Building Baseball Speed – Part 1

I have been addicted to watching every Statcast video on MLB.com I can get my hands on.  The combination of highlight reel plays coupled with the athletic stats these big league athletes produce has me hooked!!

stat

The videos that I love the most are when they show you how fast these guys can run, both offensively and defensively.  Seeing the stats like speed, time, acceleration and distance has me really excited as a baseball fan and coach.

These kinds of stats can serve as goals for young player to strive towards reaching.  Coaches can use this type of information to help develop better training programs and practices drills to increase speed so that players can reach the next level.

Helping you players get faster will be the focus of this series of articles geared towards developing big league speed.  Here are the topics that I will cover in this 3 part series.

  1. How fast are the big league guys and how do you compare?

  2. What kind of training should you be doing to get faster?

  3. What are some cues and drills that can improve your running mechanics?

Recently I have started to consult remotely with a college baseball team and this was one area that I was asked to help improve with their players.  Since I am not a sprinting expert I wanted to use this as an opportunity to learn as much as I can and then try to teach it in a practical manner. By the way if are interested in having me help you out with your team (or individuals) let me know contact me at graeme.lehman@gmail.com.

How fast are these guys?

The short answer is that these guys are fast, really fast!!!  This is no big surprise but what I really like about these Statcast videos is that is shows how quickly these athletes get going over these relatively short distances.  When I say “relatively short” I am comparing these distances to the 60 yards that baseball uses to tests its players.

One of the longer distances that I have seen all year is when Blue Jays second baseman Ryan Goines covered 125 feet in foul territory into shallow right field.

Goins 40 Yard Dash

goins

This long run is just little bit more than 40 yards which again demonstrates why we need to focus on developing acceleration when it comes to producing better baseball athletes.  I’ve written many times about acceleration and its importance and how we need to at the very least adapt the 60 yard dash in order to make it a more valuable evaluation tool.

I could rant on all day about this kind of stuff so I will stop there and show you some of the speeds, distances, times and accelerations from some of the MLB’s best and fastest players.

Offensive Speed

escobar

Player Max Speed Time Accel Play
D. Gordon 20.6 14.3 sec 7.5 Inside the Park
M. Trout 20.6 NA 9.34 stolen base
B. Buxton 21.4 11.3 NA Triple
G. Springer 21.4 6.89 NA Second to home
B. Hamilton 22.3 3.05 NA Drag Bunt

Video link – Blazing Up the Basepaths

Defensive Speed

Here are the athletic stats from some of the quickest and fastest defenders in the league.  I’ve added links for each one of these plays in case you want to see what these stats look like in a real game situation.  Speed is measured in miles per hour (mph) and distance is feet.

pillar

Player Max Speed Distance Position Play
K.Pillar 19.1 73 CF Right-Center Gap
A. Simmons 14.5 NA SS GB in the 5.5 Hole
C. Correa 14.9 71.2 SS Shallow center
D. Gregorius 14.2 24.67 SS GB in the 5.5 Hole
M. Trout 19.7 76.6 CF Left Center Gap
B. Hamilton 23.3 76 CF Shallow center

This type of information is great but if we are going to use it as measuring stick we have to know what these numbers mean so that we can test ourselves.

Are You a Fast Runner?  

Very few people play in a league where they can get this type of feed back that Statcast provides during actual games.  So for the rest of us non-MLB players we are going to have use the speeds that we get from athletic testing like the 60 yard dash and hopefully shorter distances like the 10 and/or 30 yard dash.

Here are some sprint (10 yard dash times) taken during tests rather than games so we can compare apples to apples.  I got these from my Wanna Get Drafted Out of High School and Wanna Get Drafted Out of College Articles.

Pro Players 20-22
Time (sec) Speed (m/s) Kinetic Energy (J)
10 Yard Dash 1.63 5.61 1414.91
Pro Players 16-19
Time (sec) Speed (m/s) Kinetic Energy (J)
10 Yard Dash 1.65 5.54 13171.6

The problem with shorter sprints is that they are harder to accurately measure with just a stop watch, the margin for error is just too high.  Recently I have been using the slow motion capability of my iPhone and an app that tells me the exact time between specific frames. By measuring the number of frames it takes the player to go from the “starting frame” when they make their first movement to the “finish frame” when the first part of their body passes through two cones you can get an exact time at any distance.

I recommend doing a 10, 30 and 60 yard dash. Below are some charts that show you how fast you are going in miles per hour (mph) based on your times.

Speed Charts (average mph)
10 Yard Dash 30 Yard Dash 60 Yard Dash
Time mph Time mph Time mph
1.0 20.4 3.0 20.4 6.0 20.4
1.1 18.6 3.1 19.8 6.1 20.1
1.2 17.0 3.2 19.2 6.2 19.8
1.3 15.7 3.3 18.6 6.3 19.5
1.4 14.6 3.4 18.0 6.4 19.2
1.5 13.6 3.5 17.5 6.5 18.9
1.6 12.8 3.6 17.0 6.6 18.6
1.7 12.0 3.7 16.6 6.7 18.3
1.8 11.4 3.8 16.1 6.8 18.0
1.9 10.8 3.9 15.7 6.9 17.8
2.0 10.2 4.0 15.3 7.0 17.5
2.1 9.7 4.1 15.0 7.1 17.3
2.2 9.3 4.2 14.6 7.2 17.0
2.3 8.9 4.3 14.3 7.3 16.8
2.4 8.5 4.4 13.9 7.4 16.6
2.5 8.2 4.5 13.6 7.5 16.3
2.6 7.9 4.6 13.3 7.6 16.1

The speeds you are seeing here are “Average Velocity” which is very different from “Max Velocity” that we see in the Statcast videos.

To give you an idea of the difference between Max and Avg velocity let’s look at the fastest man on the earth, Usain Bolt.  This guy can go 100 meters in 9.58 seconds which gives him an average velocity of  23.34 mph>  He obviously isn’t going this fast for the first part of the race when he is accelerating but once he does get up to speed roughly between the 60 and 80 meter mark he is going 27.78 mph.

start

Much less than 23.34 mph

top speed

Top Speed of 27.78 mph

If you look at this video of Billy Hamilton you will see how and when he reaches his top speed of 23.3 MPH just before starting to dive head first for that ball that was only 76 feet away.  I will touch on acceleration and how they measure it later in this series.

Here is a look at the differences between average and max velocities of the base runners seen in the video above.

Running Velocity (mph)
Player Max Avg
D. Gordon 20.6 19.0
B.Buxton 21.4 18.0
G. Springer 21.4 16.0
B. Hamilton 22.3 20.1

*to see how I came up with these numbers go to the end of this article*


What’s Your Max Speed?

The easy and somewhat accurate way of doing this would be by subtracting your 30 yard dash time from your 60 yard dash time to see how long it took you to cover those last 30 yards once you built up some speed.  This only gives you your average time for those last 30 yards but its better than nothing.

The more baseball specific way would be to subtract your 10 yard time from your 30 yard time because this is a much more realistic distance that a player might have to cover.

An even better way would be to use I described above with the iPhone can a couple of cones about 10 feet apart towards the end of the 60 yard dash you could get a pretty close idea of your Max Speed.

Are you a Powerful Runner?

Power is your combination of size and speed and in baseball this vitally important. Being really fast is great but in order to hit and throw hard it really helps to have high levels of body weight (ideally in the form of muscle).  The players that I have selected here are some of the lighter players in the league which is part of the reason that they can produce these high speeds since they don’t have to bring much body weight with them.  Sprinting speed is all about relative strength.  How strong are you relative to your body weight.

When it comes to throwing and hitting we are more concerned with a term called absolute strength/power where we combine the speed and size to get power in the form of Kinetic Energy (KE) which is measured in Joules (J).

Here are some of the power numbers that these base runners produced and if you scroll back up you can see the power that pro players between the age of 16 & 22 produced during testing.

Powerful Runners
Player lbs m/s KE
D. Gordon 170 8.5 2793.77
B.Buxton 190 8.07 2812.77
G. Springer 215 7.17 2511.89
B. Hamilton 160 8.98 2934.73

buxton

Check out this table below to get an idea of how much power you can produce at various body weights if you could run a 10 yard dash in 1.75 seconds.

Ten Yard Dash of 1.75 sec
9.14 meters/1.75 sec = 5.22 m/s
Weight (lbs) Power (KE)
150 928.92
160 990.85
170 1052.78
180 1114.71
190 1176.64
200 1238.56
210 1300.49
220 1362.42

By now you should have a pretty good idea of the speed and size of professional players.  Now you should figure out just how fast you can get going then doing a couple of easy calculations to see what kind of power you can produce.  I’ve provided you with the information that you need to calculate power at the end of this article.

Once you figure this out you have your “Point A” and if you want to play big league baseball the numbers you see above can serve as your “Point B”.

images

The next couple of articles will be aimed at providing you with the kind of information that you need to help you get from Point A to Point B.

Graeme Lehman, MSc, CSCS

 

How I got some of these numbers

To get the average speed of the MLB players running on the basepaths I just divded their distance by their time.  The time was provided for me on Statcast but to get the distance I had to do some research because we all know that you run further than the 90 feet between the base’s.

This site posted a figure of 133 yards compared to the 120 yards it would be if you went in straight lines with 90 degree turns.  So I just used this figure (133 yards) for any of the runs that were more than one base.  For a triple I took 3/4 of that distance and for George Springer scoring from second I took half of that number but subtracted the 18 foot lead he had.

2012-09-14-BaseFig1D

 

Power

To get your power in the form of Kinetic Energy all you need to know is your speed in meter per second (m/s) and your weight in kilograms (take you weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2)

Let’s say you ran a 10 yard dash 1.7 seconds and weighed 185 lbs.

This works out to 5.4 m/s and 84 kg

Kinetic Energy = (5.4*5.4)*(84/2)

 

 

 

 

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