Basic Time and Distances of Base Runners

The table below is a good indication of the distance and time relationships of base runners. These times, in seconds, are for highly competitive play. The base time is 4.05 seconds, the time it takes a batter runner to cover ninety feet … from home plate to first after making contact with the ball.
All other times are related to this constant distance (90 feet) with less distance to cover as the base runner takes a greater and greater lead.

Why is this so important? Because when a base runner takes a lead off any base, first base especially, he/she compresses the time, in seconds, that the fielding unit has to make a play. And as easy as that sounds - the fielding unit making a play, things happen that inject a ton of variables. Like reaction time of the player who first fields the ball, the level of awareness of the first fielder with the ball and all other fielders that follow up with the play, and so forth. And when a play is not in the works, base runners stealing second are a major concern due to the distance that the pitch has to travel, then the catcher has to react and throw a pin-point ball down range across the entire infield - all under 3.3 to 3.6 seconds. In fact, catchers are graded on this and part of that grade is called “pop time”.

Now do these times (below) only pertain to base runners? Not really. Say you’re the third base coach, and you have a base runner on third. This base runner takes a ten (10) foot lead off of third - which is normal, and your batter lines a shot to the short. The SS gets the ball, gives a look-back at your base runner on third, then throws to first. Your base runner still had a ten (10) foot lead at the time of the throw - so, Third Base Coach, do you send your base runner home? YOU BET YOU DO! With a ten (10) foot lead off third, your base runner only has to go eighty feet. So this base runner should be able to eat up eighty feet in only 3.60 seconds. Now compare this time to the time it usually takes a SS to throw all the way across the infield to first, the first baseman to gain possession of the ball, react to your base runner going home, then turn and throw right on the money to the catcher covering the dish. Your base runner should make it in time - with a few tenths of a second left on the clock.

Next time your on the field, try these times out for yourself. In fact, make a scale for fielding throws like the one I just describe, or how about relay throws from the outfield to cut-off infielders then to various bases or even home. See if your base runners at various parts on the skins can beat or be beaten by any of those times. It’s important to know where on the skins a base runner is and his/her chances of beating any fielder’s throw to any base.

Coach B.

More great stuff!

When I teach pitchers about being quick to the plate, they have a sort of intuitive understanding of the need to be quick. But then I break down the times for them so they understand how much time they have as a pitcher:

runner's time - catcher's pop time = pitcher's time

And then I put a stop watch on them. Boy you can just see the light bulb go on. That’s when they really “get it”.

I’ll always remember the time when Ed Lopat asked me how I was doing with holding runners on base. I told him I thought I had a problem with that, first because I was righthanded and second because I didn’t have much occasion to work from the stretch, very rarely having a runner on base to contend with. So one Sunday morning he spent a couple of hours with me on just this—holding runners on. We started off, as he put it, with “something easy, like a bump on a log—a runner who isn’t going anywhere”—and worked all the way up to the definite threat to steal. We practiced with phantom runners that morning, and we did all sorts of pickoff moves and throws to bases other than first. A few weeks later he had some guys with him—I thought they were kids he had rounded up to be infielders so we could get in a concentrated pitcher’s fielding practice, but it turned out they were a few of the Yankees’ second-line infielders—and we practiced with live base-runners. That was a good stiff workout and a lot of fun, and later he told me that he thought I would get a kick out of getting in some fielding practice with them. Believe me, I did, and the next time I pitched someone got on base via a bloop single and I picked him off with a snap throw. Nice. :slight_smile:

This is pretty interesting. Are these times based on pro players or high school players?

I would have to say professional level. I played with a very good team that might well have been called semipro except that no one got paid. We had a manager who had been a semipro infielder and had good baseball savvy, and we always played major league rules all the way, and when you play the way the major leaguers do you’re bound to win an awful lot of games. I was one of those exasperating sidearmers who used the crossfire a lot, a finesse pitcher with not much speed but with a whole closetful of breaking stuff and the control and command to go with it (my pitching coach was an active major leaguer), and for a little more than two decades I had a great time making the batters look very, very silly with the stuff I had.
When it comes to holding runners on base and pickoff moves—as Ed Lopat told me, there are different base runners, ranging from the bump on a log to the definite threat to steal and everything in between, and you just get a sense of which one you’re dealing with. Of course, you need to be much more observant—and a lot quicker—with the threat to steal than you would be with the guy who isn’t going anywhere. :slight_smile:

[quote=“Coach Baker”]The table below is a good indication of the distance and time relationships of base runners. These times, in seconds, are for highly competitive play. The base time is 4.05 seconds, the time it takes a batter runner to cover ninety feet … from home plate to first after making contact with the ball.
All other times are related to this constant distance (90 feet) with less distance to cover as the base runner takes a greater and greater lead… . . [/quote]

Interesting CoachB. I’m about to embark on an experiment to see if I can relate foot speed to any batting statistics, and to perhaps use it to choose players to put in batting positions.

What I was planning on doing, was getting crack of the bat to 1st times with a stop watch, but I want to do it in a game. Right now I’m planning on getting a time from both a ground out and a hit. I’m kinda worried that lack of hustle is gonna prove to be a big obstacle, but we’ll see what happens.

There was one game I remember in which Yogi Berra—this may have been in the late 1940s—hit a sharp grounder to second; and what did he do? He lollygagged down to first and was thrown out. At the end of the inning Joe DiMaggio asked him if he was feeling all right. Yogi said he was. Then DiMaggio lit into him: “Then why the h— didn’t you run it out?” And that was the last time Yogi did that; from then on he hustled all the way.
Yes, lack of hustle might be a factor, so you need to watch out for that. 8)

A friend of mine insists that what I intend to do doesn’t prove anything because it isn’t an accurate representation of a player’s foot speed from home to 1st, and is therefore invalid. While I agree that it likely won’t provide the “fastest” time, it will be the most “valid” time. After all, players get to choose how they’ll run out a ball they put into play. Its understandable that a ball hit directly to Derek Jeter in a game the Yankees are up 11-2 isn’t gonna be run out at bust a$$ speed, but in general that isn’t the case.

But in general, we’re talking about one of the most basic of baseball fundamentals here. It’s the difference between a player being perceived as someone who’s a leader and someone a coach makes every effort to get in the lineup, and some snotty little prima Donna who thinks his stuff doesn’t stink.

Heck, if I can talk the coach into it, I’m gonna make allowances for not just the two ways of running to 1st, but the drop dead feet in the block time as well. That way it would be even easier to pick out the guys who “dog” it, then make an attempt to correct it. Ya never know. It could be an easy way for a coach to make cuts the following season when things get close. I mean, if you have a choice, who do you want on the team, a hustler or a dog?:wink:

scorekeeper,

I admire your plan for field work, and, you wanting to look deeper into the relationships of player performance.

However - I’d like to make a suggestion towards your stewardship of player management and a little advice for your future in coaching. Please do not take anything that I’m about to suggest as personal - this is pure business.

One of the very first clubs that I was with, had a bench coach that was all business - nothing pleasant about the man at all. He had norms, or benchmarks, for everything. During one night game, early in the season, our very first batter lines a frozen rope to short, and with little or not effort, the throw to first was so far ahead of the batter runner, that the ball could’ve changed time-zones, and still got the guy out.

Our man gave up on the play by pulling up, about half way to first.

After coming in the dugout, placing his helmet in a boxed hole and sitting, our bench coach comes over to the man and says…
" if you have a problem with your legs, we can find another player to replace you".

The Bench Coach then turned around to our dugout full of players and says, " hey, any one of you people want to take this guys place?"

Everyone looked eager to push this man out of the way, just so they could get their shot.

Enough said. We never had anyone pull up on a hit, give up on base path, or came out of the box with a half hearted effort.

So, the next time you have a player who gives up on a hit, ask him/her if there’s something wrong with their legs. Then turn to your dugout/ bench and ask if anyone would like to take this player’s place.

Coach B.

scorekeeper,

My last post on this topic of “running out plays” did not fully read and comprehend your ending post …

" Heck, if I can talk the coach into it, I’m gonna make allowances for not just the two ways of running to 1st, but the drop dead feet in the block time as well. That way it would be even easier to pick out the guys who “dog” it, then make an attempt to correct it. Ya never know. It could be an easy way for a coach to make cuts the following season when things get close. I mean, if you have a choice, who do you want on the team, a hustler or a dog?"

You obviously have more on the ball and intuition on the topic than I gave you credit for.

I apologize for the lack of comprehension on my part. You deserved better from me.

Coach B.

[quote=“Coach Baker”]…You obviously have more on the ball and intuition on the topic than I gave you credit for.

I apologize for the lack of comprehension on my part. You deserved better from me.[/quote]

No apology necessary, especially with the wonderful pat on the back. :wink:

Unless you know me from some other board, you couldn’t possibly know that I have never been an on-field coach, and don’t intend on ever being one. I’m strictly a keeper of the scorebook and a statistician. All I do is make facts available to everyone in as many ways as possible, and let them come to their own conclusions.

This particular windmill I’m about to tilt with, foot speed in relation to the stats, came about because of a recent project I’ve been working on with someone to try to come up with a way to allow the computer to set the batting order.

No matter what goes on, when it comes to picking which player to put in the #1 BPOS, speed in some way shape or form enters into it. The problem became how to combine foot speed with the other things that would help choose that player, but even before that, foot speed has to be defined.

When looking for concrete ways to measure foot speed, it could be done using straight SBs and/or SBPct, or if one really wanted to get fancy, it could be taking the percentage of SBs or SBPct as relative to the team. But let’s face it. There really isn’t any substitution for a stopwatch, and since baseball is typically a game requiring a burst of speed less than 180’, getting a home to 1st time is really the most accurate representation of a player’s foot speed, even better than a 40 yard sprint IMO.

But I’m a guy who’s pretty open to possibilities, so I’ve made allowances in the program I use, to store foot speed data in several different ways. I started with home to 1st, 2nd. 3rd, and home again times. Then I added 40 and 60 yard times as well because they all represent a different facet of foot speed. Then, as I was considering those things, it was pointed out to me that the times from home to 1st were often tempered by the situation. So, I’m adding a h-1st time for a routine ground out and for when the hitter has to hot foot it down the line, like trying to beat out an IF hit or avoid a DP. Right now I’m really leaning toward doing away with the h-2, h-3, and h-h times, only because getting those times in a game might never happen.

When I saw your post about the times on the base paths, it got me thinking again, and that’s when I figgered having that baseline stopwatch speed could be put to good use, especially if related to real world speeds.