Saturday, March 04, 2006

Baseball 101: Getting to First Base

Korea and Japan have outlasted China and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), to reach the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic. Unfortunately for the Koreans, they'll be moving on without their star and cleanup hitter, Kim Dong Joo.

The shoulder injury third baseman and cleanup hitter Kim Dong Joo suffered Friday sliding head-first into first base has knocked him out of the Classic -- and beyond. While discussing his team's victory, Korea manager Kim In-Sik broke the news that Dong Joo has a broken bone in his left shoulder and won't play again anytime soon...[Manager] In-Sik said the injury could sideline the star third baseman for up to three months.

Sliding into first base isn't "gutsy" baseball- it is pure stupidity. I happened to be watching the game- Kim Dong Joo wasn't trying to avoid a tag at first (the only time one might be thoughtfully inclined to slide), he was trying to beat the throw. It is a common misconception that one can get to first faster by sliding. This is ridiculous. First off, a player who maintains his speed down the line the entire way will arrive at first faster- sliding necessitates ending his stride and slowing down- he has stopped running and is now "coasting", in effect. Then, he begins slowing down even further with friction forces now being applied once he hits the ground.

The reason why the slide is so commonly used at other bases is to avoid a tag, and actually to slow down- as first base is the only base you can safely overrun, you don't want to be lumbering full speed into second base- you will pass second base and be tagged out.

And think about it- if sliding, hands stretched, got one to first base faster, wouldn't you imagine that world class sprinters, to whom hundredths of a second are crucial, would "slide" into the finish line? True, the risk of injury may be too high for such an endeavor (my point)- but imagine a sprinter in his last Olympics, going for final glory. You could develop a method of jumping hands first into the finish line, with a distinct falling method of rolling to minimize injury.

But you never see it. And rightly so. It doesn't get you there faster. But it does add completely unnecessary injury risk- as in the hypothetical case of the sprinter- and for Mr. Kim Dong Joo, who unfortunately will now be watching his teammmates move on, from home.


Blogger Rob Hyman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Saturday, March 04, 2006  
Blogger Rob Hyman said...

Totally agree. Sliding into first is one of the dumbest plays in sports. I remember Roberto Alomar used to do it all the time there was a big deal made about how Art Howe wouldn't talk to him about it because he was a vet and "knew what he was doing."

I know Willie isn't perfect - but at least he'll let his players know what he really thinks.

Saturday, March 04, 2006  
Blogger j-bird said...

Al -
i don't totally agree. while sliding into first might not be the smartest thing a player could do, it is "gutsy." it is not necessarily smart to run into the wall at full speed and risk injury for the rest of the season like Church did last season for the Nationals (in the midst of a potential rookie of the year season up to that point), but it was gutsy. it showed pure grit and heart, something lacking in most pro players. if you really watch the guys who slide into first base, what you find are the blue-collar, hard nosed players, like rex hudler used to be. they are usually not the best guy on the team, but they give it everything they have. i hear you on the physics, but sliding into first does not necessitate slowing down. since when do you have to come to some sort of coast to get into the sliding motion? i say it is basically a wash on the time it takes. (on a side note: sprinters don't do it in track because it would hurt like hell to slide on a track and you would not really "slide" at all like you do on dirt). but, back to the point: i take a guy like church or hudler any day, and those guys will slide into first sometimes because they want to do whatever it takes. and, while it may not be the smartest thing ever, it is "gutsy."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006  

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