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Friday, March 19, 2010

Speed in Baseball - Is the 60 Yard Dash Still Important?

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Speed in Baseball - Is the 60 Yard Dash Still Important?
By Thurman Hendrix

As many know by now, the average body size of Major League Baseball players has greatly increased since around the mid 1990's. Players began to hit more home runs than in the past and coaches stopped calling as many steal attempts in fear of running into outs. Go back and look at the stolen base leaders through the years. In 1982, Rickey Henderson stole 130 bases. Nowadays, anything over 40 is considered a huge year. However, speed is still a big factor in the recruiting process and ultimately may be what gets you a roster spot, a scholarship, or a higher draft pick and signing bonus!

The ability to run is considered one of the five tools that scouts look for when recruiting players. The others are the ability to hit for average, power, throwing-arm strength, and defense. It used to be that speed alone could earn you a roster spot on a major league team. Other than a few rare exceptions, this is no longer the case. Currently in the eyes of many professional scouts, running speed is probably the least important of the five tools. In the past you may have heard a scout say, "Wow, this guy can run. Can he hit at least a little?" Meaning that speed alone could have gotten someone to the big leagues. Any hitting ability would be icing on the cake. Now, you are more likely to hear "Wow, this guy can run, but can he hit?" Meaning, it's great that the player can run, but they wouldn't get called up unless they were a major league hitter. This is, however, starting to change as the league is beginning to clean itself up. Home run totals are down the past few years and major league organizations are starting to put greater emphasis back into speed.

It may sound as if I'm saying speed is not that important. That is not the case at all! While it is true that speed is less important at the major league level, it does still play a huge factor in the high school and college game. This is especially true among teams that play in large, open ballparks and do not hit a lot of home runs. Also, even though professionally it is not as valued as it once was, speed is still a huge factor in your overall draft status and it can even make you appear to be a better hitter by boosting your batting average from beating out infield singles or bunts.

Scouts come across thousands of players and have the tough job of trying to predict who will succeed at the next level. Speed will obviously be the deciding factor when choosing between two players that have equal ability when comparing their other tools. During the recruiting process, speed gets you noticed. If you have ever been to a showcase, one of the first things they will look at is your 60 yard dash time. The purpose of this is to immediately weed some players out. If your 60 time is not where it needs to be for your position, they may have already crossed you off of their "watch" list.

I like to say that when assessing your five tools, each can be classified as a liability, average, or a tool. In terms of speed, a liability would mean that you are so slow for your position that scouts may not even look at what else you can do. Unless you are a super-freak hitter you are probably not getting to the next level. Average speed would mean that you are just fast enough to play at the next level, but it is not really going to impress either. Having speed as a tool means that you run better (sometimes exceptionally better) than most other players at your position. It is not the only thing looked at in scouting, but it is definitely a huge bargaining chip in your favor. Think of it as a credential on a resume. A doctorate degree looks better than a master's degree, a master's degree looks better than a bachelor's degree, which looks better than a GED, which looks better than no degree at all. Obviously, if interviewing for an upper level position, the job recruiter will first look at the person with the doctorate because he has the most credentials. The same holds true in the world of baseball recruiting. In essence, you are interviewing for an upper level position. The more credentials and tools on your resume, the more likely you will be looked at.

To learn how to improve your 60 yard dash and baseball specific speed visit:

Thurman Hendrix is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and specializes in training athletes. As a former pro baseball player he will help you increase speed in a very short amount of time.

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Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick