Baseball action happens in 4 second intervals. This is the time it takes for an athlete to run 90 feet — so it is a fundamental design element of the game since it was created.
A groundball to the infielders must be fielded, thrown and caught in 4.0 seconds — which is the time it takes the runner to get down the line.
A well hit ball in the air to the outfield will travel in the air about 4 seconds, longer if it is high pop-up. An outfielder has 2 x 4.0 seconds to throw a guy out going from 1st to third — 4 seconds to catch the ball and 4 seconds to throw it 220 feet to a tag out.
So, where does that 4.0 seconds go? Well, it takes an athlete at least 0.3 seconds the visually see, process information and fire muscles. So, that leaves just 3.7 seconds to make the play.
Watch a young fielder and this is what you see … After the initial 0.3 sec reaction time, the fielder takes an additional 0.5 seconds before reacting because he either was not really ready to react OR he is unsure of himself and wants to see the ball more before reacting. When he does this, he usually straightens up and visually pauses. So, that is 0.5 seconds of lost time.
Then fundamentals come in to play — as an infielder, he will be inefficient to the ball, taking 1-2 extra steps and giving up time. As an outfielder, he will drift to the ball, instead of running full speed to a spot to make the catch. So, time and fielding range is reduced proportionally.
The impact of the lost time is significant. The charts below show the relationship between lost time and fielding range. This is a battle over time. There is at least 0.5 seconds in play between doing it right and doing it wrong. The challenge is to win that 0.5 seconds. To do that:
– You need to be ready to react, immediately. This means that as the ball enters the hitting zone, your muscles are ready to fire explosively, like a sprinter.
– You need to anticipate the ball off the bat, reading bat angle, and ball angle even BEFORE contact. Really advanced fielders do this. Repetitions are the way to learn this.
– You need to trust yourself. Your first instinct will be right 95% of the time, don’t waste 0.5 seconds trying to be right 100% of the time. It is not worth it.
– You need to be smart — pitch count, what pitch is coming, hitter tendencies, etc.. all of that information can make you really good at “guessing”
– Relax and breathe… in pressure, tense game situations, your breathing becomes shallow and your muscles tense up. Tense muscles with low oxygen cannot react.
Win the 0.5 seconds and your range and fielding success will go up immediately.