The Kansas City Royals’ miraculous run through the 2014 MLB playoffs exposed baseball fans across the country to the idea that, contrary to popular belief, a team could win in today’s game in a small market. A team could spend multiple first-round picks across several years and build a truly homegrown lineup and have success.
Meanwhile, over in Detroit, the Tigers could only sit and watch as the team they pulled away from late in the season to win their fourth consecutive American League Central Division title pushed the San Francisco Giants to Game 7 of the World Series. The Tigers had put together a team full of recognizable names — Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Justin Verlander, and so forth — and spent a lot of money in the process to end up being swept out of the American League Division Series by the Baltimore Orioles.
One team’s small-market success by no means defines a trend or proves one system better than another, but the question is worth asking: do the Tigers have the right approach in building their team?
Dear Major League Baseball baserunners,
I admire your athletic ability, your grit, and the skills it takes to face (and occasionally succeed against) the best pitchers the sport has to offer. I can only dream of being able to hit a 95 mile per hour fastball out of the infield let alone out of the park. In short, I’m impressed.
However, there’s one thing that bothers me more than just about anything when watching an MLB game, and it involves baserunning. Yeah, I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more hustle running out grounders, and maybe some more stolen bases, but that’s not what this is about. I’ll put it loud and clear, so there’s no beating around the bush:
STOP SLIDING HEADFIRST INTO FIRST BASE!
I say this for two reasons, one logical and one scientific. I’ll start with my favorite: the logical. You slide into second and third base for the specific reason that you can’t overrun those bases like you can first base and home plate. Sliding into those bases gets you to the base quicker while also giving you more contact points to the base as your body slides over the bag.
Compare that to having to slow down and come to a complete stop at second or third base without sliding. Which would you rather do? Slide, of course.
But imagine you could run through those bases. All it would take is a dead sprint at the base – beat the fielder there and you’re safe, simple as that. Still want to slide?
That’s exactly what first base is. You beat the ball/fielder to the bag and you’re safe. So why would you slide?
Let’s move on to the scientific side of this, and to help, I’ll enlist the ESPN Sport Science experts to demonstrate. Take a look:
As you can see just from the screenshot ESPN decided to use, running through the bag gets you to first base quicker than sliding headfirst. The 50 percent deceleration you see occurs when the runner leaves his feet and loses the propulsion from his feet. By running through the base, you get one more step – one more opportunity – to push off your feet and make one more lunge toward first.
So take it, please.
You have likely heard about the most recent inspiration for this: Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer slid into first base in an attempt to beat out a double play in the fourth inning of Game 7 against the San Francisco. After originally being ruled safe, the call was later reversed and Hosmer was doubled up.
The play was so close that it begged the question: would Hosmer have been safe running through the bag? Obviously we’ll never know, but take into account the 10 milliseconds difference (on average – Hosmer looked like he hit the dirt a little too far in front of first, which theoretically would have slowed him down more) that Hosmer lost by sliding, and the Royals’ fourth inning could have been completely different. Who knows, maybe Kansas City would be planning a World Series parade for Friday instead of San Francisco.
In closing, please never forget how much I love your sport, and that now that the World Series is over, we as fans must now wait four excruciatingly long months for the glorious day that competitive baseball returns. But when it does, please, please make it a point to rid yourself of this bad habit. It’ll make me, as well as countless other baseball fans across the world, much happier.