TAMPA - As I was making the scouting rounds at the Sarasota Classic, I was approached by coach after coach, parent after parent, and player after player. These were people who either recognized me personally, recognized our new PW logo, or just wanted to see what I was up to with my stopwatch or radar gun in hand. After speaking to 40-50 different people, it became obvious to me that the amount of mis-information, inaccurate information and myths are running rampant in high school baseball circles.
Parents, players and coaches have taken a more proactive approach over the years in reading websites, reading scouting reports, and asking about radar guns and stopwatches. They have educated themselves, or so they think, to what is going on.
The result has been inaccurate information spreading from mouth to mouth like a brush fire.
A few big things stood out to me and I'll address them briefly here in an effort to help set the record straight.
Home to First Times
As I stood down the RF line of a game, I was locked into an interesting player I was trying to get a home to first time on. A parent saw me with my stopwatch and walked over and began a conversation with me. During this conversation, I was told their son runs a consistent 3.70 home to first (3.7 seconds from the contact of the bat with the ball, to when the batter-runner's foot touched first base).
I asked this gentleman if his son was lefty or righty and who was timing his son. I was told his high school coach times him in games all the time and he bats right-handed.
It is becoming more and more apparent to me that people don't know how to correctly use a stopwatch. This, combined with a parent's natural instinct to embellish, has lead to some wacky numbers floating around out there as the norm. Stopwatching doesn't seem so hard you would think (start the watch, stop the watch, get the time, rinse and repeat). But I would counter that there is a correct way to use the stopwatch and nobody is educating themselves on how to do it properly. The result is misinformation.
This parent had obviously taken some time to educate himself on home to first times, knew the correct scouting lingo, sounded educated, knew the correct time increment or ballpark range. He knew 3.7 seconds was brag-worthy. If he would have said his son runs a 6.6 home to first, maybe I could say he was mistaken with 60 times. This gentleman knew his stuff enough to hold a good baseball conversation.
Now, back to the time in question and why it is bogus. The MLB Scouting Scale (20-80) indicates that an elite, Hall-of-Fame quality, "80-runner" is a right handed batter that can run home to first in under 4.0 seconds or less. It is pretty rare to see a runner run anything under a 4.0 from the right side, the way it is rare to see a 99mph or 100mph fastball. There are very few people in the world that can do it - much less a high school player.
It should be noted that you will see batter-runners run home to first under 4.0 if it was off of a bunted ball. They are running as the ball is bunted, they don't have to complete their swing and get their balance. But to say a high school player runs 3.7 from the right side consistently after an in-game swing is the equivalent of saying someone throws 105 mph every pitch in high school.
It just doesn't happen.
At the average high school game in the spring, you will see one or two players total run 4.4 secs or less. Every 10 games you watch, you will see a kid run 4.2 or less. And every 100 games you watch, will you see a player run 4.0 secs or anywhere near it.
These players are typically drafted, as that type of speed is coveted by scouts as something that can't be taught.
As a general rule, a batter from the left side can run home to first in about 1 tenth of a second faster from that side of the plate.
Laser 60 vs. Stopwatch 60
That brought us into a friendly discussion about 60 times. The 60 yard dash is a scouting test that has been used for a long time in which a player runs straight ahead in a track-meet styled 60 yard sprint.
We at Prospect Wire get criticized all the time by parents who say that we don't know what we are doing because we don't use laser 60 yard equipment to time the 60 yard dash at our events.
The problem, again, is misinformation. I still have not met an MLB scout that was allowed to turn in laser 60 yard recorded times to their scouting director as the primary means of timing a player. I'm sure there are a few clubs that allow their scouts to submit these types of times as the primary method of recording, but handheld stopwatch remains the industry standard way of recording a time based on first movement.
The reason for it is simple: laser 60 times can not be trusted because players know how to beat them and event organizers don't police it well enough.
A player can start a full foot, or even a full yard, behind the initial laser beam. The clock on the laser 60 does not start until the player "breaks" the beam with a body part. By standing a yard behind the beam, a player can get a running start before even breaking the beam. By running a "61 yard dash", the player will not break the beam and start his clock until he has ran forward by 1 yard. This eliminates a slow start for a player, and can shave one tenth to two tenths of a second off his time easily. That is because the initial acceleration and start is the slowest part of running.
A trained stopwatch operator is more consistent and eliminates cheating from a laser operated 60. Trained stopwatches go on first movement of the runner.
In general, times recorded from a laser 60 will typically be 1 tenth to 2 tenths of a second faster - creating misinformation.
Catcher's Pop Times
One father told me his son "pops 1.75 to second base".
Another example of misinformation.
The average high school catcher in a game pops 2.4. A good high school catcher pop 2.2. An elite high school catching prospect pops 2.0. It is very rare to see a high school catcher in a game pop 1.9.
In a showcase, it's much different. But baseball is played as a game, it's never played as a workout. In a game you will have a batter in the batter's box and a runner on 1st base. This never happens in a showcase or workout. This is why the in-game pop time is more important than the showcase setting pop time.
In a showcase setting a catcher cheats. They squat halfway. There is no batter, and there are no runners. And then you have untrained guys working the stopwatch. You put it all together and you get plenty of kids popping 1.75s at showcases. What have scouts told me about these types of times? They typically say it is "utterly ridiculous" and "a bit much" to say high school catchers are popping these ridiculous times. But people seem to think every year that good high school catcher's should be popping 1.75s.
It couldn't be further from the truth.
Radar Gun Fever
Radar guns are a popular scouting tool amongst parents. They're cool. They're factual. There is no debate.
But you also have the phenomenon of parental escalation. Their son touches 88mph one time at one event, on one pitch, on one random day, and all of the sudden that player "throws 88". And parents don't realize the importance of 1 or 2 mph, so they just round up and say he throws "90".
In reality, the pitcher may pitch consistently at 83-84mph. Day in and day out, the vast majority of his pitches are in that range. That is what hitters see when they step into the box -- 84-85mph. And that is all that matters. It doesn't matter if once a game the pitcher throws 88mph. All that matters is what the majority of his pitches are coming in at as each batter steps into that box. Touching 88mph is great. It shows potential, it shows the arm strength is in there - but it does NOT mean that the player throws "88".
Radar Gunning Position Players Arms
A new trend is radar gunning position player arms. But this method of grading arm strength only tells a piece of the story.
Radar guns typically give you exit speed of the ball out of the hand. But they can not account for a ball's carry or accuracy.
Carry is critical and can be defined as a ball's ability to maintain it's velocity over a larger distance. It can be judged very well when a ball hits the ground and skips into the recipient's glove. It is always a beautiful thing in baseball to see a ball have a good, one hop skip and rocket off the ground into the recipient's glove. Some player's throws may have an exit speed of 90mph, but they may hit the ground and trickle to home plate.
Parents often criticize us for grading a player's arm higher who throws 85mph on a radar gun from the OF, over a player who throws 90mph from the outfield. The difference is carry, effort and accuracy many times.
Radar guns only tell a small piece of the story.
Radar Gun Accuracy and Inconsistency of a Player's Velocity
Players have good days and they have bad days. In football, Manti Te'o ran a 4.8 at the NFL combine, and a 4.7 at his pro day. In baseball I have seen Josh Johnson sit 97-98mph with the Marlins in the 7th inning, and I have seen him sit 93-94mph in the first or second inning.
Players don't always run the same exact time, or throw the same exact velocity.
Wind aided running, tall grass, mismeasured 60s, laser timed 60s, handheld timed 60s, fatigued players, and even not eating a proper meal that day can effect performance. Pitchers can come to our events and throw 90-91mph one event, and 85-86mph the next event. It doesn't mean the radar gun is wrong, and it doesn't mean the pitcher got worse. It's just the level that he performed at that day.
Summing It Up
I'm sure many parents out there are saying that their son does pop 1.75 to second base as a catcher, or that he does run 3.7 down the line. After all, it was reported on XYZ website or it was recorded at such and such showcase. And I would argue that those times were either inflated, inaccurate, the player "cheated" as described above, or the person gathering the information on behalf of the event does not know how to properly use a stopwatch or record these types of scouting grades.
I could probably write a book on scouting misinformation, but this should help set the record straight on a few popular topics.
If you have questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org