff moves with pitchers, or down angle reads for baserunners we find a way to incorporate some form of aggressiveness on the bases. This is a great opportunity to work on reading a pitcher and stealing a base, while also using it as an opportunity to bump up in a group.
The groups work like this. We take a timed stolen base during practice, and you are put in a group. If it takes you 3.5 seconds from your lead to steal second base. You are immediately placed in the 3.5 group. If it's 3.7 then, you're in the 3.7's and so on. Using the times that are taken from live action of the game the kids then know if they have the "green light" It's a simple addition formula, and you've probably been doing it in your head, but why not give the kids the opportunity to know if they have it or not. You take pitchers mound to plate time and add Catchers pop time. (mound to plate + pop time=stolen base) If the numbers you write down are above your groups number then you get the green light, if they're below your groups number you don't. Being in the 3.7 group if mound to plate is 1.5 and catchers pop time is 2.3 (1.5+2.3=3.8) then I get the green light. If I'm in the 3.9's I don't. It's as simple as that.
While this idea is great in theory I can already hear the negatives. We tried to steal second base with a 2 outs in the final inning and the winning run on third. These situations can't happen, and it's important to understand the maturity level of your team. I would not be able to do something like this unless my guys had a high Baseball IQ. It's something that needs to be taught, and practiced, a lot. We obviously don't want to run ourselves out of an inning, much less out of a game. This is where those practice days come in, and you coaching these things Monday through Thursday get to see a positive outcome of Friday. We constantly say things like "we can't play for you", and this allows those kids to take ownership of a part of the game, and take the team by the reigns and lead.
My guidelines for these groups are just as important as making the groups themselves. These guidelines teach a Baseball IQ, and let players start to learn why we do things when we do.
GREEN LIGHT GROUP GUIDELINES.
These are separated into 4 categories. Innings. (We want to be aggressive early in the game, but when it comes down to crunch time, I want to make decisions). Score. (Kids will try and steal bases when we're down by 12 runs, I've seen it happen, and I will always have a restriction on runs. I want to be aggressive, but also know runs are hard to come by) Outs (This one is more lenient. It usually depends on the hitter, and situation, but if I can put myself into scoring position I want my runner there) Count (The most important one. I want to steal bases in good runners counts, expect offspeed in the dirt, or to stay out of a ground ball double play. These counts usually prove to be the most universal on off speed pitches making it hard on a catcher to play the ball and make a throw)
INNINGS 1-3-(SCORE)-TIED, UP, OR DOWN BY <3 (OUTS) ANY (COUNT) 0-0,0-1,1-1,1-2,2-2,3-2
INNINGS 3-5-(SCORE)-TIED, OR UP (OUTS) ANY (COUNT) 0-0,0-1,1-1,1-2,2-2,3-2
INNINGS 5+ (SCORE)-UP ,(OUTS) ANY (COUNT)0-0,0-1,1-1,1-2,2-2,3-2
All of these rules are guidelines and a simple way to implement Green light groups in your team. I want to be known as a team that steals bases, and works hard on the basepaths. I feel that is a giant way to change the culture of the team, and to apply pressure to your opponent. While these are simple guidelines for the players and the groups, if I want to signal a steal, I'll simply signal a steal, but by teaching these kids the times in order to take advantage of pitchers and catchers, or unsuspecting defenders I will gain a team that will take ownership, and work hard on the bases. And being aggressive.