Do I have big league skills?
This is a question that every baseball player wants to know the answer in order have an idea what to work on so that they can get to that level of the game. But in order to answer this question you have to know a couple key pieces of information
- What level are my skills at now?
- What level do my skills need to be at in order to play professional baseball?
Then we have to look at the different categories of baseball skills that make up a baseball player:
- Mental Skills (mental toughness, leadership, grittiness, etc)
- Baseball Specific Skill (fielding, hitting, base running, pitching, etc)
- Athletic Skills (speed, power, agility, etc)
Both mental and baseball specific skills are tough to measure in regards to putting an exact number on them; sure coaches can tell you that you need to get mentally tougher or improve your hitting skills but they can’t give you an exact number or percentage to shoot for. I have never heard a coach say with certainty that if you improve your grittiness by 34% you will make it to the Big Leagues. Even baseball scouts can’t measure players with exact figures for mental and baseball skills, they can only rank them in comparison to other players which is more of an art than a science.
The athletic skills on the other hand can be measured and ranked accurately and thanks to some researchers and the Texas Rangers organization we now know just how much athletic skill one needs to play professional baseball.
For two years these researchers tracked 343 players within the Rangers organization and measured athletic attributes like agility, jump height, grip strength, power and sprinting speed along with physical characteristics like height, weight and body fat and they separated them into categories based on what level of professional baseball they played.
Here are some of the results:
|Vertical Jump (cm)||70.1||70.1||69.1||71.1||71.9|
|Vertical Jump Peak Power (watts)||10,798||10,823||11,127||11,435||11,542|
|Grip Strength (kg)||103.5||105.2||111.6||115.6||111.0|
|10-Yard Sprint (seconds)||1.57||1.59||1.58||1.55||1.52|
These results clearly demonstrate that the players in the Majors are in fact bigger, faster and stronger than the guys in the minors.
The New Baseball Stats – Athletic Stats
Baseball is a game of stats and the researchers did not ignore this fact. They looked at the players stats over the course of the two year period and found that certain tests were great at predicting a players ability to steal bases or hit home runs even within their level of baseball. Here are some highlights of these stats from this study and how it relates to the game of baseball.
Question: Want more Stolen Bases?
Answer: Improve your Ten Yard Dash
Rational: The 10 yard dash which measures acceleration which more important than top end speed because it is very rare to hit top speed in baseball. Acceleration is needed to track down a fly ball, cut off a grounder, steal a bag or beat out an infield single; all of these examples don’t have you hitting your top speed. The big league players on average had the fastest 10 yard dash times.
Question: Want to hit more home runs and increase your slugging percentage?
Rational: Power is the combination of force and velocity (for more on Power check out the “5 Athletic Tools”) so when you take the jump height (velocity) and combine it with force (body weight) you get power. The vertical jump scores of the big leaguers was higher than the other levels but the real story is when you look at the fact that they also weigh more than the other players which means that they are in fact more powerful. And baseball is a game of power.
This is a very interesting study because baseball is considered to be a very “skill” dominated sport where if a player is very good at hitting or pitching they don’t have to be the greatest athlete in order to reach the top level of the game. We are always reminded that baseball players are not athletes when we players like Babe Ruth and David Wells are used as examples but these two guys were athletic enough and possessed extreme levels of both baseball specific and mental skills which enabled them both to succeed. Today’s baseball is becoming more and more competitive and this study shows that athletic skills are playing a deciding role in who plays in the “Show” versus the minors.
The Study: Anthropometric and performance comparisons in professional baseball players.
The authors: Hoffman JR, Vazquez J, Pichardo N, Tenenbaum G
Where I found it: J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Nov;23(8):2173-8.