Giant Strides

The San Francisco Giants are not doing well this year, with a 36-46 record.

Part of the problem is the restriction in the stride angles of their pitchers, which we analyzed here.

Now we take a look at their base running. After all, you can’t score unless you can run the bases.

Stride Angle

Two things determine speed in runners: stride length (how much ground you cover with each stride) and turn-over (how fast you move your legs).

Of the two, it is more efficient and effective to increase stride length. There is a limit to how fast you can turn over your legs. It is really easier to increase your speed by covering more ground with each stride.

Most athletes assume that runners with longer legs will have a bigger stride, but research does not support this. As you will see, one of the base runners with the shortest legs of all time was also the fastest.

Years ago we measured the maximum opening between the front and trailing legs of runners (their stride angle) and found that for every degree you increase this angle, you increase your stride length by two percent. This relationship between stride angle and stride length means that if you increase your stride angle just 10 degrees, you will cover 20% more ground with each stride.

Giant runners

Here are photos of Randy Wynn sprinting toward first.

Left Stride Angle Right Stride Angle

Randy was thrown out at first, but then we do not expect a batter to beat the throw to first on an infield catch. But these photos do show his stride angle at full sprint.

Here are photos of Fred Lewis as he tried to steal second. He just barely missed the steal. A little more speed and he would have made it.

Left Stride Angle Right Stride Angle

You can see that there is a 5° difference between Fred’s right and left stride angles. This means that he covers 10% more ground with his left side than he does with his right. If both his stride angles were 97°, we are confident he would have successfully stolen second.

Wynn has 12 stolen bases at the half-way mark this year and Lewis 13, making them the Giants team leaders in stolen bases. Their numbers and stride angles don’t seem too bad, until you compare them to another base runner with 34 steals this year, Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox.

Jacoby Ellsbury Fred Lewis

Jacoby Ellsbury Randy Wynn

With his stride angle of 108°, Ellsbury is covering 22% more ground that Lewis, and 24% more ground than Wynn. By covering 22-24% more ground with each stride, he was able to get almost three times as many steals. The relationship between stride angle and steals is not linear—it is exponential, as can been seen in our next base runner with short legs but a bigger stride angle.

Rickey Henderson Fred Lewis

Rickey Henderson Randy Wynn

Henderson had three years where he stole more than 100 bases a year. He holds the record with 130 stolen bases in one year. This would mean he stole about 65 bases by the half-way mark that year.

The difference between Henderson and the Giants is enormous. With a stride angle of 113°, Henderson is covering 32% more ground with each stride than Lewis, and 34% more ground than Wynn. Covering 32-34% more ground than Lewis or Wynn, Henderson was able to steal 5.4 times as many bases!

So that you can clearly see the exponential relationship between stride angle and stolen bases, here is a graph of Wynn, Lewis, Ellsbury and Henderson.

 

Is there a limit?

Of course, 113° is not the limit for a Stride Angle—it is just the biggest we have seen in baseball.

Outside of baseball, where athletes specialize in running fast, their stride angles are bigger.

Here are Carl Lewis, one of the best track athletes in history, and Tyson Gay, the current American record-holder in 100m.

Carl Lewis Tyson Gay

This is not the limit of how big you can get your stride angle. The biggest we have found belonged to Eddie George, who knew how to move explosively on the football field. His career totals include 10,441 rushing yards, 268 receptions, 2,227 receiving yards, and 78 touchdowns (68 rushing and 10 receiving). Thanks to his huge stride angle, Eddie was able blow by his defenders.

Eddie George Fred Lewis

Eddie George Randy Wynn

Can you increase Stride Angle?

Many people in baseball believe that a player's stride angle is inherent, and therefore unchangeable. They think that a baseball player is 'born' with a certain stride angle.

But we have been increasing stride angles in runners and soccer and baseball players for decades. One of our baseball players, Steven Verduzco, went from 14 for 15 steals to 32 for 33 after we increased his stride angle. His speed on the bases increased so much that his biggest problem was slowing down enough to make the turn at second.

Like many ball players, Steven lost flexibility from lifting weights. When we first saw him, his 40-yard times were 4.8 and 4.9. Prior to lifting weights, he ran a 4.4. After we released microfibers (scar tissue) in his hips, Steven ran 4.35, 4.4, 4.38 and 4.27. The Astros subsequently drafted him.

Here are some before and after photos of one of our runners that show the increase in his stride angle.

Before Microfiber Reduction AFter Microfiber Reduction

Leading his team to the national championship

We also increased the stride angle of Preki, the premier mid-fielder in Major League Soccer for many years. Preki, at age 36, had slowed down because of all the punishment he took on the field. Year after year he lead the league in ‘Fouls Suffered’ because opposing players knew the only way to stop Preki was to hurt him.

Preki had slowed down so much that his coach said he was going to play him from the bench. Preki's pride in himself as a player motivated him to seek our help, as he did not see himself as someone who played from the bench.

Here are photos of Preki’s stride angle before and after we released his microfibers.

Before Microfiber Reduction AFter Microfiber Reduction

We increased Preki's stride angle 20°, which means he was able to cover 40% more ground with each stride. The results were not good—they were phenomenal.

At age 36, he had his best year ever. Preki played 31 of 32 games as a starter. He led his team to their first national championship. When his teammate Chris Klein was asked by ABC Sports at the break about the Wizards strategy, he replied “Get the ball to Preki”. After completing his Somax Microfiber Reduction Program, he reported that when the team did their morning stretches, he was more flexible than many of the 20 year-olds on the team.

At age 40, Preki was voted league MVP.

Microfibers

Microfibers are a mild form of scar tissue that develop between the muscles as a result of injury (sliding into base, falls) and overuse (lifting weights, running stadium stairs, plyometrics). Microfibers are part of the healing process. They develop between the muscles as nature’s internal cast to immobilize sore muscles so that they can heal.

Unfortunately, once the muscles have recovered, the microfibers not only do not go away, they tend to accumulate over time, making athletes stiffer with age. Henderson, for instance, saw his base steals plummet as he bulked up with weights. 

Normally, the connective tissue membranes (white) between the muscles (red) are smooth. They allow the muscles to slide past each other, which they have to do in order to stretch.

But when you have even a mild injury (falls on court), overuse (lifting weights, running) or stress , microfibers form as part of the healing process to immobilize the area. Microfibers are nature’s internal cast.

Unfortunately, once the area has healed, the microfibers not only do not go away, they tend to accumulate over time, making athletes stiffer with age.

Flexibility beyond stretching

Because they are scar tissue, microfibers cannot be released by stretching. Athletes who have microfibers find that they are ‘naturally’ stiff and don’t seem to get much better from stretching.

But they are not ‘naturally stiff’ at all. Since ball players start lifting at younger and younger ages, most suffer from a significant loss of flexibility by the time they enter the majors. Their flexibility loss is accelerated by the continued use of weights.

We improve the stride angle in runners and pitchers by releasing microfibers with Microfiber Reduction, our special form of connective tissue massage. Once their microfibers and tension are released, players will be able to run faster, steal more bases, and add more runs.

Here is an example of just how much Microfiber Reduction can improve flexibility beyond what stretching alone can do. This is one of our clients who stretched for years before coming to Somax, with little or no improvement in his flexibility.

 
Before Microfiber Reduction

 
After Microfiber Reduction

Releasing microfibers in baseball players is the most efficient way to exponentially increase their stolen bases. It will not only increase their production, but will add years to their career, as they will be able to maintain their speed and quickness long after their 'naturally stiff' fellow players start to decline.