The First 15 Yards

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The game of baseball is all about getting out of the box quickly and reaching max speed as fast as you can. When getting out of the box, you need to run as hard as you can for the first 15 yards. If you are slow over the first 15 yards, it is nearly impossible to make up time toward the end of a run. Baseball is a game of inches, so if you can take a tenth of a second off the first 15 yards of a run, it will make a huge difference at the end, Think about how many bang-bang plays you were involved in last season. How often did you start slow and try to accelerate when the fielder bobbled the ball? How often were you safe? If you consistently get out of the box quickly and run as hard as you can for the first 15 yards, you can significantly improve your on-base percentage.

I have recorded times from home to first and from base to base in game situations for over 15 years. The average RHB, when he runs “all out” gets to first base in 4.35 sec. LHBs run it in 4.32 sec. For the past five years, I have been getting splits from home to half-way to first base (15 yards) and from half way to first base. The average player runs the first 15 yards in 2.57 sec and the last 15 yards in 1.70 sec (total = 4.35 sec). The fastest player, Michael Bourn, runs the first half in 2.39 sec and the second half in 1.46 sec (total = 3.85 sec.). Approximately 95% of his infield hits last season were bang-bang plays in which he got to first in 3.91 to 4.01 sec. The slowest player, Prince Fielder, runs the first half in 2.91 sec and the second half in 1.85 sec (total time = 4.76 sec).

Now let’s talk about why the first 15 yards are so important. Let’s assume that Michael Bourn hits a ground ball and, because he thinks he will be out, doesn’t run hard out of the box. Let’s say that he drops his head and runs the first half at 85% of max speed (2.75 sec). Most runs to first base in game situations are at 85% of max speed. Now what happens if the player drops the ball and Michael tries to accelerate over the last 15 yards? His best time over the last 15 yards is 1.46 sec. He can’t run faster than
1.46 over the last 15 yards, no matter how hard he tries. If you add 1.46 sec to his slow start (1.46 sec + 2.75 sec), he will get to first in 4.21 sec. If the fielder doesn’t throw the ball away, he will be out! Why? Because his bang-bang plays take 4.01 sec or less and he ran 4.21.

If you break hard out of the box and the infielder misplays the ball, you can continue to run hard and have a good chance of being safe. If he makes a good play, you can slow down over the last 15 yards if you need to. If you are slow out of the box and then try to kick it in, you have almost no chance of being safe.

You can run the first 15 yards fast and improve your chances of being safe on a bobbled ball, or you can run the last 15 yards all out and still be out. Either way, you are going to run hard for 15 yards. Why not make it the first 15 yards and improve your odds? You can be on base with a chance to score or be in the dugout out kicking yourself for giving up an out.

Gene Coleman, Ed. D., CSCS*R, FACSM

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