Time and Distance/Distance and Time Relationships
The final game of the Red Sox and the Indians provided a textbook example of two very important elements in baseball –especially for pitchers. And they are the relationship between Time & Distance and Distance & Time. A short summary of events last night that orbited these relationships are:
1st – When he could, Jake Westbrook of the Indians pitched to the double play. Why and how does it work? First of all, it takes about four(4) to four.five(4.5) seconds on average for a batter to make contact, uncoil, then travel ninety(90) feet to first. A base runner on first, who’s check’d by the pitcher for a respectful lead of … say, ten to fifteen feet can cover the distance from first to second – 80 – 75 feet, in even less time. Hence, Westbrook would delivered a pitch that would be rocketed to short for a 6 – 4 – 3. So, the hit to short took about over 1.5 seconds (give-or-take), the shortstop’s throw to second in about 1.25 – seconds, then the second baseman’s throw to first in about 1.25 seconds. All of these times consider retrieving the ball from the glove and split-second reactions to release the ball. So, 1.5 seconds for the hit, 1.25 to second base is about 2.75 seconds which is pretty close to beating and incoming runner, then turning the throw to first in about 1.25 seconds is just enough to beat the batter runner. Total elapsed time is 1.5 + 1.25 + 1.25 = 4 seconds , which is why the play at first on a double play is so close. Next time you’re in a game, do the math yourself.
2nd – The ball is hit and goes just past third base and bounces into shallow left field, which in turn is out of reach of the shortstop – but has the right fielder, Ramirez , charging in. With Kenny Lofton, a solid base runner, and still with a full head of steam rounding third with Ramirez in shallow left just gaining possession – it should have been a no brainier to waive him home. But, before you claim Monday morning guesswork on my part, consider this:
Lofton would have had at least ten(10) feet into the ninety(90) foot base path for a total of eighty(80) feet to travel and under a full gallop. His slowest time would have been about 3.75 seconds.
Any left fielder who gains possession in shallow left would find it a true test of athletic prowess to beat that time – in addition to being right on the money. Oh, it’s been done – but rarely.
And while I’m on the issue of a base runner on third base – don’t forget the last World Series with Jeff Suppan on third with a decent lead and his teammate hit a line drive to short – the shortstop looked Suppan back a bit then tossed all the way across the infield to first – with Suppan dead in his tracks. Suppan could have beaten any resulting throw from short to first then home. In fact, the next time your watching any game – time the throw from short to first, then multiply that time by it by 175% and you’ll come pretty close to the total elapsed time that a fielding play 6 – 3 – 2 evolves (and that’s if everything goes off like clockwork!).
Although these times may not reflect your level of competition you should study these relationships because they will definitely effect your pitch selection – not to mention your competency as a competitor. In fact, if your club is scheduled to play against a team that’s noted for their contact hitting & running game, I’ll bet you even money you’ll notice a big change in the rotation as well as the battery selection for that day.
And by the way, for those of you who are planning on a college career with baseball in the mix - if your banking on a spot with a good club, regardless of the level, don’t be surprised if some of the interview questions cover distance and time issues/plays. Your game knowledge of this sport can give you just the edge you need when the coaches are making their final selection. And it happens more often than you think.