Today’s article is going to focus on running speed as it relates to the game of baseball. The kind of speed that raises your batting average with infield hits, the kind of speed that makes infielders rush plays. These are examples of real baseball speed.
When you think of the fastest athletes in the world you think of 100 meter sprinters how are undoubtably fast but do they have the kind of speed you want?
Running speed can be broken down into two basic categories (1) acceleration and (2) maximum running speed. The acceleration phase lasts roughly from the 0-30 meter mark and the maximum running phase kicks in after that until you reach your max running velocity which can’t really last much beyond 100 meters.
Which category do you think you should work on? Acceleration or Max Speed?
Well considering that the bases are only 27.4 meters (90ft) apart it becomes obvious that acceleration is more important than max speed. This should make you question the tradition of running a 60 yard dash as a means of scouting baseball players. Even if you rip a double, a triple on an inside the park home run you are running on a curve which doesn’t allow to reach top speed. If on defense you have run 60 meters in a straight line to field a ball you might want to question your defensive alignment. I wrote another article on the 60 yard dash that you can read here: New and Improved 60 yard dash
Types of Acceleration
Acceleration itself can divided into two phases (1) pure acceleration (0-15 meters) and (2) transitional acceleration (15-30 meters). Which one of these types of acceleration do you think is more important in baseball? Well if you caught the advanced on-line publication of Dr. Eugene Coleman’s and Dr William Amonette’s study you would know just by looking at the title.
Pure Acceleration is the Primary determinant of Speed to First-Base in Major League Baseball Game Situations
From 2007 to 2010 a coach in the Houston Astro’s bench sat in line with first base and timed how long it took 302 different players to reach first base. Those 302 players by the way represented approximately 67% of every position player in the majors during that time span. In total they timed 1896 sprint times from home to first unless the ball was hit by a pitcher, designated hitter or a lollygagger. If you don’t know what a lollygagger is watch this clip from the best baseball movie of all time Bull Durham.
In addition to timing them to first base, which is a pretty standard practice among baseball coaches, they also took a split time at the half way point between home and first. Home to first is 90 feet (27.4m) and the running lane starts exactly at the 45ft (12.7 m). They used the first half time split (0-45ft/12.7m) as their pure acceleration time and the second half (45ft/12.7m-90ft/27.4m) as their transitional acceleration time split.
Through the use of some fancy statics these authors were able to determine that the first half was more important than the second half in determining your total home to first time.
This is Great News
If you are an aspiring young baseball player trying to climb your way up the baseball ranks this is great news because now you know what you need to work on in order to make a real difference in your game. You need to work on your pure acceleration.
Here are times from the study broken down into positions in case you want to compare yourself.
|Cathers (n=35)||Fastest Time||75th percentile||50th percent||25th percent|
|Home to running lane||2.51||2.65||2.77||2.86|
|Home to first base||4.24||4.41||4.53||4.64|
|Home to running lane||1.97||2.53||2.61||2.7|
|Home to first base||3.84||4.24||4.36||4.46|
|Home to running lane||2.25||2.49||2.57||2.68|
|Home to first base||3.81||4.18||4.31||4.42|
The running technique that you need to get your body going from stand still is very different than the one you usually hear about when people are taking sprinting techniques which are geared towards max speed. First of all you must lean forward a lot more than normal. Try looking at the ground until you pass the start of the running lane. The first couple of steps are also going to be a lot slower in the sense that your feet will be in contact with the ground longer compared to top end speed. Since your feet will be touching the ground for more time it is important to put as much force into the ground as you can. Putting force into the ground is the name of the game. The more force you put into the ground the more you stand to benefit from when it comes back up and pushes you forward.
With our forward lean we really need to focus on pushing this force not only into the ground but behind us as well. Try thinking about pushing the ground away from you. This is pure physics: every action as an opposite and equal reaction. Newton’s Third Law in Action
The best way to increase the amount of force you put into the ground is with weight training. Use big compound exercises like Squats, Deadlifts, Bulgarian Split Squats, RDL’s and Hip Thrusts with high loads (75-90% of your max) for 2-6 reps and multiple sets. If these lifts are your primary focus in the weight room and you continue to improve upon them you will increasing your running speed or at least your potential to run faster.
Forget the 60 yard dash and Worry About your 10 yard dash
The 10 yard dash is becoming a more and more popular test for sports like baseball, football and any other sport that relies on bursts of acceleration. The test itself is pretty simple: mark off 10 yards and get someone who is good and quick with a stop watch to time you. Practicing this test will help you get better at accelerating plus it’s not too hard on the body since it hopefully won’t last more than 2 seconds.
How do you rank?
Below is a chart with some ten yard dash times from some published studies that looked at professional baseball players along with some times from college players from my own study that recently got accepted and will be published soon.
|Pro Players (Texas Rangers)|
|Level||10 yard dash|
|Pro Players (Mets, Reds, Tigers & Rangers)|
|Age||10 yard dash|
|NWACC & NAIA College Baseball Players|
|Throws||10 yard dash|
*These numbers are from my study
I hope that this shed some light on why acceleration is more important than max speed along with a couple of ideas and guideline to help you improve you ability to accelerate.
Graeme Lehman, MSc, CSCS
3. Mangine GT, Hoffman JR, Fragala MS, Vazquez J, Krause MC, Gillett J, Pichardo N. EFFECT OF AGE ON ANTHROPOMETRIC AND PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE MEASURES IN PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL PLAYERS. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Apr 10. [Epub ahead of print]
Baseball is a game of POWER, power pitchers and power hitters dominate the game and get the attention of coaches, scouts and fans. Every play in baseball lasts only a few seconds and the two main actions, swing and throwing, requires less than a second. Despite these facts endurance training has been emphasised for years which is especially true for pitchers who have been made to run countless about of poles.
The big question is why would you do endurance training if your sport requires nothing but short bursts of power?
Kill your Power Output!!!!
Enter today’s study that you should know about:
NONCOMPATIBILITY OF POWER AND ENDURANCE TRAINING AMONG COLLEGE BASEBALL PLAYERS
Authors: Matthew R. Rhea, Jeff R. Oliverson, Greg Marshall, Mark D. Peterson, Joseph G. Kenn and Fernado Naclerio Ayllo’n.
What did they want to find out?
They wanted to find how lower body power in baseball player was affected throughout a season with either endurance or sprint based metabolic/conditioning work.
Lower body power is a great thing to have in baseball and pretty much any other sport in the world. In another study the Texas Rangers organization tested all of their players from “A” ball all the way up to the Big Leaguers and showed that lower body power levels climbed higher and higher with each level of competition. To find out other differences between the minor league and the big league players check out the rest of the article here.
How did they find out?
They split 16 college baseball players into two groups. While both groups performed the exact same in-season weight training program 2-3 days per week they differed in how they performed their conditioning. One group performed sprints (10-30 reps, 15-60 meters, 10-60 sec rest) while the other group performed approximately 45 minutes of jogging or cycle 3 days per week.
Lower body power was measured before and after the season. To measure lower body power these authors used a TENDO FiTROdyne Powerlizer. This device measures jump height but also takes into consideration body weight.
Body weight is an important component of power because if two guys can both jump 24 inches off the ground the guy who weighs more needs to produce more power to get 24 inches off the ground.
Why Use the Vertical Jump?
The vertical jump is standard test for lower body power in the world of exercise physiology. While a baseball player’s ability to jump vertically is not stressed it does still indicate a level of athleticism and power. The study that I performed found that vertical jump height does not significantly correlate with throwing velocity but I would say it doesn’t hurt to have a guy that can jump high. If nothing else it indicates a good strength to weight ratio.
If you want to measure your own power get a calculator and find out how high your vertical jump is in centimeters (your vertical in inches/2.54) and how heavy you are in kilograms (your weight in pounds X 2.2) and follow the equations below for your peak and average power in watts with the Harman Formula.
Peak power = (61.9 x jump height (cm)) + (36.0 x body mass (kg)) + 1,822
If you want to compare yourself to the pro ball players in this other study that I mentioned here are their numbers. The big league players in the Rangers organization had average verticals of nearly 72 cm and weighed 101.2 kg which gave them a peak power of 11542 watts. Compare this to the “A” ball players who were 92kg with verticals of 70 cm which produced peak power of 10823 watts.
For the record Ndamukong Suh’s peak power is 12427 watts!!! Someone who weighs 100kg (220lbs) would need to jump a freaky 45 inches to produce as much power.
What did they find out?
From the beginning to the end of the season the group that performed endurance training saw their power levels drop an average of 39.5 watts. This isn’t a huge drop and it is understandable how at the end of the season your body might not be what is was at the start of the season. However the sprint group saw an average increase of 210.6 watts!!!
The results really come down to a principle in exercise physiology called specificity. This principal states that the training program needs to be sport specific. Obviously the most specific thing to throwing or hitting a baseball would be throwing or hitting a baseball but our bodies can only handle so much of these actions so we need to find a means of conditioning that DOES NOT hurt our ability to produce power.
What this means
Whenever you exercise you are training your body to get better at that particular action. So if you run long distances your body is going to make the adaptations necessary to get better at this type of training by improving your ability to use the slow twitch muscles rather than the fast twitch muscles.
Slow twitch muscles are made for endurance and as a result they have very poor power production while fast twitch muscles are great for short powerful bursts but bad for endurance. Although baseball games can last a long time there is approximately 13 seconds between pitches which is more than enough time for those fast twitch muscles to recover.
Check out the picture below of an endurance runner versus a sprinter. Which body would you say is better for throwing hard?
Take Home Message
Running is great for baseball players but the type of running you do is going to have a huge effect on how your body is going to respond.
Instead of conditioning with long distance running try:
- running sprints like they did in this study
- perform circuits of exercises likes lunges, pushups and rows
- push a sled or a car (be sure its in neutral and a safe environment)
- try interval poles where you alternate between jogging, sprinting and walking
but you might already have one
Until next time Stay Powerful