Why Are Baseball Players So Slow?



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When you’re watching MLB games you probably find yourself shouting at the screen quite often for them to pick up the pace, hoping that the players will just move just a little bit faster. In a game that’s all about getting runs, you might be wondering: why are baseball players so slow?

The reality is, most baseball players are actually fast runners, they just don’t always appear that way on the field. Players know when they need to go flat out, and when they can hold back. Additionally, the baseball skillset is a wide one, and having an accurate and powerful swing is generally more of an advantage than quick feet, so sprinting is rarely a priority.

Read ahead to truly understand why it seems like your favorite players are never moving as fast as you want them to around the bases, and why some baseball players look slow on the field.

Are Baseball Players Slow?

From the outside, it can feel like even pro ballplayers are not moving as fast as they could be on the field, but are they actually slow?

In reality, they’re pretty quick. Baseball players, particularly at the MLB level, are generally fast runners, it just doesn’t necessarily look that way at every point of a game.

According to Statcast, the average speed for a Major League player is around 27 ft/sec, with the fastest runners sometimes making a speed of around 30 ft/sec or more on their runs.

This is the kind of pace that you would expect from an athlete at that level, and it actually matches what Engineercalcs determined to be the average speed for 100-meter sprinters.

Why Do Some Baseball Players Look So Slow?

So, if baseball players are essentially as fast as sprinters, why doesn’t it always seem like they are moving at top speed? Well, sometimes it’s all about perspective.

Part of the reason players looks so slow is that you are so desperate for them to be moving faster. It’s the same reason why traffic always seems to crawl when you’re in a massive rush.

We all know the feeling of desperately hoping that your player is going to make the base and the crushing heartbreak when they fall short. We’re often so eager to see superhuman sprinting that even a great runner can look like they’re moving at a snail’s pace.

Why Don’t Baseball Players Sprint At Top Speed?

Of course, it’s not all in your head. A lot of the time, baseball players are simply not moving that quickly – or at least not moving as fast as they could be.

There are many reasons why this might be the case, and it’s all about what is best for the player at that moment. Sprinting is rarely as beneficial as it might seem, and it might simply not be possible in the position they are in.

Baseball players don’t always appear to be moving at top speed because:

  • They only run short distances. Moving around a baseball diamond is very different from running laps. The bases are only 30 yards apart, and players are often starting from a standstill or trying to maneuver around obstacles as they run.
  • They need to pay attention. Even when you’re trying to get to the ball as fast as possible in the outfield, you need to be aware of everything around you. Players need to keep an eye on each other as well as the ball and make calculated decisions, so sprinting at full speed is rarely a wise move.
  • They need to conserve energy. Baseball is all about the long game, and sprinting requires a huge burst of energy. With the average length of an MLB regular season game being more than three hours, it doesn’t make sense to burn everything for the sake of a single base early on.
  • Full speed is not always best. At the end of the day, if you don’t need to run fast then you shouldn’t. Players determine the amount of time they have and know whether or not they are going to have to move quicker to make the base on time, or get to a runaway ball.
  • Other players may be better sprinters. Some players look really slow in comparison to others on the field because that’s not their skill set. Heavy hitters might not move as quickly between the bases, but they give themselves more time with bigger swings.

Do Baseball Players Train In Sprinting?

Don’t worry – your team is certainly not neglecting their running speed when it comes to training. All baseball players train their sprinting skills, it’s just not necessarily everybody’s main focus.

When it comes down to it, sprinting is rarely the most important skill that a baseball player can have.

There are so many elements that are essential to being a the top of your game, and many of them are actually pretty counterproductive when it comes to sprint speed.

Stamina and strength are a huge part of baseball, and training your power and longevity are not conducive to high-intensity burst running. Maxing out your arm strength and accuracy to get bigger, better hits is often much more beneficial to your game than shaving a few milliseconds off your base times.

Summary: Why Are Baseball Players So Slow?

So, why are baseball players so slow? Well, the truth is that they’re not. Most pro baseball players are pretty fast sprinters, and the ones that aren’t simply don’t need to be.

On average, ballplayers make it to the base at a speed of around 27 ft/sec, which is actually the average speed of 100-metre sprinters. Considering the short distances, obstacles, and everything else going on, that’s a pretty fast pace to be running at. Often, the players look slow just because we wish they could be moving faster.

On top of that, the game isn’t actually about short bursts of speed, so it’s not always a priority in training or on the field. You’ve probably heard before that baseball is a marathon, not a sprint, and for the majority of the time conserving energy is more important than moving at max speed.

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