Why The 60-Yard Dash Is A Poor Way To Test Baseball Speed
As I become more involved with strength and speed training with baseball players it is increasingly obvious that the 60-yard dash is a bad metric to use to test “true baseball speed.”
I put “true baseball speed” in quotes because once we step back and evaluate the sport we will realize the unique aspects of the sport that define what good speed truly is for baseball players.
That’s the thing here, each sport has different components that help us find ways to effectively train speed in the most efficient manner possible. So, in order to attack this topic effectively I will first break down the two phases of a sprint (acceleration and top speed), the nature of the 60-yard dash, sports specific speed to baseball (that is, what actually happens in a game) and lastly my suggestion for a better test for linear baseball speed.
The Two Phases of A Sprint
A linear sprint is made up of two phases, the acceleration phase and the top speed phase.
The Acceleration Phase
The acceleration Phase is the first 15 or so yards of a linear sprint. Two characteristics define the acceleration phase:
1. Body/Positive Shin Angle: We try to achieve a forward lean to gather momentum and overcome gravitational forces.
2. Stride Length: After consistent analysis, it is shown that lengthened strides, rather than shorter and choppier steps, are the fastest way to get from point A-B linearly.
The Top Speed Phase
The second phase of the spring is the top speed phase. Again, two characteristics define the top speed phase:
1. Upright Body Angle: We have now built up forward momentum and our body shifts into more of an upright position.
2. Cycle Like Pattern of the Lower Half: The strides now become more cycle like. Think more top to bottom knee drive versus lengthened acceleration strides.
The Nature of The 60-Yard Dash
Now that we understand the phases of the sprint we can begin to discuss what is present during the 60-yard dash.
Essentially, only twenty-five percent of the 60-yard dash is spent on acceleration (15 out of 60 yards). This means that 75% (45 of 60 yards) is spent in the top speed phase. Keep this in mind as we move forward.
Baseball Sport Specific Speed
Linear speed is an important part of the game of baseball. For ease of understanding here I will break this down in three phases: home to first after contact, base running, and lastly defensively (particularly in outfielders).
Home To First Base After Contact
This is probably the aspect of baseball that involves the top speed phase of sprinting the most, but you’ll quickly see why the 60 is faulty at best.
As I mentioned previously, 75% of the 60 is spent in top speed. The distance from home to first is ninety feet, or thirty yards.
So, at most 50% of the sprint from home to first is spent in top speed. And this if we are only accounting for infield groundballs where a runner isn’t peeling out and heading to second base.
Already, we see why the 60 is a faulty test.
A base runner clearly does not perform a linear sprint for long due to the need to round the bags as they move around the bases. But what about first base to second base on a steal?
Again, this base path is ninety feet, or thirty yards. So, at most only 50% of a steal (15 yards in each phase) would be spent in top speed. However, this assumes the runner would be starting on the first base bag and not sliding into second. Once we begin to break things down this is how it shakes out:
• Even with a modest lead we can assume that a runner is roughly 8-10 feet off the first base bag. (Start to keep count here).
• Now, we can add in the 10 feet needed to slide into second base.
• Doing the math? We are up to just over 20 feet. This means the actual time spent in a linear sprint is just under 70 feet, or, just over 20 yards. Now, the time spent in the top speed of the sprint has dropped to a staggering 25% (5 of 20 yards)!!
Lastly, we’ll look towards defense. Infielders obviously do not need to range much outside of their respective positions so we’ll shift to outfielders.
At most an outfielder is probably 50-60 feet from the fence/wall. This also isn’t taking into account that they aren’t running full speed while tracking a ball. Even if they are chasing a ground ball in the gap they are most likely trying to round it so they wouldn’t be running in a linear manner.
I rest my case here.
My Suggestion For A New Test For Baseball Speed
As you can guess, my suggestion for the test of linear baseball speed would be the 20-yard dash. In my opinion, the 20-yard is more effective due to the fact that more of baseball is spent in acceleration than top speed.
Gauging a baseball player’s speed with a test that is mostly spent in top speed when they mostly play the sport in acceleration is inaccurate.
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Do you by chance have any normative data to categorize athletes based on your 20 yard dash suggestion? Assuming you have implemented this with your athletes.