Stolen base attempts are some of baseball's most subtly exciting plays. A runner takes his lead from first, taking every inch he can get without straying far enough to get picked off, and stares intently at the pitcher. When the pitcher makes his first move from the set position, the runner must instantly read the pitcher's shoulder, knee, foot and every muscle to decide whether to take off for second or dive back to first.
A split second later, the pitcher is beginning his delivery to the plate while the runner accelerates toward second base. After the pitcher delivers and the runner is at full speed, the catcher must act next. He must recall his many hours practicing proper footwork and throwing mechanics and the hundreds of throws in front of dozens of stopwatches.
As baseball scouts and coaches know, every fraction of a second is crucial to keeping opposing baserunners at bay. Any small imperfection in his footwork or a slightly off-balanced throw will be enough of a delay for the runner to dive safely into second and move into scoring position.
Baseball Info Solutions has begun tracking catcher "pop times" at the major league level, measuring the time from when the pitch hits the catcher's mitt until his throw reaches second base. Obviously, the faster a catcher can get the ball to second base, the harder it is to steal bases against him and the more runs he will save his pitching staff.