With the Angels’ left fielder, Josh Hamilton, recently sidelined for up to two months for sliding into first base, we revisit the age-old argument on the science behind if baseball players should ever attempt to slide into first base instead of running through the bag.
Should you Rickey Henderson or Pete Rose that base?
The age old debate that has lasted since the days of little league has been “Which is more efficient; running or sliding into first base?”
Obviously, each method has its own pros and cons; running to first base means you have that extra step of velocity, but those on the other side of the argument state by sliding head first, you are using your extended body and can cover the final couple of steps faster, by diving forward than if you simply ran.
There’s the potential for less injury should you choose to run instead of slide head first but then again, you can get hurt in baseball in so many fluke circumstances anyway.
Sports Science wants to put the debate to rest and set up an experiment to hopefully close the case on this age-old argument.
They started off by constructing a base area complete with the same dirt used at Yankee and Dodger Stadium while having a college baseball player run as fast as 18mph into the base to test each theory.
Velocity, deceleration and kinetic forces were all factors in the experiment. I won’t spoil the results so watch on to see the results.
The video really tells the complete story of how your game plan should take effect should you need to make this decision on first base. The ten-millisecond difference in time may not seem like much but in a game of inches, that same 10 milliseconds of time equals to 3 inches, or the size of a baseball.
Besides the fact this Sports Science experiment bodes well for those running to first base or home plate, the argument dramatically changes when you consider second and third base. Should the same principals be used?
Of course not, but perhaps the next step for Sports Science is to fully test this theory by testing sliding head first vs feet first to 2nd and 3rd and the success rate of each. Perhaps then players can have a scientific answer and strategy as to which action to perform at which base.
Gotta love the physics of baseball and always wanting to be a better, whether by a millisecond or a millimeter.